Friday, September 09, 2005

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Do you remember this series? It starred Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak - wisecracking, abrasive reporter who has the luck and the nose to get the lead in supernatural news stories. Much to the chagrin of his editor Tony Vincenzo and the local authorities.

I later learned that the series was based on two succesful tv movies, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler. The Night Stalker movie was set in the 70s and had as its protagonists a wisecracking newsreporter dressed in an old suit and a rumpled straw hat investigating a serial killer who he suspects is a vampire. His belief that a vampire is the perpetrator leaves him isolated, the police actually run him out of town. Alone the opinionated Van Helsing armed with a cross, a stake, tape recorder and his flashbul camera tracks down the vampire. The movie was directed by Dan Curtis and written by Richard Matheson the quirky mix of humor and horror made the Night Stalker an instant hit. I actually saw Night Stalker years later after seeing the series. The success of the first Nightstalker movie led to a second tv movie The Night Strangler and the TV series Kolchak: The Nigth Stalker.

X-Files creator Chris Carter is a big fan of the Kolchak tv movies and the series. It is said that the series is the father of the X-files and Fox Mulder is the decent son of Carl Kolchak. A plan to cast Darren McGavin as Mulder's father was planned but did not materialize. Well Mulder does have Kolchak's wit but he does not have the opinionated annoying effect Kolchak has on everyone he meets.

Some of the episodes I remember:

DEMON IN LACE - Kolchak versus a succubus. A couple of college guys found dead after a night of rompy-pompy. The supposed cause of death, demise by fornicating with a succubus.

LEGACY OF TERROR - Kolchak tries stop the sacrifice of young man to a Aztec/South American God/Demon (?). The sacrifice is pampered for before he is to be sacrificed. The cerermony takes place in an open auditorium. Erik Estrada , pre-CHIPs days, as the young sacrifice, method of sacrifice cutting the heart out of the boday. See Aztec.

ZOMBIE - Kolchak against a criminal who continues his crime spree with the help of his mother who turns him into a zombie.

FIRE FALL - By an odd set of circumstances a Doppleganger is created. This evil entity is out to kill his enemies(?) by setting them ablaze once they fall asleep. Kolchak versus a fire-empowered Doppleganger. I specifically remember this because of the scene where the doppleganger is looking at Kolchak through a Church window. Behind the Doppleganger seemed what to be a curtain of flames.

CHOPPER - Headless apparition of a bike rider out to seek revenge and mayhem. Nightstalker take on the headless horseman myth. Predates the creepiness of Tim Burton's movie of the same theme.

According to Darren McGavin, he departed from the original clothes concept of Kolchak and adopted a look like he was fired from a reputable newspaper years ago and still wore the last seersucker suit he bought then.

They are actually re-launching the series this year with Stuart Townsend playing the rogue Kolchak. Will it work? Will the series depart from the original storyline? Has it been succesfully retrofitted for the new millenium. The original series ended after 25 episodes lets hope the new lives up to its predecessor's cult status or least improve on the concept and does not end up just a shadow.


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