Now in its eight year, CreaturesCon is an annual convention dedicated to the classic horror movie culture that since the 1950s has only continued to grow. Along with Universal and Warner Brothers, the most prominent of moviemakers of the horror genre, especially during the 1950’s and ‘60’s was Hammer Films.
Amid all the activities and guest appearances, at this year’s CreaturesCon, the convention will feature a ‘Hammer-esque’ movie by director/writer Joshua Kennedy called “House of the Gorgon.” It will be making its West Coast Premiere at CreaturesCon on July 7.
This reporter caught up with Kennedy to ask a few questions and get some details on his new movie “House of The Gorgon.” I asked him what inspired you to make this film?
“I’ve been making movies since I was five years old, he said. And I have always been an enormous fan of the classic horror and science fiction. Hammer Films’ ‘The Gorgon’ is my favorite film of all time. And so, it was just a natural jump to make my own Gothic film featuring this mythological monster.”
The 1964 film was one of the few times Hammer Films turned to Greek mythology to form a story. Set in Europe at the-Turn-of-the-Century around 1910, “The Gorgon” is a bit of a murder mystery as well as suspense-thriller. It was released on DVD by Sony Pictures in 2008 as part of a set of Hammer Films classics. And then in 2018 Mill Creek released “The Gorgon” in Blu-ray format, as part of a double feature with “The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll.”
At the peak of its popularity Hammer Films had its own cavalcade of stars. Among the most respected and recognizable were Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed and of course, Christopher Lee, who portrayed the vampire at least seven times in Hammer productions.
In his critique on RetroDomination, Tim Arnold noted one of the aspects that made movies like ‘The Gorgon’ worth watching was the chemistry between the actors, like Cushing and Lee. What a Hammer Films production might lack in today’s HD quality, is made up for in dedication to craft. “‘The Gorgon’ delivers a simple but effective thriller, said Arnold, with a few creepy moments, and is wholly satisfying to watch.”
Among the guest appearances at this year’s CreaturesCon is John Stanley, former host of KTVU’s late night “Creature Features” show. He met Lee twice in person and had this to add. I’ve always felt that the Hammer horror films with Lee were among the best of their period, said Stanley. And when I see them, these days – occasionally, they hold up very well.”
While leading men such as Lee and Cushing standout in most people’s minds, it is important to note there were women who were also helping to make Hammer Films a formidable movie studio.
For the times, and the subsequent basic storylines they were buxom beauties or vulnerable damsels in distress. Some of Hammer’s actresses went on to more high-profile roles and productions, such as Stephanie Beacham, Kate O’Mara and Joanna Lumley. Beacham and O’Mara appeared in TV’s ‘Dynasty’ and Joanna Lumley was a smash hit in the very popular ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ sitcom series.
Yet for Kennedy’s “House of The Gorgon,” he cast four of Hammer studio’s leading ladies: Veronica Carlson, Caroline Munro and Martine Beswicke, who makes her return in this film after a 24-year absence from movies. These women did their screaming best, long before Jamie Lee Curtis was crowned the scream queen.
Despite their obvious beauty and voluptuousness, there is an art to being vulnerable to the villain or monster. And, that is what Hammer’s leading ladies had to convey; especially if good was to triumph over evil.
As Kennedy mentioned, it is that particular ‘vulnerability’ element that keeps the horror genre alive. “It’s the innocence and fantasy elements of them, I think? They’re like fairy tales really, he said. It is about good vs evil, moral dilemmas, no blood or violence… I think they appeal to the child in all of us.”
Was it easy or difficult to get veteran actors out of retirement? I asked.
“Well, I was fortunate enough to have grown a relationship with these wonderful ladies over the past five years. The first time I met Martine Beswicke – my idol, he said, was at the Monster Bash convention in PA. I had asked her to be in a short music video with me. She agreed and we shot the entire thing in 10 minutes, said Kennedy. It’s called ‘The Night Is Young,” on YouTube! Anyway, he added. It was just fate that after a few years, Caroline Munro said to me: ‘We should all make a movie together!’ The rest is history, I suppose.”
With much of the magic of the classic Hammer Films relying on acting a cinematography, I had to ask Kennedy. How have horror films changed over the years, especially in this age of technology and science?
“Now with technology, you can make a movie about anything! You can do special effects that are far more grisly than ever before. I’m all for that, he said. – every filmmaker should have a chance to make anything they like – I just prefer the older classics – (like Hammer Films!)
The 8th annual CreaturesCon will be held at the San Ramon Marriott on July 7 from 10 AM to 8 PM. To purchase tickets and for details visit the CreaturesCon web site.