Gargoyles (1972)

gargoyles poster 1972 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Scared me as a kid, decent special effects

So-so story and dated special effects

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Gargoyles

Studio:  Tomorrow Entertainment

Genre(s):  Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  November 21, 1972

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

gargoyles bones woody chambliss jennifer salt cornel wilde

Willy…you’re tempting fate

Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde) is a researcher on the verge of a big break.  With his daughter Diana (Jennifer Salt) aiding him, Mercer learns of a discovery by an old man (Woody Chambliss) in the desert.   Mercer and Diana are about to discover that the gargoyles depicted in legend exist and they want the world back.  With no one believing the danger, Mercer must find a way to stop the gargoyle hordes before it is too late.

Directed by Bill L. Norton, Gargoyles was a made-for-TV movie.  The film won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup and has gained a cult following over the years.

I saw Gargoyles in the early ’80s as a kid.  The movie was part of a horror week on a local station and scared the crap out of me.  It was a lot of the implied horror in the movie…but those gargoyles scared me too.

gargoyles leader diana bernie casey jennifer salt

I gotta get me a woman!

The plot of the movie is pretty weak.  The beginning part of the movie feels a bit like The Hills Have Eyes (but before that movie was made).  It could be the desert setting or the idea that the creatures are watching the characters.  They are menaced by these unseen horrors and it is kind of creepy.  The second part of the movie gets bit goofy and loses some of the horror.  I do have childhood fears of the gargoyles watching it today, but they are better not seen.  The movie devolves into an almost environmental issue with the poor gargoyles just fighting for survival of their race.  It isn’t as scary as the first part of the film.

The cast was not bad for a made-for-TV movie.  Cornel Wilde was a star when he was younger, but feels a bit off as the father who seems to almost want to profit off of the gargoyles (he is even accused of this by his daughter).  Jennifer Salt also is better than many stars that could have taken this role, and she is joined by Scott Glenn in one of his early roles.  The big credit goes to Bernie Casey who plays the creepy head gargoyle who takes a liking to Diana.

gargoyles leader bernie casey reading

I’m a sophisticated gargoyle…I also like Starbucks

The movie’s real appeal are these gargoyles.  Unfortunately, their costumes are pretty dated, but they were scary for a kid.  The head gargoyle is rather eerie with his big booming voice, white eyess, and sharp teeth (the voice was actually provided by Vic Perrin), but the other gargoyles kind of remind me of the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz…which as a kid scared me as well (maybe it is flying monsters who are horrifying).  The makeup for the Gargoyles was the first effort of famed special effects artist Stan Winston who went on to bigger and better things (but had a nice start here).

There were some pretty great horror movies made for television in the ’70s and early ’80s.  Much of this probably revolves around the fact that the movies can’t show the horror like a movie in the theater and they have to work to scare.  Gargoyles falls in those categories for me with movies like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Don’t Go to Sleep.  It isn’t quite as scary, but it is memorable.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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