GET YOUR KOLCHAK ON, BABY!
It is no secret that I was a huge fan of Darren McGavin‘s horror television show KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, which was a staple of my life for that glorious year of 1974, when it ran for its single season. McGavin plays one of my favorite all-time characters, Karl Kolchak, a Chicago newsman in a seersucker suit and straw hat, who singlehandedly sniffs out and battles all kinds of monsters, ghosts, madmen, aliens, etc. The show was a spin off of two ABC Movies of the Week, THE NIGHT STALKER in 1972, and THE NIGHT STRANGLER in 1973.
The first movie,THE NIGHT STALKER, was the highest-rated television movie of all time when it debuted. Not bad! It follows Kolchak as he tracks down a vampire in Las Vegas (his first beat). It starred McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins and Barry Atwater, and was written by none other than Richard “I AM LEGEND” Matheson! It was directed by TV veteran John Llewellyn Moxey, who helmed another 70s TV horror gem, THE HOUSE THAT WOULD NOT DIE (1970). It is incredibly entertaining and has a bunch of excellent set pieces, and the cast has chemistry to spare.
But, rather than just describe it to you, why don’t you settle in and watch it instead!
THE NIGHT STALKER
The first movie was such a monster hit that ABC followed it up the next year with THE NIGHT STRANGLER, also written by Matheson, but this time directed by legendary TV horror meister Dan Curtis, of DARK SHADOWS and TRILOGY OF TERROR fame. It sports a similarly 70s-o-riffic cast, including McGavin, Jo Ann Pflug, Wally Cox, and a returning Simon Oakland as Kolchak’s put-upon editor, Tony Vincenzo. Margaret Hamilton of Wicked Witch of the West fame even has a fun small part as Professor Crabwell.
This time, after being run out of town after the events of the first film, Kolchak and Vincenzo have landed in Seattle. Carl’s old editor hires him to investigate a series of strangulation murders of exotic dancers. And, of course, he discovers something BAD is behind it all. I find it to be almost equally fun as the first film, which is a minor miracle by itself. The pedigree both in front and behind the camera really helps sell this one, and there is some incredible 1970s fashion on display to boot.
Once again, why take my word for it?
THE NIGHT STRANGLER