Horror on the Lens: Gargoyles (dir by Bill Norton)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have a made-for-TV monster movie from 1972, Gargoyles!

What happens when a somewhat condescending anthropologist (Cornel Wilde) and his daughter (Jennifer Salt) head out to the desert?  Well, they stop by a crazy old man’s shack so that they can look at his genuine monster skeleton.  Before Wilde can thoroughly debunk the old man’s claims, the shack is attacked by real monsters!

That’s right!  Gargoyles exist and they apparently live in Arizona!

This film was introduced to me by TSL contributor and Late Night Movie Gang founder Patrick Smith and we had an absolute blast watching it.  There’s nothing particularly surprising about the plot but the gargoyles are memorable creations and Bernie Casey gives a good performance as their leader.  The gargoyle makeup was designed by none other than Stan Winston, who won an Emmy for his work here and who went on to win Oscars for his work on Aliens, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park.

As well, a very young Scott Glenn shows up in the cast.  I like to think that he’s playing the same character in both Gargoyles and Sucker Punch.

Enjoy!

A Movie A Day #7: Sharky’s Machine (1981, directed by Burt Reynolds)


220px-sharkys_machine_ver3After a drug bust goes wrong, Atlanta police detective Tom Sharky (Burt Reynolds, who also directed) is transferred from narcotics to the vice squad, the least desirable assignment in the Atlanta police department.  Despite all of his honors and commendations, Sharky finds himself reduced to busting hookers with Papa (Brian Keith) and Arch (Bernie Casey).  But then Sharky discovers evidence of a prostitution ring being run by Victor D’Anton (Vittorio Gassman), one that services the wealthiest and most powerful men in Georgia.

Working with Papa, Arch, and a burned-out bugging expert named Nosh (Richard Libertini), Sharky begins a surveillance of Domino (Rachel Ward), one of Victor’s girls.  As the days turns into weeks, Sharky falls in love with Domino, who doesn’t even know that she’s being watched.  Sharky also discovers that Domino is sleeping with Hotckins (Earl Holliman), who is about to be elected governor of Georgia.  At the same time, a heroin-addicted assassin named Billy Score (Henry Silva) is assassinating anyone who could reveal Victor’s crimes.

There are two great sequences in Sharky’s Machine.  One is the opening credits scene, in which a bearded Burt Reynolds walks through the roughest parts of Atlanta while Randy Crawford sings Street Life.  This scene lets everyone know from the start that this is not another Burt Reynolds good ol’ boy comedy.  The other is a cat-and-mouse chase through an Atlanta skyscraper, as Sharky and his partners try to track down Billy Score, who is so doped up on painkillers that he barely flinches whenever he’s shot.  Billy Score is one of the most frightening movie villains of all time, seemingly indestructible and capable of moving like a ghost.

henry-silvaWith the exception of maybe Deliverance, Sharky’s Machine is Burt Reynolds’s darkest movie.  There are moments of humor and appearances by the usual members of the Burt Reynolds stock company, like John Fiedler and Charles Durning.  But overall, this is one dark movie.   Likable characters die.  Sharky cries and loses two fingers when they are graphically chopped off by the bad guys.  A woman’s face is literally blown off.  Even when Sharky starts to talk about his childhood, a sentimental moment the occurred in almost every Burt Reynolds film, Domino tells him that she doesn’t care.

In other words, this ain’t The Cannonball Run.

Burt Reynolds’s first cut of Sharky’s Machine reportedly ran for 140 minutes.  Twenty minutes were cut before it was released into theaters and, as a result, Sharky’s Machine sometimes seems to be rough around the edges.  (One important supporting character is killed off-screen and if you don’t pay close attention to the dialogue, you might never know what happened to him.)  Still, this violent film noir, which Reynolds once called “Dirty Harry in Atlanta,” is one of Burt’s best.

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Horror on the Lens: Panic at Lakewood Manor (dir by Robert Scheerer)


Today’s horror on the lens is a made-for-TV movie from 1977.  This movie has many different names: Panic at Lakewood Manor, It Happened At Lakewood Manor, and Ants.

Panic at Lakewood Manor is a mix of different genres.  It’s a disaster film, a soap opera, and ultimately a revenge-of-nature horror film.  The film begins with our cast gathering at Lakewood Manor, a luxury hotel that’s only partially finished.  In fact, the owners are so determined to complete construction that they ignore the threat posed by …. KILLER ANTS!

Anyway, this is a made-for-TV movie from the 70s so it’s never as graphic as what we’d expect to see today.  That said, I once accidentally stepped on a fire ant mound while I was barefoot and OH MY GOD DID THAT EVER HURT!  AGCK!

If you’re a fan of old movies, you’ll enjoy seeing a lot of familiar faces in this one.  Even Myrna Loy shows up!

(Incidentally, this film was written by Guerdon Trueblood, who directed the brilliant The Candy Snatchers.)

Horror Scenes I Love: In the Mouth of Madness


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John Carpenter’s contribution and influence in horror and genre filmmaking could never be disputed. This man’s films, especially his work from the 70’s and early 80’s have made him one of the undisputed masters of horror (joined by such contemporaries as Wes Craven and George A. Romero). While his worked had become so-so at the tail-end of the 1990’s and quite sparse during the 2000’s his name still evokes excitement whenever something new comes out where he’s intimately involved in it’s creation (these days a series of synth-electronic albums).

It was during the mid-1990’s that we saw a John Carpenter already tiring of constantly fighting the Hollywood system, yet still game enough to come up with some very underrated and underappreciated horror and genre films. One such film was 1995’s In the Mouth of Madness. This was a film that didn’t so well in the box office yet has become a cult horror classic since. Part of his unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (The Thing and Prince of Darkness the other two), In the Mouth of Madness combined Lovecraftian eldritch horror with the horror of the mundane that made Stephen King so popular with the masses.

This scene early in the film just showcases not just Carpenter’s masterful camera and editing work, but was ahead of its time in exploring the toxic nature of fandoms and groupthink. In 1995 such a concept might have been relegated to B-movie horror, but in 2016 it’s become synonymous with such everyday occurrences and topics as Gamergate, Tea Party and Trump supporters to SJW crusaders, Marvel vs. DC and Democrats and Republicans. Everyone believes their group to be the only righteous in whatever argument they happen to be part of and everyone else must be silenced (and in the scene below silenced equates to death).

John Carpenter might have turned into that old and cantankerous, albeit cool, dude who couldn’t care less what you thought of him, but it seems that he saw what was happening today as far back as the 1990’s.