Monday, June 22, 2009

1972 Gargoyles TV Movie

(Click on images to enlarge.)

He may be smiling on the outside, but on the inside, his heart is breaking.
In 1972, I was 13 years old, and spending the weekend at Grandma's house in Macon, Ga.  Fortunately, the made-for-TV movie"Gargoyles" was airing for the first time that night, and I when I saw the previews I knew I was in for a treat! Earlier in the evening we had enjoyed our usual supper, Krystal cheeseburgers that I had walked down the road to pick up, and after I spent awhile looking over my newest comic book and magazine acquisitions, we settled down to watch the movie. Looking back, those summer afternoons and evenings spent there were some of the best of my young life as I grew up.

"We paid a lot for this makeup, and we dang sure want to make sure you appreciate it."
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.

"Watch out for those scary floating letters on the runway!"
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.

"Dang, my little girl's growing up! Look at those... careful there, Mercer."
Before the credits we hear the "Outer Limits" control voice, Vic Perrin, as he tells us the history over images of medievel art of devils and photos of gargoyle statues. (Perrin also does the voice of the lead gargoyle, dubbed in over Bernie Casey's acting, with a scratchy sound effect laid in.) We even get a glimpse of the main creature, as though they couldn't wait to reveal it. Obviously, they are proud of the makeup job and monster suits they paid for, as they take every opportunity to show them as prominently as possible, even in bright zipper-revealing close-ups in sunlight. Stan Winston's first break in the movies netted him an Emmy for the makeup effects, and little did I know as I watched the movie how often his work would later figure in so many of my favorite horror and sci-fi movies. (Spoiler alert: from here on out, if you don't want to know the details, just look at the pretty pictures and skim over the text.)

"I calls it "Nicatakachinko" which is injun fer "Makum Me Heap Big Wapum."
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.

Not a sight you want to see at the foot of your bed at night.
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.

"Did anybody get that trucker's license number? Oh, man!"

"Pardon me, may I have the key to the restroom?"
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.

"Smells like Teen Spirit!"

Now, we'll get a good look at those costumes!
Mama Gorgoyle, picking up on her mate's infatuation with Diane, is unhappy, even though Daddy reassures her when she goes on the attack. She may be mollified for the moment, but she keeps an eye on her, and we know that's not the end of it.

"She don't mean nothin' to me, momma! I swear."

As a 13 year old boy, that little halter top and tight jeans Jennifer Salt wore stirred things in me that I had only begun to be aware of. She's still pretty hot to watch now, even 30 years later... in a 70's kind of way.

"Ah, I don't know... I'm finding this Stephen King a little dull."

The leader acts as if he wants Diana to teach him from the books they also grabbed, but he's really interested in getting closer to her, which doesn't go unnoticed by Mama. Meanwhile, Boley has alerted the police to his daughter's abduction, and they, along with the newly-freed bikers, take off in to the desert with hunting dogs to find her. Inside the cave, the latest brood of hatchlings is emerging from their eggs, the size and maturity of 7 or 8 year olds. As the posse near the cave, the gargoyles come out and attack them, killing several and running off the rest.

"Awww, just look at him... isn't he the most precious?"
The head gargoyle confronts Boley and tells him to follow him back to the cave if he wants to see his daughter. When they get there, he is informed that they will never leave. However, Mama has had enough of that little slut trying to steal her man, so she helps him to escape, no doubt hoping he'll take along the girl also. He's unable to rescue her, but he brings back the biker Reeger played by Scott Glenn, who brings with him two cans of gasoline. As they shoot their way into the cave, Boley rescues his daugher, but Reeger is overcome by gargoyles as he douses the egg chamber with gas. His last act is to flick his Bic and blow up the eggs before more can hatch.

"All we wanted was to live in peace... after the extinction of mankind. Was that too much to ask?"
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.

Amazing how he can fly them both with those little wings!

"After all that I need a shower. Want to join me, Diana?"

Nobody played the needy, lonesome alchoholic like Grayson Hall.
Of course, there's more that happens than in my quick run-down; you'll have to watch it for yourself if you can find it. All in all, this little made-for-tv movie was memorable, and well done. Sure, the efforts to show off the monster makeup and suits was a bit overdone, and the mood and effect would have been better served by a more shadowy, slower reveal. But, it is what it is, and we get to appreciate Stan Winton's first movie job in all it's rubbery glory. It sits right on my DVD shelf beside it's 70's companions "Colossus: The Forbin Project," "Kingdom of the Spiders," "The Devil's Rain" and "Frogs." All good 70's era fun that brings back the memories!

"I know, pride is my downfall, but don't I cut a striking figure?"

"No, I am not Lance Henrickson. Why does everyone always confuse me with that guy?"

Would you buy a stuffed Jackelope from this guy?
Well, I hope you've enjoyed this monster memory as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.


Unknown said...

aww man! This looks awesome but I think it's out of print because Amazon doesn't have it anymore. Nice post, thanks for the stills. I definitely want to get a hold of it though!

Steve Ring said...

I also saw this when I was young and it made quite an impression on me. When I got the DVD I was struck by how clear and crisp the picture was. When the Kolchack set came out I was expecting the transfer to look like this DVD and was quite disappointed.

Chad Carter said...

I still love this movie. It's better than almost everything Hollywood is dumping into theatres. Frankly the end of the movie, in which the heroes get down to cave-fighting and burning the crap out of everything is still pretty tense and cool.

plcary said...

always good to see others with the same appreciation for this movie. i too watched it as a kid in the early 70s on late night tv. pretty darn scary back then, more fun to watch than scary now.

Scott said...

I always liked this movie too!

Nice blog,too!


This is one of my childhood favorites as well (along with DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, TRILOGY OF TERROR and THE BERMUDA DEPTHS)

I was actually lucky enough to snag a copy of the DVD release of the film which was out for 5 minutes or so.

As I got older and started to read Robert E. Howard/HP Lovecraft stories about secret races hidden away in the dark places I always flashed back to this film in my mind.

Frederick said...

Thanks for the comments, all! Glad it shook loose some memories. It's definitely one worth rewatching every so often, which I do.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a remake announced at some point, since it's so fondly remembered.

Anonymous said...

This is the grand daddy of gargoyle movies. It is as good and better than many of the films of today.
Nice of you to post this film.

Harv said...

I would love to see this movie again, it scared the **** out of me as a kid. A few years ago, I was driving from the Midwest to Phoenix. As I drove west out of Albequerque, I needed a place to stop for the night. I saw a little no-name motel on a hill and almost stopped there, then remembered Gargoyles and drove on as I stepped on the gas!!

Frederick said...


That's a funny memory! I can totally relate. Heck, I was an adult of 22 when I first saw Night of the Living Dead, and was kind of spooked by taking out the trash to the can late at night in the dark!

Thanks for sharing!

Marcelo Vignali said...

Thanks for the memories. I was seven in 1972, and crapped my pants when I saw this. My brother and I stayed up late watching all the things we weren't supposed to while our parents were at the movies.

For weeks I had trouble taking out the trash at night.

Sam G said...

I saw this the night it aired. I was 5. HOLY CRAP! Scared the hell out of me...but I loved it. Loved monsters. Still do. Did ya ever see "Don't be Afraid of the Dark"?

Frederick said...


Thanks for commenting!

It seems like a lot of us monster kids were watching TV that night! It's kind of neat to know we shared that experience at the same time. That's getting rarer nowadays with so many ways to see things.

I missed out on "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" but I've heard of it and look forward to getting in and watching it sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

I was about 7 years old and watched this at a neighbor's house. I was so scared to walk home I called my Mom across the street to come get me in the car. I was sure the Gargoyles were real, and if those two did get away, they were going to come and get me. Didn't Mrs. Stevens know what we were watching? It was the COOLEST movie ever, but scared the daylights out of me.

Trisha Rapisardi said...

Wow!! I've been wondering all these years, if I was the only one that remembered the movies (from the 1970's) "Gargoyles" and "Don't be affraid of the dark". Both movies were very cool and creepy! I haven't found those movies anywhere, I'd like to buy them.

Anonymous said...

I can still remember the gargoyle saying "Dianna " I was 8 when it came out.

ChuckH said...

I've been looking for this movie for years! your right that halter top caused many sleepless nights.

Frederick said...

I heard recently that they are planning to release it again soon, so keep looking!

Anonymous said...

What is the image from the beginning of this post from. I had a book of short stories as a kid that scared the heck out of me, and that image was the cover of the book. Been trying to remember what the title was for years.

Frederick said...

That was actually a scree-grab from the beginning of the movie, as the narrator filled us in on the history of the gargoyles.

I don't know of the book, the original image is taken from a medievel painting, I think. Maybe one of our readers will remember the book and post it!

Anonymous said...

I remember watching this movie as a kid, it scared the bejeesus out of me.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing this movie. I met my husband in the late 70's. and we watched it on tv in Florida. We lived in Florida for fifteen years. We then moved back home to upstate ny in 96. I have been looking for the movie on line for a long time. Wish i could find it. There is another movie I have been looking for called equinox. That was scary.

Anonymous said... has it listed in the winter 2013 catalog, #70, on page 65. It's available on DVD-FS for $16.99.

I remember seeing it and remember Bernie Casey's line to "Dianna" of "Your voice--pleases me." But she never caught Mama's fancy. In 1972 I was only 15, but that Dianna....

Anonymous said...

I searched for this on YouTube under "Gargoyles (1972)" and voila! I was able to relive a wonderful childhood memory. Jennifer Salt was awesome. Still hot!

Unknown said...

Remember The Norlas Tapes anyone?

Rafael Antonio Castillo said...

I am going to enjoy your blog so much! I remember seeing Gargoyles with my sister when it first aired and it gave me the heebee jeebees! I share a similar fondness for certain 70s TV movies like Colosus: The Forbin Project (got it on DVD), Genesis II, and the Night Stalker films and TV show.
Gargoyles was on Youtube for a while but it's no longer available.

Frederick said...

Thanks for commenting, glad you are enjoying the blog! I too have collected about everything I could on DVD to relive those movies, shows and times! Great memories.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness you have this site. I also remembering this movie and remember feeling rather attracted to the gargoyle? Have thought about this movie many times over the years. Seems it made quite an impression on many of us. Thanks for bringing back to us such wonderful memories. Will go to you tube now hoping I might find it.

Sunshine said...

Hi there, great great blog! I, too, remember seeing Gargoyles as a youth and loving it, but freaking out all at the same time! I'm hoping you can help me with another monster movie I can't remember the name of. I believe it also came out in the seventies, and it's a vampire movie set in a small village in Transylvania, of course! A local peasant woman has recently lost her infant son. One night she hears the sound of a baby crying at her front door, and hastens to open it. Her husband screams at her not to, but it's too late! The vampire is standing right at the door !! The sound of that crying baby really freaked me out, & I would love to be reminded of the name of that movie! Does this ring any bells for you?

Thanks in advance, Sunshine

Frederick said...

Thanks for commenting! The movie you mentioned was one I have never seen, I know I would remember it if I had. Try posting the description on a Facebook Horror Movie group, usually someone can help in those situations!

Frederick said...

In thinking about it, you might be referring to "Black Sabbath" with Boris Karloff.

Corriea said...

9/10/15 8:08p ''Gargoyles'' Tomorrow Entertainment Production Company
This TV Movie Aired on CBS TV 11/21/1972
It did not Air as an ABC TV MOW.

ibjawge said...

Awww, thanks for trip down nightmare memory lane. I saw the movie at around age seven or eight; my mother did not censor what I watched, hell, she dragged me to many deeply disturbing science fiction films, as a very young child. To this day, I remember the little town we lived in, the apartment, and layout of the living room down to the placement of the 'f'ing' TV, because I was convinced gargoyles would come out from the TV late at night. I'm not sure where they shot the on-location scenes, but as a young adult I had the opportunity to travel the state of California, and I came across a few mountain ranges that seemed eerily similar to the profile of where the hatchling lair was located. Without a doubt, it was one of the best sci-fi/horror films from the 70's; one which was scorched into my psyche. And as I see from the volume of comments over the years on your blog it seared the young minds of many others. It's almost as if I found a support group for people who experience PTSD from the film, who experienced the same terror and phobias that developed from this little TV movie. A movie forever etched into our being. Thanks again for sharing the screen shots, as well as the meaningfully witty commentary. What a trip!

Frederick said...

ibjawge, thanks so much for commenting, and for sharing your own memories of seeing the film! It did indeed have an impact on us kids that is still reverberating today.

Unknown said...

I saw this when it was first broadcast. I was 10 and it scared the crap out of me at the time. I finally found it on DVD and even though the effects are out dated it brings back a great nostalgic feeling watching it today.

jaybee said...

I saw it it was great never forgot it !! I was 14 or 15 lots of cheezy T V back the better than now !!