Transmission Date: 21/11/1972
Over the past few months I’ve watched a number of American TV horror movies from the 1970’s and 1980’s in a bid to bolster the cult television section of the site. On my journey it has become impossible to ignore the most recurrent feature of these old ’movies-of-the-week’; namely that the quality and effect of many of these films have been grossly exaggerated by the nostalgic twittering of writers/reviewers who now seemingly find it impossible to be objective about them. Thus far I have only come across a select handful of these movies that live up to the unhelpful hype and stand up to modern scrutiny; both Duel (1971) and Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) remain towering examples of the form, and anything with the name Dan Curtis attached to it offers a seal of quality that was not replicated elsewhere. The latest allegedly brilliant and/or terrifying TV horror movie to cross my desk is Gargoyles, which was broadcast on CBS in November 1972. The most distinguishing feature of this patchy 74 minute effort is the excellent costume design and special make up effects created by Stan Winston; the most impressive of which is rightfully reserved for the lead gargoyle played by Bernie Casey. You can always tell a film is in a spot of bother when the best thing about it is a costume! I had no option to conclude that Steven and Elinor Karpf’s pitiful and laughable screenplay was totally undeserving of Mr. Winston’s inspired efforts.
The sequence in Uncle Willie’s hut of curiosities is a case in point of the films failure to draw suspense or interest from promising material. The dialogue is stilted, and the acting wooden and artificial, but we are compensated by the fact that Uncle Willie possesses the skeleton of a felled gargoyle. The only problem for this trio of tits is that the freshly spawned gargoyle colony wants the remains back. The attack on Willie’s tin hut museum is a moment of success, especially with the sight of claws tearing through the corrugated metal roof. So naturally when faced with an ancient and powerful force of evil that wants the bones of its dead returned, Dr. Boley chooses to steal them! In fact so determined is he to get the skull of a gargoyle he leaves Uncle Willie to perish in a fire! In general the scenes in which the gargoyle’s strike are well mounted, a supplementary attack on the Mercer’s car for example is a highlight. But a very damaging error is made by making the creatures too visible. I can understand the filmmakers wanting to show off some of the costumes, but the cost is a total elimination of suspense and tension. Further damage is added by some idiot’s decision to slow the movements of the gargoyle’s down, the resulting scenes of these monsters fleeing in slow motion renders them laughable and harmless.
© Shaun Anderson 2012