WRITERS: Stephen and Elinor Karpf
DIRECTOR: B.W.L. Norton
STARRING: Cornel Wilde as Mercer Boley
Jennifer Salt as Diana Boley
Grayson Hall as Mrs. Parks
Bernie Casey as The Gargoyle
QUICK CUT: When demons arise for the first time in over 500 years, it falls to a scientist who just happened to stumble upon them to stop their return before it is too late for humanity. Oh, we are so boned.
Mercer Boley - An archaeology professor, or some such, who is currently doing research into things that are off the beaten path. He's become a bit jaded in his quest, and is more debunker than researcher, but his luck is about to change...
Diana Boley - Mercer's daughter, and she's pretty much just along for the ride. She's helpful, but as is common, she gets captured a bit.
The Gargoyle - Our nameless leader of the entire gargoyle clan, and yes, for ease of identification, I am going to call him Goliath more often than not. For a demon, he is surprising smart, expectedly cunning, and becoming well-read in his short time on Earth.
THE GUTS: We kick off with a brief history lesson of that whole thing going down in heaven, with Lucifer being kicked out for leaving the kitchen light on all night or something, but then it veers off into strange territory.
They set up that gargoyles are the children of Satan, and they rise every 600 years to wreak havoc upon the Earth to try and take it over. They've been defeated so far, but now man has forgotten about its adversaries after so long a time.
Funny, I don't remember that lesson in the bible.
And on a similar note, why would we forget about them more in THIS 600 years, than the previous 600, or the 600 before that? Okay, we think they're only myths now, but we thought they were myths before, right? And besides, now we have guns. And jets. I think we got this.
After the setup, we join our story already in progress where Mercer is picking up his daughter at the airport, and she has brought him a small stone statue of a demon. You would think this would go somewhere, what with demons and gargoyles. You would be wrong.
They head off to meet with a guy for Mercer's research, but soon get lost. Or as Mercer defends, he's not lost, he just took a wrong turn. Most of society considers that as getting lost, but whatever.
Fortunately, the movie doesn't waste any time holding back the weird, and has some winged shadows lurking nearby and spooking our heroes.
Mercer and Diana finally come across Uncle Willie's Desert Museum, and it looks more like some guy's kitchen filled with junk. Mercer is about as unimpressed as I am, and quickly decides to leave the waste of time. Willie begs him to stay, and convinces him to check out what he really called him out for, something he's hiding in the shack.
I gotta say, I love the old-school theatrical lighting they go for in the shed. When Willie lights up a lantern to get some illumination in there, it is obvious that it's not the object casting light. You can so very clearly see the spots coming up in the area slowly. It looks wrong, but it makes my old theatre loving heart proud.
What Willie has hanging out there though, is nothing less than a skeleton of a man with wings, and a beaked head. Mercer isn't terribly impressed by it, having heard of hoaxes before, and assumes it's just a collection of bones from various creatures pieced together.
Still, the doctor agrees to hear the Native legends of the demons in the rocks, and Willie locks them in. Which is pretty much the start to many a good horror story. Just not this one.
Willie gets pretty spooked by the night, and when they time cut to later, he's already pretty drunk and stumbling through the stories and Native words. His condition isn't helped any by the sounds of flapping wings and things on the roof of the shed.
Something tries to break through, and Willie tries to grab his prized skeleton, but the roof collapses before he can get very far. One of the lanterns gets knocked over, and a fire immediately starts. Mercer doesn't make much of an attempt to save Willie though, and chooses intead to grab the strange skull as they run.
As they drive off into the sunset, the creature pounces on their car like a new hood ornament, but doesn't stay there long as they manage to shake it off. But not without the car seeing better days, so they make a stop at the nearest gas station.
Because when something attacks you, always make sure to stop as soon as possible so they can catch up.
There's a convenient motel next door, and some brief attempts at humour with the lonely owner of the hotel flirting with Mercer, but it's another plot that goes nowhere, so the morning comes quickly with a plan to return to the university and report the death of Willie.
Mercer and Diana head back to the farm with the cops to investigate, and they find a group of punks on motorbikes when they get there. The punks get chased off, and the movie diverts to that chase for a bit. The only point it serves is a convenient, human explanation for the cops that don't involve any demons.
The best part is Diana and Mercer trying to protect the gang from being blamed for the murder. I like that it shows they're good people, but it is a reasonable explanation, and better than Mercer trying to blame the wind.
Later that night, Mercer is having trouble sleeping, so goes to listen to his daughter's blood curdling scream on the recordings they made while interviewing Willie. But when he hears something skritching around, he stops and heads back to bed.
But it's not long before a creature makes its presence known by peeking over the foot of the bed. Mercer tells Diana to get out, and she's attacked by another gargoyle going to the bathroom. The pair of creatures scare off the filthy humans and make off with the skull.
Well, one of them escapes, the other doesn't know to look both ways and gets mowed down by an 18-wheeler. Seriously, we got jets. We can handle these things, right?
So, all in all, I'd say that's a win. Sure, they lost the skull, but now they have a whole gargoyle body. With a skull. And ribs. And muscle. And flesh. And blood. The only way this goes better is if it was alive.
Diana disappears to go try and tell the cops to let the gang go, but she has a tough time of it without actually showing them the gargoyle. She explains things to Reeger, but even he doesn't believe the story, even to play along just to get out of jail!
She heads back to the motel alone, in the dark, on a lonely road, and just as you're thinking this is a bad idea, the music confirms it by getting super creepy. They try and fake you out by having her father scare her suddenly, but then they're both attacked by the gargoyles.
After knocking out the humans, the lead gargoyle plays with Diana, and his two sleestaks tip over the car and raid it for their brother's corpse, and the demon statue from earlier.
The gargoyles take their prizes, Diana included, back to Bronson Canyon while the motel owner reports the incident to the cops. Which doesn't work too well when she shows up with a glass of whiskey in hand.
So a more convincing Mercer shows up a little battered and tries to rally the troops to go save his daughter, with a little help from the gang once they're let out of their cell.
While the search party comes together, Diana tries to escape, but is stopped by the lead gargoyle who can actually speak. He demands Diana teach him from her father's books, and oh, if he'd only grabbed the actual teacher, right?
The posse pauses so the sheriff's horse can catch it's breath, and Mercer can give some repeated exposition in a much vaguer way than the start of the movie told the story.
Back at the Batcave, Goliath tries to convince Diana some more, saying his race means no harm, but the humans never understand. Oh, that would be a wonderful twist, that we only think they're demons, so we kill them every time they appear...but the movie won't do that, will it?
Gloop and Gleep attend to the rookery eggs, while out on the road the search party finds Mrs. Parks hanging off a pole as a warning. Most of them man up and keep searching, but a handful of the bikers get the heck out of there.
Ookla the Mok turns up and tells Goliath the humans are getting closer, and the eggs are starting to hatch, they just need until tomorrow. So, the humans must be stopped as all the vague plot threads arguably converge.
Cue the fight scene!
So, pretty much everyone ends up dead or runs away, and Goliath takes Mercer into the caves. He goes into his master plan to uh, survive long enough so his race will be strong enough to survive and wipe out the humans before we do it to them, again.
Humans attack us because they don't understand us, my ass. And it took them HOW many iterations to come up with the plan to survive another bit of genocide by just surviving long enough to not get dead?
Look, Bernie, if you want to defeat the humans, just wait about 40 years, we've already killed ourselves off. Heck, we're even warming the planet up for you, you hellbeasts should enjoy the climate our rotting corpses leave you with, as well as the extra beachfront property.
The gargoyle huffs the doctor down into a pit and walks away laughing. Then um...Mercer just kinda climbs out of the hole. I guess if you have wings, you kinda assume that creatures without them don't know how to go vertical?
Mercer stumbles upon the rookery, but is grabbed by one of the creatures and taken to his daughter and Goliath. With the help of the gargoyle that found him, Mercer escapes back outside, where he finds the remains of the search party, and tells them he found hundreds of eggs, and there must be thousands of them. Dude, I saw like...12.
But I digress. He wisely decides they must be destoyed before they all hatch and overrun the country. Fortunately they have a couple cans of gas. Unfortunately, that will only scramble a dozen or so eggs. Reeger heroically sacrifices himself to blow up all their gas when he gets attacked by a few of the monsters.
Mercer confronts Goliath, and is going to let a few of them go, give them a fighting chance, and the gargoyle kinda calls Mercer out on his mercy. Yeah, it may well just doom humanity to leave a pair of gargoyles alive, but that's not for another 600 years, at least, for the next attempt. I can live with that. Someone else's problem!
And that's where we end, with one of the most abrupt endings of all. Talk about a sudden, screeching halt. They tell off the two remaining gargoyles, they fly off, and everyone stares as the credits roll over their shocked faces. And I can empathise.
Video: The colour is soft and dull, but that's typical of a tv movie from the early 70s, so no major points off there. It's maybe a bit too muted and dark at times, and the action can be a bit unclear, but overall okay.
Audio: A solid mix, probably better than the video in its way, even if it's just a mono track. Even with Bernie Casey's voice being altered, it's all clear enough to hear.
Special Features: Gasp! I haven't done this part in forever! Mainly because I got bored with it, and many videos have multiple versions, and it was just a pain... But the copy of the disc I got came with a really good commentary by the director, who gives an 80 minute discussion of how he's actually pleased with the movie, but also being very frank with everything that went wrong with the film, and just why it went wrong. I can appreciate stark honesty like that.
1 - 17 minutes into the movie, Willie gets conked and charred in his own shed.
2 & 3 - Buddy and the motel owner killed off camera by a gargoyle in his truck.
4 - One of the gang members gets shredded nicely.
And a bunch of gargoyles get shot, and a few more of the rescue party.
Best Corpse: Willie is really the only death of note, or that we really see or are expected to care about. You can't push Willie 'round, because Willie won't go. Because he's pinned beneath a beam.
Blood Type - F-: There is like no blood in here, but again, that's a tv movie for you.
Sex Appeal: Pfffhahaha.
Movie Review: Guess what! This is an Emmy award winning movie! It has to be good, right?? Well, the awards were soley for the make up effects. And guess what? Those are spot on! But what do you expect from Stan Winston, practically THE master of make-up effects? Even if this is one of his first projects, he is already showing he is a master of the craft. Bernie Casey looks amaaaazing. The other gargoyles...slightly less so. They look like guys in masks and rubber suits. Because they are. But they went all out on the lead gargoyle, and that's fair enough. And really, the masks on the rest are pretty rocking too. As for the non-award winning parts of the movie, well...this movie was rushed, it was quickly filmed, it was done on the cheap, and it shows in almost every way. It's actually amazing that the movie is as good as it is. The plot is servicable, if terribly straightforward. Gargoyles appear, gargoyles get set on fire, gargoyles die. That's it. But the acting is okay, and the story is fine. For a tv movie that was whizzed through in a hurry? That is all just fine. Three out of five gargoyle skulls, simply for being coherent enough to tell a story.
Entertainment Value: I don't know how they managed to be so rushed, and make such a bland movie. There's nothing terribly standout to remark. Bernie's gargoyle clearly steals the show, and yeah, it's worth watching for that. The movie is perfectly fine, quaint even, and it has a small cult following. Which it actually deserves. But ultimately, the movie is just kinda there. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing great, and nothing SO wrong that you stare in wonderment. There is actually something here, and the story of a demonic gargoyle invasion has enough legs that this could easily be remade today, and done so much better, with a better story, and effects, and everything. But this movie? Three out of five scrambled eggs.
Fun Fact! After his time fighting the Gargoyles, and a few more nights in jail, Reeger finally straightened himself out and spent the next 35 years of his life bettering his mind and body. He would not be seen again until a young girl needed help escaping from the mental hellhole of her own mind and the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane.