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Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

US tv film, (1972). Tomorrow Entertainment/ABC Television network. Directed by B W L Norton. Scripted by Steven Karpf and Elinor Karpf. Gargoyles designed by Stan Winston. Cast: Cornell Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Bernie Casey, Woody Chambliss, Scott Glenn. 74 minutes. Colour.

Anthropologist Mercer Boley (Wilde) and daughter Diana Boley (Salt) make a side trip to visit roadside curio-shop owner Uncle Willie (Chambliss) who has seen Boley on a talk show claims to possess something the Professor will be very interested in. This proves to be the skeleton of a bizarre, large winged creature Willie says he found in the desert, in what will turn out to have been sacred burial grounds, taken it away, and reconstructed. They are then attacked in the large shed where the skeleton is hidden by unseen Monsters powerful enough to shake apart the building, and set it aflame. Willie is killed. Boley saves the skull, and escapes along with Diana.

But one of the creatures chases their station wagon down, and leaps atop its roof, though the Professor manages to sling it off. Taking their car to a gas station for repairs, the Boleys find a motel room for the night where the "gargoyles" again attack, determined to recover the remains of their dead. The Boleys attempt to feel in their station wagon, which the monsters overturn, and are confronted by Leader Gargoyle (Casey), who resembles typical depictions of the devil (see Religion; Supernatural Creatures), and abducts Diana, telling her she will be used to pass on to the remains of his generation, who live in hiding Underground, useful knowledge from her father's books to pass on to the next generation which, after 600 years, is about to hatch. It's obvious the Leader views Diana as more than a teacher, however, fondling her earrings as she reads to him. (In the restored print, he fondles her breast briefly). Given that his species is oviparous, how this would have worked out is not entirely clear, but his attentions to Boley arouse the jealousy of a female gargoyle – apparently the leader's mate.

Professor Boley has recovered in the meantime, though this is around sunrise when he goes to the Sheriff for help. The Sheriff has arrested James Reeger (Glenn) and his dirt-biker friends for supposedly burning down Uncle Willie's storage shed, but several others have seen the creatures by now. Gathering a posse, Boley, the Sheriff, and Reeger's biker gang begin searching for Diana, and battle the creatures as sunset again falls. While they do possess some Superpowers, they can be killed by standard bullets – one is struck by a vehicle on the highway and killed. After capturing Boley, the Leader explains to him that his kind has warred with humanity from the dawn of history, but have always been defeated due to their small numbers. The posse suffers a number of casualties, but Reeger also makes his way into the caverns, and sets the hatchery afire at the cost of his own life, destroying the new generation. Boley attacks the Leader's mate, smashing her wings so that the Leader is forced to carry her away to freedom, freeing Diana in order to do so.

Gargoyles shows its age somewhat in the CGI era, but is remarkably creepy in many ways still. Winston's gargoyle suits are quite well made, and the actors within them do manage to give them some personality. The scene in the motel bedroom where one appears at the foot of Mercer's bed is straight out of a nightmare; many other scenes are quite eerie. An unnecessary introductory sequence narrated by veteran voice actor Vic Perrin was added to later prints, removing much of the suspense of the film. The film was shown frequently on the CBS Late Movie throughout the 1970s. [GSt]


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