by James Goodridge
Premiering as a television movie the evening of November 24, 1972, on the CBS Network Thursday Night Movies series, Gargoyles was amazing in that a generation of preteens have fond memories of having the bejeezus scared out of them back then.
Considering the glaring budget constraints that showed in the production, it is considered a frightful oldie but goodie. Directed by B.W.L. Norton, written by Elinor and Stephen Karpf, music by Robert Prince and doing the best he can, costume designer Tom Dawson the story is set in the American southwest.
Anthropologist/paleontologist Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde of the cinematically provocative Naked Prey 1966) and his daughter Diana played by Jennifer Salt (Who would years later in 2011 would be a producer/showrunner for American Horror Story) are invited to Willie’s Museum run by Uncle Willie played by Woodrow Chambliss, (If you stood at the intersection of TVland and Metv and threw a rock you would hit a TV Western he was in. You have seen him on a dozen shows and never knew his name.)
A young Scott Glenn appears as dirt biker James Reeger. Low and behold Grayson Hall of Dark Shadows has a part as Mrs. Parks the Motel owner always with a glass of something in her hand, Dark Shadows had ended the year before in 1971 on ABC.
Then you have Bernie Casey. Uncle Willie is incinerated after an attack on his museum during which the Boleys escape with the bones of a fellow gargoyle that’s when we first glimpse them. Their purpose: every 500 years they appear on the earth’s surface to hatch gargoyle eggs.
I must say I can’t remember when I first saw this movie and confess never paid attention to the opening or closing credits but loved whoever the actor was who portrayed “The Gargoyle” so it was a shock for me to find out on IMDb, that it was Casey.
Bernie Casey’s (6/8/39 – 9/19/17) initial fame was as a high hurdler during the U.S. Olympic trials in 1960. Then as a wide receiver for the NFL’s L.A. Rams and finally the San Francisco 49ers from the mid-’60s.
Catching the acting bug over the years he appeared in Hit Man (1971), Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde (1975), The Martian Chronicles (NBC 1980), Spies Like Us (1982) and Deep Space Nine season two, guest-starring as Calvin Hudson in “The Maquis” part one and two episodes just to name a few.
The subplot about a Gargoyle with a thirst for knowledge of the surface world to me is along with that 70’s feel it has is a good grindhouse gem to watch.
While Mr. Casey didn’t have what one would call range as an actor I would give it to him in Gargoyles in that under Mr. Dawson’s make up work he was able to give the character life.