Gargoyles (1972)

The lead gargoyle!
The lead gargoyle!

Dr. Mercer Boley teams up with local cops and some dirt bikers in the southwestern USA to take-on cave-dwelling gargoyles to save his kidnapped daughter (Jennifer Salt) and prevent all the gargoyle eggs from hatching, which could mean them spreading around the world.

DVD cover
They’re coming for you!

GARGOYLES was originally broadcast on Tuesday, November 21st, 1972 in The New CBS Tuesday Night Movies slot. For a made-for-television production that runs a brief 74 minutes, it boasts lots of on-screen time for the creatures, which were created by Ellis Burman (who designed and built the lead gargoyle), Stan Winston (who did all the background gargoyles) and makeup supervisor Del Armstrong (who oversaw everything).

A gargoyle lurking at the bottom of the bed!
A gargoyle lurking at the bottom of the bed!
Gargoyle vs biker!
Gargoyle vs biker!
The winged leader
The winged leader

The gargoyle creatures are a varied-looking bunch: the leader and his queen have wings, the others don’t, and they have different facial features (beaks, horns, fur, etc). I think they look best when shot in slow motion, which is what director Bill L. Norton does quite often in the movie.

Fight!
Cornel Wilde and Jennifer Salt, playing father and daughter, look meaningfully off-camera
Cornel Wilde and Jennifer Salt, playing father and daughter, look meaningfully off-camera

A youthful-looking Scott Glenn plays James Reeger, one of the motorcycle dudes, and Cornel Wilde is anthropologist Dr. Boley, a man who wants to prove that the legends of creatures like gargoyles have a basis in truth. After Boley is shown a winged skeleton by the owner of an out of the way New Mexico gas station, and then physically encounters some of the beings, it is eventually discovered that gargoyles have a five hundred year incubation period: and now is the time for the large eggs to start hatching…

gargoyle eggs
Big gargoyle eggs…
gargoyle hatchlings
…beginning to hatch

This TV movie impressed me a lot when I first saw it way, way back as a kid. I thought I’d give it a rewatch recently, and I’m glad to say that I still enjoy it, thanks to the use of the desert locations, its 70s-era telefilm vibe and, of course, Burman and Winston’s nice-lookin’ titular creatures.

Here’s some more GARGOYLES background info and pics…

Concept art by Wes Cook
Concept art by Wes Cook
Gargoyle masks sculpted by Stan Winston for background characters
Gargoyle masks sculpted by Stan Winston for background characters
Close-up shot of one of the background gargoyles from the set of Gargoyles
Close-up shot of one of the background gargoyles from the film set
Stan Winston applies dark camouflage makeup to a background actor on-set
Stan Winston applies dark camouflage makeup to a background actor on-set
The costumes for the background gargoyles were by Ross Wheat (the bodies were neoprene wetsuits covered in fishnet and small pieces of rubber). The heads were created by Stan Winston
The costumes for the background gargoyles were by Ross Wheat (the bodies were neoprene wetsuits covered in fishnet and small pieces of rubber). The heads were created by Stan Winston
Jim Phillips (on the left) & Ellis Burman do an early makeup application of the lead gargoyle (played by Bernie Casey)
Jim Phillips (on the left) & Ellis Burman do an early makeup application of the lead gargoyle (played by Bernie Casey)

This was Stan Winston’s first real professional job (he had only just finished a three-year Walt Disney Studios makeup apprenticeship program), but he still had the guts to insist that he get a credit in the movie (which was seldom done at the time). After Stan threatened to leave the production, the producers relented and the gargoyle-creators received their credits.
GARGOYLES was then nominated at the Emmys in the category of makeup… and Stan Winston, Ellis Burman and Del Armstrong WON the Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in makeup! Only those with screen credit could be nominated for an Emmy, so it’s thanks to Stan’s stubborn demands that they were eligible!

On-set shot of Bernie Casey as the lead gargoyle
On-set shot of Bernie Casey as the lead gargoyle

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