GARGOYLES

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Movies Kelly Parks Review by
Kelly Parks
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SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
GargoylesGARGOYLES - 1972
Tomorrow Entertainment
USA Release: November 21, 1972
Rating: N/A

Ever see a movie that scared the crap out of you when you were a kid and that seems really corny today (for more detail about that, see my review of THE GREEN SLIME)? This is not one of those times.

GARGOYLES (a made-for-TV movie) was written by Elinor and Steven Karpf (TERROR IN THE SKY [TV], DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND OF HELL [TV]) and directed by Bill L. Norton (TWILIGHT ZONE [TV], PROFILER [TV], ANGEL [TV], ROSWELL [TV], JOHN DOE [TV], MEDIUM [TV]). It opens with some narration about legends of hell and the devil and how the devil supposedly said, when he was banished to hell, that his offspring, the gargoyles, will rule the world. Like most narration it really isn't necessary to the story (or remotely accurate even as a myth - Feo).

The actual story begins with Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde: THE NAKED PREY, THE NORSEMAN) at a small airport. A prop plane lands and his daughter Diana (Jennifer Salt: SISTERS, OUT OF THE DARKNESS) gets out. Conversation makes it clear that Boley is a successful author of several books about ancient legends and superstitions. The father / daughter pair is driving south through Arizona on their way to Mexico for research on the Maya.

Boley's books and talk show appearances result in lots of letters from odd people making odd claims. On the way through Arizona, Boley makes a side trip to check out a such a letter. They stop at Uncle Willie's Desert Museum where Uncle Willie (Woody Chambliss: THE DEVIL'S RAIN) describes the book he wants Boley to co-write with him.

Boley quickly loses interest and is headed out the door when Uncle Willie unveils his "discovery": a skeleton that looks like a man with wings and a horned skull. Boley is still skeptical but decides to listen to what the old man has to say.

Uncle Willie's stories about the local Indian legends concerning the creatures represented by the skeleton go well into the evening. Once it's dark outside Willie makes a point of bolting the door, saying only that he has his reasons - he always locks all the doors at night.

TRIVIA
As preposterous as it seems, GARGOYLES
actually won an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Make-up.

Ahem.

Things were pretty slow in 1972 Emmy-land for this category I guess.

The ones who nabbed the statuette were
Del Armstrong (JAWS, NIGHTWING, SILENT RAGE, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II),
Ellis Burman Jr. (THE DEVIL'S RAIN, PROPHECY, THE TERMINATOR),
and
Stan Winston (his first job,
DEAD & BURIED
,
THE THING
[1982],
ALIENS
,
PREDATOR
,
LEVIATHAN
,
PREDATOR 2
,
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
,
TERMINATOR 2
,
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
,
END OF DAYS,
JURASSIC PARK III
,
WRONG TURN
,
TERMINATOR 3
)

The gargoyle attack that follows is well done and suspenseful and we got here fast, without any slow spots. The story moves and the scenes with the reptilian creatures moving through the dark making eerie noises are still scary. The director made an excellent choice by shooting all the scenes in slight slow motion, making the gargoyles seem more real somehow.

Not that they're perfect. The gargoyles are obviously guys in rubber suits and in many scenes you can see the imperfectly fitting rubber suits bunched up around the joints. How much that bothers you depends on how much you can watch a movie on its own level. This is a very low budget B monster flick from the 70's, after all. Cut it some slack and the story will entertain you.

Boley and Diana go to the police the next day and report what happened, leaving out the part about the gargoyles. When the cops arrive at Willie's place they find a group of dirt bikers picking over the remains of the buildings and decide they must have been responsible for the whole thing. One of the bikers is played by a very young Scott Glenn (THE KEEP, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS).

Boley has kept the horned skull from the skeleton and has it in the motel room with him and his daughter. This leads to an event that gave me nightmares for quite a while - you'll know it when you see it. There are lots of memorable moments, especially involving the King Gargoyle (Bernie Casey: VEGAS VAMPS, DR. BLACK - MR. HYDE, CLEOPATRA JONES). He and the other "winged breeders" can speak and their voices are other worldly.

Winged, you ask? As in, he can fly? To answer that I think we're overdue for a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
This movie tries to portray the race of Gargoyles as intelligent reptilians with an unusually long egg incubation period: 500 years. That's why they disappear for centuries and become mere legend, then make a new appearance, get all but wiped out by humanity, and are forgotten as legend again until the next time. That raises lots of questions, like why aren't skeletons of these creatures found all the time and where are the fossils of whatever line of reptiles lead to these intelligent beings? But I can let all of that go with some handwaving and I can respect their attempt to approach gargoyles from a science direction. What I can't let go is the flying. You can't have something as big and heavy as a man flying on such flimsy, slow wings without invoking magic. The physics just doesn't work out on its own unless the wings (and associated back muscles to drive the wings) are much, much bigger.

I hadn't seen this film since it scared me as a kid but I was surprised at how well it held up. Yeah, the rubber outfits are cheesy and the ridiculously well lit caves are cheesy and the actual flying scenes are really cheesy but if you watch this movie at its level you can still achieve suspension of disbelief enough to be creeped out by the gargoyle noises coming from the dark desert. I give GARGOYLES three Shriek Girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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