He may be smiling on the outside, but on the inside, his heart is breaking.
The movie tells the story of a small group of Gargoyles, hidden in the Navada desert, who are on the verge of another 600 year hatching cycle. The struggle between man and lizard-like creatures flares up whenever this happens, but then the event is fogotten in history or relegated to myth. A couple of years back I was thrilled to find out that VCI had released the movie on DVD, and I immediately ordered it. The day I got it in the mail was a happy one, and I sat down to relive an experience from nearly 35 years before, Krystal cheeseburgers included. And did it ever take me back! The photos below are screen captures I made from the DVD that I think you will enjoy if you remember seeing the movie, and if not, it will give you an idea of why I enjoyed it so much back then, and even now when I take it out and watch it... as I did last night again.
There's no doubt but that this film was a TV movie from the early 70's, and it's because of that I enjoy it so. The whole look and feel return me to that time, the same as watching "Kung Fu", Kolchack: The Night Stalker," and the "Planet of the Apes" TV series. They all came out during that period of time that I was a young teen and any of them are able to take me back.
As the appropriately goopy-fonted credits play over a scene of a plane landing, we meet our hero, Dr. Mercer Boley, (played by Cornell Wilde) an anthropologist who specializes in the occult and demonology. His teen-age daughter Diana (hotly played by Jennifer Salt) arrives on the plane, and together they drive off into the Nevada desert to meet with an old man named Willie, who claims to have something of interest to show him. The item turns out to be a skeleton of what he claims was from a living creature, which Boley laughs off. But they still stay to interview him about his knowledge of local Indian exorcism rites, and after nightfall the shack is attacked by something that rips into the roof with claws. Willie is killed by a falling timber, knocking over the kerosene lamp and setting the shack ablaze. Unable to help poor old Uncle Willie, Boley and his daughter escape with the skull of the creature, fighting off a something big that leaps onto the roof of their car as they speed away.
Later, after leaving their damaged car at a garage, they rent a motel room from Mrs. Parks (Grayson Hall, of "House of Dark Shadows" fame) and turn in. The next day they report Willie's death as an accident to the local police, who upon investigating find a group of dirt-bike riders at the scene and assume they are responsible. Feeling the police won't believe him, Boley doesn't tell them about the creature attack on the shack or their car, and the bikers are arrested.
During the night, two gargoyles break in to retrieve the skull, but as they escape one of them is hit and killed by a semi (which keeps going). Anxious to have proof of his new discovery, Boley wants to keep the body a secret from the police, even though it might prove the biker's innocence.
However, the matter (and the body) is taken out of his hands as the gargoyles return in greater numbers that night to get the body of their fallen comrade, and in the process the winged leader (Bernie Casey) becomes turned on by Diane (like much of the teenage male viewing audience, including me) and takes her along with them as they return to their cave nest.
At the mouth of the cave, the leader starts to fly off with Diana with Mama bringing up the rear, but Boley breaks her wing with a rock. Now the leader must fly her out, leaving Diana, if his kind is to survive. Why Boley let them go, knowing it might mean the end of mankind in the next 600 year breeding cycle, is a mystery. Perhaps he just felt sorry for them, and after all, he figured, mankind can take care of itself in 600 years when they have flying cars and all.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed this monster memory as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.