Color, 1972, 74 mins.

Directed by Bill L. Norton

Starring Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Grayson Hall, Bernie Casey, Scott Glenn, William Stevens / Music by Robert Prince / Cinematography by Earl Rath

Format: DVD - VCI (MSRP $19.95)

Now here's a movie whose effectiveness depends almost entirely on viewers' ages when they saw it on television. Back when scary TV movies were de rigeur on the weekends, Gargoyles made a strong impression on many young fantasy fans and even captivated some older ones with its weird desert atmosphere and striking Stan Winston gargoyle creations. Of course, modern audiences who cut their teeth on animatronics and wild CGI effects will wonder what all the fuss is about, but overall the film holds up pretty well. Devotees of Ridley Scott's Legend should be especially interested in the design for main gargoyle Bernie Casey, which obviously influenced the look of Tim Curry's sensual demon in that later fantasy epic.

Anthropologist Mercer Boley, played by Cornel Wilde (The Naked Prey, No Blade of Grass), and his daughter, Diana (Jennnifer Salt, just before Brian De Palma's Sisters) make a trek through the Southwest to perform research on some strange uncovered skeletal remains. After removing the skeleton from its burial location, Boley believes the species of the dead creature has yet to be discovered by human scientists. Of course, the prologue helpfully explains that gargoyles are real creatures who have become mythologized through the ages, so audiences should know what to expect next. Sure enough, the small Arizona town is crawling with scaly beasts bent on recovering the remains of their ancestors. Of course, they also have several hundred eggs located in their vast cave lair, which clues Boley in that maybe the monsters have grown tired of hiding out away from human eyes.

Strongly atmospheric and generally superior to most TV fare, Gargoyles has been brought to DVD in fine style. While the previous Roan laser looked pretty good, the DVD is a knockout, far better than any low budget '70s TV movie could ever be expected to look and easily on a par with Anchor Bay's excellent Dan Curtis releases. The packaging claims this is the longer European version, but any extra footage must be very minor as there isn't any violence or character development added here. The gargoyles themselves stand as unique and impressive creations; however, the slow motion shots of guys in monster suits lumbering through the desert wear out their welcome pretty quickly, at times looking like a horrific Sid and Marty Krofft program. Wilde, an interesting actor who never made it to the A-list for some reason, does a convincing job as the human voice of semi-reason, and Salt makes a stronger damsel in distress than usual. Worth a look, but if you haven't seen this in a long time, don't expect it to be as scary as you might remember it.

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