With the new series about to premiere, we’re reviewing the original 1972 tv-movie. The production drew top ratings (hey, there wasn’t much choice in ’72), and spawned three other tv movies and an occasionally witty series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-5) which presaged The X-Files, and is an acknowledged influence on that show.

Available here. The subsequent series (which holds a few gems) has recently been released on DVD.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey

Written by Jeffrey Grant Rice and Richard Matheson.

Cast:

Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak
Carol Lynley as Gail Foster
Simon Oakland as Tony Vincenzo
Claude Akins as Sheriff Butcher
Barry Atwater as Janos Skorzeny

Premise:

An intrepid though verbose reporter believes that an actual vampire stalks victims in contemporary Las Vegas.

High Points:

“It’s called premeditated murder.”
–Sheriff Butcher

While the conspiracy theory elements don’t cut it, the police department’s reluctance to stake a suspect being poses an interesting dilemma, and the authorities don’t simply overlook the fact that, from a legal standpoint, that’s just what Kolchak does at one point.

The scenes with Kolchak in Skorzeny’s house creates some suspense, despite the air of cheesiness.

Low Points:

The over-the-top narration.

Seventies paranoia pervades this show, but in a casual manner. The conspiracy involves a bunch of prominent locals who interfere with Kolchak’s reporting, because it will frighten people away from the tourist town. This might make sense, except that the multiple murders are already widely-reported. Kolchak’s editor also seems remarkably willing to bend to pressure, after he’s already called the reporter back specifically to work on this story. The final twist is interesting, but the fates of Kolchak and his girlfriend should have been handled better.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6. Kolchak hunts a Hollywood vampire, 72 model: Skorzeny stalks his victims in black formal wear. He has superhuman strength, preternatural powers of persuasion, and red eyes. He recoils when crossed, and can be killed by a stake through the heart.

The style, look, and music of this show matches entirely the cop shows of the era. Particularly in genre is Kolchak himself; he’s a reporter, but he could be one of the era’s eccentric, wise-ass tv cops.

Combining the two is somewhat original, though Dark Shadows had already put the undead into a modern-day soap opera, and pitted vamps against contemporary cops in House of Dark Shadows.

Effects: 4/6. Low-level, but functional.

Story: 4/6. The cliffhangers before each commercial break start to grate after awhile.

Acting: 4/6:.

Production: 4/6 It’s 70s television; equipment is visible at least once.

Emotional Response: 4/6. This has its moments. It seems incredibly cheesy now, and likely did to many viewers at the time.

Overall: 4/6.

In total, The Night Stalker receives 27/42.