Continuing on with my nostalgia for TV movies I watched as a kid, I remembered this little gem of a movie. The reason that this movie sticks out in my head is because I have never managed to see the entire movie. I watched about 15 minutes of it years ago when my family first moved to Texas, but we didn’t get to finish it as we had to go do something. Over the years, the portion I saw would pop into my head but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I decided to try and find it online so I could watch it. So let’s see if the rest of the movie was worth the wait as I watch today’s movie, Gargoyles (1972).
The Plot: After his fall from Heaven, The Devil proclaimed that his offspring, the gargoyles, would one day rule over the Earth and man. Three times, the gargoyles would rage war over mankind but would be defeated to the point of extinction each time. Hundreds of years after the last battle, mankind has practically forgotten about the gargoyles, thinking them as nothing more than statues on ancient buildings. In the present day, Diana Boley has flown out to Arizona to meet up with her dad, Dr. Mercer Boley, who is studying humanity’s obsession with demons over the years. As they head towards Mexico, Boley tells Diana that they are going to make a detour to see an old man, Uncle Willie, who claims to have some copies of old Native American exorcisms as well as having found something incredible. As the make their way across the desert, something large flies overhead while they are stopped but they both put it out of their minds as they continue on their way. When they finally reach Willie’s home, Boley is skeptical of Willie’s claims, thinking he is trying to scam him. The old man leads them towards a shack at the back of his home and once inside, he shows them the skeleton of a gargoyle that he found in a nearby canyon. Boley doesn’t believe the skeleton is real, thinking that Willie simply assembled it from various bones, but Willie tells him it is real and finally convinces Boley to accept his deal for the skeleton. That night, they are sitting in the shack interviewing Willie about the ancient rituals when something attacks the shack. Willie is knocked unconscious set on fire when a lantern is knocked over and Boley and Diana quickly leave the shack, grabbing the gargoyle skull on their way out, before they are caught in the blaze themselves. As they drive down the road, Boley listens to the recording of their interview so he can listen to whatever had attacked them when a gargoyle suddenly swoops down and lands on their car. Boley manages to shake it off and the head to a gas station/shop and ask the attendant to try and fix their car, then head to the motel next door to get a room. The next day, Boley and Diana tell the police about Willie’s death and head out with them to show them the scene. When they get there, they see some teenagers riding dirt bikes near the burnt wreckage and the police believe believe they are responsible for the fires. After catching all of the dirt bikers, the police book them for the arson and death of Willie, in spite of Boley and Diana telling the police that the kids weren’t there when they left. That night, a pair of gargoyles break into Boley’s motel room and steal the skull and as he chases after them, one of them is hit by a truck. Boley brings the body back into his room and tells Diana that it’s a gargoyle and they had come for the skull of their dead. Boley wants to take the body back to Los Angeles immediately, as he knows the gargoyles will be back to reclaim it but when he turns around, he finds Diana is gone. Diana goes to the police station to try and convince the deputy to let the kids go but when he refuses, she tells James Reeger, the leader of the group, about the gargoyle and promises she will get them out of there. Diana heads back to the motel but as she gets there, she hears the gargoyles approaching and Boley quickly grabs her and drags her into their room. As the gargoyles break down the door, Boley grabs the body and goes out the back window with Diana and they get in their car but before they can leave, the gargoyles rip off the door and grab Diana and knock Boley out. As three gargoyles work on retrieving the body from the car, the leader of the gargoyles approaches Diana, who faints when he gets close to her and the leader picks her up and carries her off as they leave. The next day, Mrs. Parks, the motel manager, tells the sheriff and deputy what she heard at the motel and Boley confirms her story, telling them about the gargoyles and how they took Diana. When Boley says they need to search for Diana, the sheriff says they don’t have the manpower to mount a search and Reeger volunteers his gang to help with the search, which the sheriff reluctantly agrees to allow. As the search party mounts up to find Diana, the sheriff sends Mrs. Parks and the gas station attendant, Buddy, to the state patrol’s office for some back-up, unaware that a gargoyle was in the back of their truck. In the gargoyles’ lair, Diana is trying to find a way out when the leader speaks to her, telling her they mean her no harm but they can’t let the humans kill them off again. Outside, the search party soon finds Buddy’s truck driving around in circles, with the front seat covered in blood and no sign of Buddy or Mrs. Parks. As night falls, the find Mrs. Parks’ body hanging from a telephone pole, which scares some of the bikers but Reeger convinces them to keep looking for Diana. Back in the lair, the gargoyle leader is told of the approaching humans, as well as how another egg layer has hatched so they will soon have more eggs to hatch and the leader tells the other gargoyles they must get rid of the humans. As the search party gets close to the lair, the gargoyles emerge from their cave and begin attacking them. Boley is approached by the gargoyle leader and told to follow him if he wants to see Diana and when he gets there, the leader tells him that they have been waiting 500 years and that with their eggs hatching, they will soon have enough to wipe out mankind. The leader then heads off to where he is keeping Diana, having her read aloud to him. Boley wanders around the cave and finds the egg chamber when a gargoyle grabs him, telling him to be quiet, then takes him to where Diana is but when Boley gets there, the leader quickly takes Diana deeper into the cave and Boley is forced to flee. Outside, Boley encounters Reeger, the sheriff, and the remainder of the search party and tells them about the eggs inside the cave and Diana still being alive. The sheriff says they will have state patrol out there in the morning but Boley refuses to wait and Reeger goes with him. The two men carry some gasoline cans with them and after fighting off some gargoyles, Reeger starts to douse the eggs with gasoline when he is swarmed by some more gargoyles, and he lights the gasoline, killing himself as well as the gargoyles and eggs. Boley confronts the leader and tells him that he will be dead if he doesn’t leave, forcing the leaders decision by breaking the wing of the last breeder. The leader says that Boley’s actions may spell the end of mankind one day, before grabbing the breeder and flying off into the night as Boley and Diana watch them leave.
Maybe it is just the sheer number of horror movies I have seen over the years but I honestly don’t know why kid me found the small scene I saw so scary. Still, this wasn’t that bad of a TV movie all in all. The acting was ok, with Cornel Wilde doing a decent job as the lead (Boley) but I was disappointed that Jennifer Salt (Diana) was relegated to nothing more than the typical horror movie screaming girl. The story started out ok, and I liked the whole idea of gargoyles being the spawn of the devil, but it got a little confusing at the end. They didn’t really explain why the leader kidnapped Diana, or why the breeder helped Boley find her. The special effects weren’t all that impressive, as most of the gargoyle costumes looked kind of cheap. The camera work at times was also a little weird, seeming to slow down for some reason when they focused on the gargoyles, which really made no sense. All in all, it’s a decent TV movie but could have been better.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5