Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Retro TV Movie: "Gargoyles" in Flight

Most genre fans have fond memories of their first childhood viewing of certain films or TV shows. One of the films I fondly remember is a 1972 made for TV movie called Gargoyles. It was shown regularly on late night television and “Creature Feature” shows throughout the 1970s. Cornel Wilde stars as Dr. Mercer Boley, an anthropologist traveling through the Southwest with his daughter, Diana. At a roadside tourist shop, Uncle Willie (Woody Chambliss) shows them the skeleton of a large winged animal. As Willie tells them some stories about strange beasts and Indian rituals, the trio suddenly hears odd noises. Then someone or something attacks the building. Willie is killed, but Mercer and Diana escape. As they drive away, a monster with claws attacks their car. Perhaps the gargoyles of legend aren't just a tall tale after all. Will anyone believe their fantastic story?

Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt & Woody Chambliss
The devilish creatures continue to plague our heroes. Their leader (well-played by Bernie Casey) eventually kidnaps Diana. He wants her to teach him about humanity. It turns out the gargoyles have been hidden from mankind for ages. Every 600 years they spawn, and their numbers increase. They're waiting for the right moment to emerge and rule mankind. The leader’s mate is none too happy he’s brought an attractive human captive to their lair, and Diana’s stay in gargoyle-land may be short lived. Meanwhile, Dr. Boley rounds up a posse that includes cops and a group of local bikers (who the police had initially blamed for the attack on him) to rescue Diana. Can they stop these demonic beings from taking over the world? 

The cast of familiar faces includes former movie star Wilde, Grayson Hall of Dark Shadows fame, a young Scott Glenn (as the leader of the bikers) and Jennifer Salt as Diana. Salt also appeared in Midnight Cowboy (1969) and Brian DePalma’s thriller Sisters (1973). She later retired from acting and is now a writer-producer, most recently for FX’s American Horror Story. The late Stan Winston, who later worked on such films as Aliens, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park, created the Emmy-winning special effects. The film was directed by Bill L. Norton and was written by Stephen and Elinor Karpf. This is classic TV horror at its entertaining, popcorn movie best. You've got pre-CGI monsters in suits, B movie situations and stock characters, as well as a cool musical score that evokes its era. It may be a bit cheesy by today’s standards, but it’s a lot of fun. Oh, and Ms. Salt looks mighty cute in that halter top. Gargoyles is available for purchase on DVD. Here’s a link to a video with some music from the film’s score accompanied by clips from the movie:

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