The Gargoyles (1972) – movie review

***Top Television Horror Movies of the 1970’s***

gargoyles 1972 - pic 21

The Gargoyles (1972)

Directed by Bill L. Nortontop 1970's TV horror - small
Cornel Wilde
Jennifer Salt
Grayson Hall
Bernie Casey
Scott Glenn

Can you say Stan Winston? This film is slow paced by today’s standards but I remember being scared when it had first aired on television. I was a youngster and the alpha gargoyle was quite convincing, due to the make-up effects of a young Stan Winston. Combine his incredible make-up work with a powerful voice put through a voice filter and you have a threatening character. The story is simplistic but I still find this watch-able once it get rolling. It has some PG violence which includes smashing through walls and doors, ripping car doors off their hinges and turning over a station wagon. It also uses slo-mo to make the gargoyle beasts seem to have unnatural movement. It is totally obvious but aesthetically pleasing. What I find interesting is similarities found in horror flicks which would follow; the early scene where the farmer has a skeleton in his barn/warehouse reminds me of Jeepers Creepers. Also, the beasts come alive every so-many years then go dormant for a long period. Another early scene has a gargoyle jump on the station wagon roof from behind in a scene filmed quite like a similar scene in Halloween. And, burning the lair of eggs reminded me of a similar scene in Aliens. Love for this film is probably more nostalgic than anything, but it does have cult horror flick status. I still enjoy watching it but I like all those 70’s horror flicks.

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Fun Facts:
The entire film was shot with a single camera in 18 days.

Vic Perrin did a voice-over for the head gargoyle in post-production because they didn’t think Bernie Casey’s voice fit the character.

Bill Norton remained an active TV director to date directing episodes of Law and Order, Angel, Medium, The Guardian, and an episode each of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ghost Whisperer.

No doubt this film had some influence in a Halloween costume design I set up some years later: 

mike k - halloween 1991 b

Its a bit fuzzy but I got the horns and fangs, I’m carrying snakes, I have skulls hanging from my “wings”…lotsa’ fun stuff!

Twilight Zone The Movie (1983) – movie review

Twilight Zone movie pic 6

Twilight Zone The Movie (1983)

Produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landismy top 10 1980s horror
segments directed by:
Steven Spielberg
John Landis
Joe Dante
George Miller

Twilight Zone The Movie took some fan favorite episodes and remade them with modern effects and in modern times (1980s). The film was quite successful in that aspect providing high budget filming in a movie anthology format. The wrap around story stars Dan Akroyd and provides a nostalgic introduction and comical ending to the film.

“Kick the Can” will sure to put a smile on your face as Scatman Crothers visits an old age home and gives the old folk one night to be young again. This is exemplary Steven Spielberg feel-good story-telling with a wonderful cast of young and old Twilight Zone movie posteractors that really sell the tale.

In “It’s a Good Life,” a young boy with special powers brings a beautiful stranger, Helen Foley, into the fold of his family. However, she is less than amused with the family’s pandering to the child. When she gets angry, Anthony tries his best to entertain her but his childhood idea of fun only frightens her beyond belief. Dante did an amazing job at creating a world where anything is possible from the imagination of a child’s mind. Cartoon monsters explode onto the screen in a frenzy of fantastic effects and vivid color. The original stars Billy Mummy and is still a treat to watch but this one takes the story one step further giving it more closure and resolve. Directed by Joe Dante.

John Lithgow is fantastic as the paranoid nervous flyer, John Valentine, in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” This has to be some of the best acting of his career. You really feel the anxiety and pain in his character as he tries to convince the flight crew that there’s a gremlin on the wing of the plane. The music helps to ramp up the tension in this segment. The creature is a beautiful creation itself, a Twilight Zone movie - pic 11masterpiece in animatronics special effects. That was always the one thing lacking in the original TZ episode. William Shatner played the part convincingly but the creature was less than appealing to future generations. The original is a pleasure to watch but the movie version is scarier because of the realistic effects. directed by George Miller.

The first segment in the film, “Time Out,” is about a bigot who is forced to live the lives of the people he detracts. Because of the tragedy associated with this segment, the filmmakers were lucky to even get a story that feels like it has an ending. While filming the Vietnam jungle scene, an explosive caused a helicopter to crash, killing Vic Morrow and two child actors. Needless to say, this put a damper upon celebrating the release. This segment was directed by John Landis.

If there could be one thing good to come out of the tragic deaths it’s that ultimately films became safer through laws and safety regulations and the actors themselves gained theTwilight Zone series - gremlin courage to say “cut” if they saw something dangerous going down. Ironically, the last thing Morrow said before shooting the scene was, “I got to be crazy for doing this, I should have asked for a stunt double.” Director, John Landis, and some of his crew spent the next 10 years in court and though they were acquitted for manslaughter, they paid out millions in Civil suits.

The movie has the tone and feel of the Twilight Zone series and is a commendable effort to bring these great stories by Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, and George Clayton Johnson, into more modern times. If you like the series you will definitely like this film. It doesn’t feel like it’s trying to replace the old stories but are more like enhanced versions respecting what has come before.


Twilight Zone movie pic 1b
Fun Facts:

Burgess Meredith took the role of Rod Serling’s narrator (voice only). He starred in several episodes of the original series. He is tied with Jack Klugman for the most appearances in the TZ series (4).

Billy Mumy plays a small part in the segment, “It’s a Good Life,” as one of the guys who gets angry at Anthony for banging on the video game in the bar. As I had mentioned, Mumy played Anthony in the original TV series. The segment also featured parts by Kevin McCarthy and William Schallert who had likewise starred in Twilight Zone episodes.

From the 1970’s punk band, The Runaways, lead singer Cherrie Currie played Anthony’s sister in the “Good Life” segment. Ironically she had been afflicted by Anthony and no longer had a mouth.

Several Televisions in the house always had cartoons airing somewhat matching what was taking place in the story. Toons included parts of Bugs Bunny, Heckle and Jeckle, Daffy Duck, Betty Boop, Claude Cat and Hubie and Bertie/Mouse Wreckers. This is one of my favorite aspects about the “Good Life” segment.

In the wrap around, Dan Akroyd delivers an oft used quote…You want to see something really scary?

Gallery I

I just wanted to mention that somewhere on the web someone had stated these FX were CGI. I can assure you there were no CGI effects in 1983. Some films did use computers for framing and camera movements but not for visual subjects, that usage was still 8-10 years in the future. What we did have in 1983 was…Stan Winston!

Gallery II

The Truth About Jurassic Park

when dinosaurs ruled the Earth - jurassic-park-

The Truth About Jurassic Park

and the films in the Franchise

Steven Spielberg, in preparation for Jurassic Park, assembled his own group of scientists, paleontologists, engineers and biologists (much like John Hammond) to get an accurate picture of dinosaur life before shooting the first JP film. This provided many great resolutions of theory and conjecture to become accepted knowledge. Dinosaurs could not have dragged their tails like reptiles, dinosaurs were warm blooded and active creatures, dinosaurs moved and acted more like birds than reptiles.

However, for the sake of making a fun Hollywood film some facts were intentionally discarded and overlooked. I don’t personally have a problem with that. No one should be writing a thesis based on the films. I accept that a fictional story will have some wiggle room in order to support the fictitious adventure.

Here are some of the hard science facts:

Most of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park movies were not from the Jurassic Time Period in earth’s history. Most were from the Cretaceous era, 100 million years later.

Velociraptor – in the first film they called the one type of ‘human sized’ dinosaur a velociraptor. They were not velociraptors at all. Velociraptors are only 2- 3 ft. tall, approx. 6 ft in length, about the size of a medium sized dog. The dinosaur portrayed on-screen was a Deinonychus, as it was in the book, which is in the ‘raptor‘ family. Velociraptor just sounds cooler. In the later films they are just called raptors.

Dilophosaurus were actually a much larger creature than portrayed in the first film. There was no indication of a frill or that it spit poison. At 16 ft. long it had no need for such weaponry. It was one of the largest predators of the early Jurassic period.

My cousin is a bird – It is commonly accepted that dinosaurs eventually evolved into birds and were closer in species to birds than today’s reptiles. It is also accepted that many of the later species, especially the carnivores, probably had some feathers in some areas of the body. The films prefer to keep the dinos featherless for continuity with the first film. Also, I’ve heard a lot of war cries from armchair scientists stating, “Dinosaurs Had Feathers!” We are talking about over 200 million years of evolution when they had existed on earth. It is possible and probable that the first raptors and Rex’s didn’t have feathers but the later one’s (100 million years later) had grown them through a process called evolution.

I’m not a CG – The Dinosaurs in Jurassic Park movies are not all CGI. Most of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park films are real-life animatronics robots, magnificent wonders themselves, created by Stan Winston’s team at his special effects studios. CG was used to enhance the movements and/or fill in pieces when the dinosaurs were fully framed. CG was also used in wide-screen shots to show herds.

jurassic park III spinosaurus


Tyrannosaurus Rex

Dinosaur stars in Jurassic Park (1993):
Tyrannosaurus Rex
Deinonychus (raptors/velociraptors)
Gallimimus (seen in herds)

Dinosaur stars in Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997):
Tyrannosaurus Rex
Deinonychus (raptors/velociraptors)
Compsognathus (compys)



Parasaurolophus (seen in herds)
Pachycephalosaurus (seen in herds)
Gallimimus (seen in herds)

Dinosaur stars in Jurassic Park III (2001):
Tyrannosaurus Rex
Deinonychus (raptors/velociraptors)
Corythosaurus (seen in herds)
Parasaurolophus (seen in herds)

Jurassic Park t Rex pic 2

Jurassic park T Rex pic 3

Pumpkinhead (1988) – Movie review

pumpkinhead 1988 pic 2

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Directed by Stan Winstonmy top 10 1980s horror

Lance Henriksen
Jeff East
John D’Aquino
Kimberley Ross
Joel Hoffman
George ‘Buck’ Flower
Chance Corbitt Jr.

By now it’s become obvious what I like about 80s horror films, original creatures and monsters, practical effects, some good eerie Synth music, and most of all, classic storytelling. Pumpkinhead is simultaneously an original and unique creature-feature film and a throwback to classic 1950s sci-fi/horror flicks. The monster is an amazing humanoid design with a unique origin/manifestation story. A spiritually demonic entity in pumpkinhead 1988 dvdphysical form is a subject in horror films rarely handled as good as it is here.

To recap the story, the cutest kid in the world has Lance Henriksen as a dad, how cool is that? Kinda’ makes up for not having a mom. While helping his ‘Pa’ at the farm stand, the boy is run over by a dirt-bike riding, city slicker who, along with a group of friends, quickly seek shelter at their nearby log cabin. Ed Harley(Henriksen) takes his boy home. Now get the tissues ready, cause the boy dies. Harley asks the locals about an ol’ woman rumored to have some powers and who can assist with vengeance. The witch woman, Haggis, is one creepy witch and one of the highlights of the movie. She offers Ed Harley a means to avenge his son but it comes with a terrible price. Pumpkinhead is called forth and hunts down the city folk. Seeing the wrong in his hateful vengeance, Ed Harley joins the battle to try and stop the creature.

This film is the directorial debut from Stan Winston, famous effects artist responsible for bringing to life: Alien, Poltergeist, the Thing, and the Dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, among others. I love the duo-tone lighting in the night scenes of this film; blue tints for outdoors, yellow-orange for the indoor scenes. The back lit scene when Pumpkinhead enters the hallowed land of the burnt out church, drips with dark atmosphere and mood. The creature hisses at the cross and halts his relentless pursuit of the city folks in order to break the cross into pieces in a nasty display of evil.

Pumpkinhead follows a classic mythological storyline involving the fulfillment of a wish or desire and adhering to the adage, be careful what you wish for, because you just might not like what you get. Self destruction by the desire for revenge is another theme here, along with similarities to classics like The Monkey’s Paw, Pandora’s Box, and the cursed granted wish of a Genie. The film spawned several sub-par sequels which I would ignore, the effects were not handled as well and the stories were not nearly as good.

I’m sure most horror fans have seen this fantastic film but for those looking for a not-so-gory Halloween Creature Feature, this would be a great choice. I can’t even guess at how many times I have watched it; it’s one of my all time faves. A true Modern American Gothic classic!

pumpkinhead 1988 pic 35
Fun Facts:
The film was inspired/based on a poem by Ed Justin.

The boys dog, Gypsy, was the same dog that was in Gremlins

Lance Henriksen gathered his own props for his character, including visiting Pawn Shops to purchase silver dollars to pay the witch for her services.

Though the creatures head is not shaped like a pumpkin it is birthed from a pumpkin patch.

George “Buck” Flowers was an often called upon character actor in the 80’s, playing small parts in films like, The Fog, They Live, and Back to the Future

Creature (1998) – movie review

creature pic 2

Creature (1998) aka: Peter Benchley’s Creature

Craig T. Nelson
Kim Cattrallpeter_benchleys_creature_1998

This feels like an 80’s monster movie and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Both Nelson and Cattrall already had successful careers, it would seem unlikely they would show up in a made-for-TV monster flick. But there they were, providing above average acting to what should be a B-sci fi/horror film. The monster here is a genetically engineered mutation, half man/half shark, on steroids, a set of massive teeth on two legs chasing down his prey which consisted mostly of humans. The script was well-written from Peter Benchley’s novel and made the events seem plausible. Stan Winston’s special-FX team worked up a defined original creature, enjoyable for the monster fan. So why isn’t it well known and praised in the horror genre? Because it was over a decade too late. If this had come out in the mid-eighties, had a little more gore and skin, it would have made some waves. Unfortunately in 1998, it was little more than a ripple in a puddle. However that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable, just don’t expect it to live up to today’s monster movie standards. Being a TV movie, it takes an hour for things to really start heating up but the pay-off is good. It certainly ain’t no ‘Jaws,’ so it’s best to think of it as an 80’s ‘B’ monster film.




The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007) – movie review

the deaths of ian stone pic 7
The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007)

Ian Stone has a unique problem. Every time he seems to get comfortable with his life, he is killed, only to be thrust into another life in progress. He doesn’t remember any of this until the day a stranger tells him he should. When forced to examine his vague memories, he begins to recall the creatures that are causing these life fluxes. At first they appear as the deaths of ian stone dvdshadow figures, black masses with deliberate movement, but soon features take shape and he can see the demonic faces of the monsters. He also realizes that a particular woman is always in his life when he is replaced in this Groundhog day style film. Another woman, Medea, is also involved with Ian’s lives’ and can inflict the most detriment to him. Although I wasn’t impressed by this film originally – I liked it better on my recent viewing. The creatures, called Harvesters, aren’t completely scary but I did start rooting for Ian to get away from these things and save his love interest, Jenny. I liked the Harvesters’ design better during this viewing, perhaps because I am more used to CGI, and it is well done in this film. Before you scoff at the digital images know that the creature effects were done by Stan Winston and just enhanced with CG. That makes a big difference. Some of the film is a bit Matrix-like and it is never completely explained how Ian goes from one life to the next without starting over each time (it’s slipstream fiction but the film should have offered an explanation). However, if you accept the film at face value and don’t dig to deep for details, it is enjoyable creature horror. This film was part of the ‘Horror Fest – 2007 – 8 Films to Die For’ collection and is probably the best for that year (although I will admit I haven’t seen all of them).

Directed by Dario Piana
Starring: Mike Vogel, Christina Cole, Jaime Murray
the deaths of ian stone pic 2

A horror film delivered with a serious tone, not perfect, but entertaining if you don’t get too hung up on the details.
I give it 2.5 on the demon creature scale of death’s doorway sentinels!

Sci Fi Boys – Documentary (2006) – movie review

forrest j ackerman pteradactyl armature

Sci Fi Boys – Documentary (2006)

sci fi boys dvdThis documentary is as much a tribute to Forrest J. Ackerman and Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, as it is to Sci-fi films. You may be surprised to learn that it was Ackerman who coined the term “Sci-Fi.” It is a fitting tribute because Forry, along with good friends, Harryhausen, George Pal, and Ray Bradbury helped shape and push the genre of Sci-fi into the hearts and minds of young film fans who would later become the top directors, FX artists, and filmmakers in the world.

The film starts out with past footage of Forry making a speech. He says, “I am speaking to you from the year 1970…” a very ‘sci-fi sounding’ choice of words. He goes on to explain a bit of what makes sci-fi what it is. During the course of the documentary we hear from Peter Jackson, John Landis, Frank Darabont, Stephen Sommers, Harryhausen, Bradbury, Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Phil Tippet, and Dennis Muren amongst many others, talk about their Sci-Fi roots which often point to Famous Monsters magazine and the original 1933 movie King Kong. Bob Burns and Don Glut talk of their favorite Sci-Fi films and sci fi boys jacksoneras. Roger Corman speaks of William Castle and the wonderful sales pitch he would deliver for each of his films. Bob Burns talks about the creations of Paul Blaisdell in the 50’s sci-fi films and how Paul and his wife would assemble monsters on a shoe-string budget from items in his garage. There is a segment devoted to Harryhausen’s inaugural ‘Star’ on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, only yards from Grumman’s Theater, where, as a boy, he had seen the film that set the direction of his life, King Kong.

There is also a segment which features the amateur 8mm and Super 8mm films of Don Glut, Steve Johnson, Bob Burns and Fred Barton, as well as others, from their early years as boys looking to emulate their favorite sci-fi feature. The film shows the early Harryhausen projects as well, test footage for films that have never been made. There are some great photos of George Pal standing on the set of War of the Worlds, and clips of Forry’s eulogy at Pal’s funeral.
roger corman metropolis2
Roger Corman                                                Metropolis

Near the end Steven Spielberg talks about the change over to CGI and the possibilities that change has unleashed. Dennis Muren from ILS talks of the early computer technology that started with the FM 117film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and how it influenced the making of Star Wars.  Sci Fi boys was put together by Paul Davids and he did an astounding job at presenting an interesting, and perfectly paced documentary. The dvd/blu-ray cover features artwork by Basil Gogas. The dvd itself includes bonus extras that are well worth the purchase for die hard fans.

This is a fantastic documentary and I would highly recommend it for every sci-fi, horror, and monster movie fan.

For more info, look here: Sci Fi Boys

Currently available on Netflix.
sci_boys_group photo
sci fi boys muren FM 108
forrest j ackerman
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