Earlier in 2019, the world saw the burning of Notre Dame, in Paris France, and thought, the tragedy occurred perhaps from the removal of the gargoyles this coincidentally came about when readers of The Horror Times requested (in high demand) a review of the 1972 television film. This originally broadcasted on CBS in November 1973, during one of their Tuesday movie nights, directed by Bill Norton who made his small screen debut with this production. However, he found himself as the replacement for the project, when the original director turned down the job, when faced with an 18-day production schedule, and extremely limited budget. Norton, used the script from Stephen and Elinor Karpf, both whom would pen their last and lame horror screenplay entitled Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978), a tv-movie). Nevertheless, this classic movie, actually lives on today, with it gaining a DVD release in 2011 from Hen’s Tooth Video and then in some late-night forms of syndication, but more importantly it won an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup, earning that win was Del Armstrong, Ellis Burman Jr., and Stan Winston. In fact, it actually was, Stan’s first movie, not bad earning an award, who knew the accolades that awaited him in his life (another Emmy and 4-Oscars), and how his craft would influence so many others.
When it comes to the topic of gargoyles, the number of films having them as a central theme is highly limited, encompassing 8-movies, of which four of them fall into the horror genre: Rise of the Gargoyles (2009), Reign of the Gargoyles (2007), Gargoyle (2004) and this 1972 picture which marked the first time the subject ever broached.
An interesting opening occurs for this television movie, a prologue introducing the audience to the topic of gargoyles, which explains these are ancient creatures born from Satan and resurface every 600 years; all to battle against mankind and rule the Earth with fire and brimstone. Set in Mexico, Gargoyles gets off to a sluggish start, as we ride along with anthropologist Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde) and his scantily clad daughter Diana (Jennifer Salt (Sisters  and producer of the American Horror Story series)), both from Los Angeles, visiting an isolated, tourist trap called Uncle Willie’s Desert Museum. Boley upon meeting Uncle Willie (Woody Chambliss (The Devil’s Rain ) and showing him a gargoyle skeleton thinks it’s all phooey, but quickly changed his mind and sets a tape recorder down to get Willie’s tale for his next book. We learn about the surrounding area called Devil’s Crossing, where inside the caves in the mountains hordes of these creatures exist. A quick transition to screeching sounds and heavy flagging wings on the roof leads to a fire, with Boley grabbing the gargoyle skull and flees to nearby Cactus Motel, owned by Mrs. Parks (Grayson Hall, of Dark Shadows fame series). Boley and Diana contact the Police Chief William Stevens, about the damage to Uncle Willie’s this all serves as introduction to more cast members namely a town hooligan named James Reeger (portrayed by a young Scott Glenn, yes the same who latter starred in The Silence of the Lambs ). A large portion of the movie, acts as a cat and mouse game between the gargoyles and the townsfolk, though one scene which surprisingly the television censors didn’t cut involve the King Gargoyle (Bernie Casey (Ants )) and Diana. During the scene Diana is knocked out, and she’s examined curiously by the King, he leans over her leeringly fondling her face and sexual suggestive looks at her torso, before taking her back to their colony. Soon a posse forms to rid the beasts and rescue Diana, resulting in a strange ending, yet seemingly entertaining.
As previously noted the film had an extremely low budget, which resulted in using just one camera, since a majority of monies went to the monstrous creatures, as Norton, knew he needed to show the gargoyles, more than just once. However, one thing significantly affected the both cast crew, the temperature in the desert area reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit almost every single day, although everyone persevered through the agony. Stan Winston headed up the creation of gargoyles especially concerning the leader, granted him wings, and noble looking facial features, along with vampire-like fangs and bright white eyes, sadly the supporting gargoyles don’t clearly have the same detail for the costumes.
First, the terms gothic and gargoyles often have different meanings to many fans however, those in this movie represent as a monster movie, stylishly done and yet tease the 70s appearance and attitudes of everyone around them. Secondly, this is a b-movie that gives an early reference to Haxan (1922) and yet solidly entertains with flaws, and a few groans, one could see much worse, yet still the movie still holds a fondness for the audiences today.
- They’re coming for you!
- Watch Out! The Gargoyles Are Here.
IMDb Rating: 6.3/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.0/10
Here’s the full movie, remember its grainy, from the 70s and free: