When this movie begins, the audience will notice that it takes itself quite seriously with the narration at the beginning by declaring gargoyles are essentially real and it is because of that voiceover during the outset of the film that viewers know they will be in for a treat. Even though everyone knows that gargoyles are not in fact real, declaring them so in such a manner makes believers out of kids of all ages be they six or sixty and immediately captivates the audience. From that moment on, the film only gets better as Dr. Boley and his daughter Diana eventually come into contact with the mythical creatures and furthermore, with their leader played by Bernie Casey who can talk and does so quite eloquently. Soon a plot to take over the world is revealed and it then devolves into an ‘us versus them’ scenario with the gargoyles not exactly winning out, but not exactly losing either.
Everything about this film is a lot of fun, from the story to the acting to the special effects which consisted of some rubber suits and makeup courtesy of the legendary Stan Winston and Tom Dawson. Sometimes it does get a little hokey and it is to be expected with the film being made for television back in 1972, but as a whole, it managed to come together quite well to make for a very enjoyable viewing experience. The best parts are obviously those that involve the gargoyles, whether the ones who simply scamper around causing mischief or the big bad himself that Casey plays and while the costumes they all wear do not even come close to measuring up to the current special effects that are available, they hold a special kind of charm that only older movies seem to have, one that gets the imagination running while wonder pervades the viewer’s being.
Cornel Wilde is good as the anthropologist/paleontologist who knows his stuff and Jennifer Salt is slightly better as the damsel in distress. Scott Glenn has always had that certain stage presence that immediately draws the audience in and he does so here as well, but it is Casey who delights as the villain and even though he might seem like a bad guy, he only wants what is best for his people and one can easily understand that. Surprisingly, writers Steven Karpf and Elinor Karpf create a very sympathetic monster, one that they audience soon finds themselves siding with and when events manage to catch up to the gargoyles and the Boley’s during that final act, one feels quite sad to see the destruction of the gargoyle eggs, but somewhat elated to see Casey’s creature get away.
Though meant to be a horror, it is not exactly scary in a conventional sense, but manages to be with the conviction that the head gargoyle shows, the assuredness that someday humanity will be wiped from the Earth and gargoyles will once again be the dominant species. It is slightly chilling and given the ending, the film should have generated a sequel which sadly never manifested. If given the chance, as silly as it might seem at first glance, it is definitely worth a watch.
3.5 out of 5