KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (1974 United States)

broken3A hack reporter who investigates monstrous, supernatural murders and crimes as if they are an everyday occurrence for him. He is always in the same outfit, down to the socks, always in the same car. He does suit the fedora hat though. He is a 1950s man in the 1970s. To complete his wild card image as a hero: he doesn’t carry a gun, isn’t handsome, has no family or wife and he often runs away when in danger. His best friend is his old typewriter.

We are kept up to speed by his Raymond Chandler-esque voice overs. This is horror as seen through the eyes of a hero with a lot of gum on his shoe. The late Darren McGavin is Karl Kolchak: an eccentric, tenacious, rumpled newsman/monster-hunter who, in pursuit of a story, always finds a supernatural angle. This causes much pain to Kolchak’s over-stressed, put-upon boss Tony Vincenzo (played with tremendous world-weariness by Simon Oakland). The interplay between these characters is crackling and witty. Over the course of two pilot TV films and a one-season series, Kolchack fought vampires, robots, werewolves, witches, zombies, government conspiracies, aliens, and ancient legends over 20 episodes.

Unlike many modern horror/sci-fi series, most of Kolchak’s monsters are shown in shadow, and in quick cuts (effectively, and sometimes thankfully; as some of them do not hold up to modern scrutiny; but some still do). Modern horror television take note: Less is more. One of the few flaws of the series (and it’s a small one) is the over-use of sunny, California passing for windy city Chicago. And some of the supporting characters seem to fall into what are (now) viewed as clichés (the effeminate reporter, Ron Updike, always used for comic relief and sweet, old lady/advice columnist Emily).

But they all do have their moments to shine. Kolchak is a timeless show, that serves as a template for many that followed. And Carl Kolchak is one of the richest characters ever written for a horror genre TV series. Kolchak was an irreverent, sarcastic and wisecracking rogue who could get knocked down but never out, who always got back up laughing, still irreverent and sarcastic and ready to keep swinging. This series has not been remastered for dvd, which is a big shame. The picture looks just as mediocre and gharishly red as it would have in the original transmissions. But that’s part of the nostalgic charm.

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Comments

  1. I have nominated you for the 3 Day, 3 Quotes Challenge! 🙂 -> http://thehappydigest.com/2015/06/29/a-few-favourite-quotes-1/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for giving me extra work! I’ll have to re-name you the slave driver. I’ll see what I can do… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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