Sunday, May 10, 2009

The House of Seven Gargoyles (Jonny Quest, 1965)

Jonny Quest is probably best remembered for its action and intrigue, but the show often featured encounters with some pretty frightening creatures, whether it was a monstrous spider from a science experiment...

a stalking, spider-like robot that could zap your brain with an electrified tether...

or this shapeless electrified monster that could only be seen by splattering it with bags of paint.

One episode stands out for its uniquely creepy setting and a most unusual antagonist. In The House of Seven Gargoyles (Episode 23, 1965) the Quest clan visits Raklev Castle, a dark old estate that sits on the banks of "the deepest and most mysterious fjord in Norway." The castle is rumored to be haunted by the centuries old ghost of Baron Raklev himself.

The castle is decorated with seven gargoyle statues, and one of these gargoyles is not like the other... can you guess which one?

If you guessed the one on the far right, congratulations. That's not a statue at all, but a person disguised as a gargoyle. We'll find out later his name is Dietrich, and in a previous life he was known as "Norway's greatest acrobatic dwarf." (I understand he currently doesn't even rank among the top ten, at least in Norway.)

In his new gig, he spends his day posing as a gargoyle on the parapet of Raklev Castle, waiting for a window of opportunity to sneak into Professor Erikson's actual window and strangle the secret formula out of him (he's been performing anti-gravity experiments in his castle laboratory).

Needless to say, Dietrich is not the brains of the operation. He's working for Ivar, who is hiding out in the gravedigger's shack in the private cemetery nearby. Dietrich sneaks through the graveyard at night to update Ivar on his progress.

The graveyard comes with the usual assortment of spooky wildlife, including this startling crow...

and hooting owl.

Here's Dietrich conferring with his partner in crime.

If Ivar's voice sounds like a crankier version of Fred Flintstone, it's no coincidence, as Henry Corden voiced both of them.

Now if hiding in plain sight as a living statue perched high atop a tall building for hours on end seems like the perfect plan, let me advise you on a few drawbacks. First, the only way to get to the professor's lab is to scale the side of the building, leaping from ledge to ledge and shimmying down pipes.

Second, there's always the danger that a little bird or some other natural nuisance will cause you to move and give yourself away.

Third, the dress code is pretty strict. As Bandit's snooping reveals, Dietrich must dress his part right down to the toenails.

Finally, and this is the biggest drawback, if your boss ever decides that things just aren't working out, you are literally a sitting target.

On the one hand, Jonny's stubborn insistence that he saw one of the gargoyles move when they first arrived at the castle is finally vindicated. On the other hand, a man has died here, people. At least save your I-told-you-sos until after relatives have been notified.

Most Jonny Quest episodes ended with a light-hearted bit of humor. This episode's chuckle is provided by Prof. Erikson, when he presents Jonny with the spare gargoyle statue that Dietrich had know, Dietrich? The guy sprawled out dead in the front yard? Ha ha ha.

Buy the complete Jonny Quest series here.


Skullptor said...

I love this episode. It thrilled me as a kid and fueled my imagination from childhood all the way into the present. I am currently working on my very own life-sized scale model of the Gargoyle featured in this episode of Jonny Quest. I've always wanted one ever since I first saw this episode as a kid. I'd hoped some toy company would someday make one, but I'm not getting any younger and I'm growing tired of waiting, so I figured I'll just make one myself. I'll be sure to post a link to some pics of it as soon as it is finished. until then..... stay on the Quest!

Brother Bill said...

Skullptor, Please do keep us posted on your project!

hypnodance said...

Did you ever see "The Curse of Anubis"? It was like the only episode (except for maybe a sea monster one I forget the name of) where the out-and-out supernatural happened. A mummy was revived by an ancient curse and spent the episode plodding after the actual villains, who in turn were trying to kill Jonny, Dr. Quest, Race and Hadji (the leader even shot at Bandit).

Lawrence EdwardLay said...

Truly a spooky sinister episode.