SPECIAL EDITION IN HONOR OF RICHARD MATHESON!
I thought I would profile two lesser known titles from Matheson’s illustrious and expansive body or work…
THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)
For a while, this 1972 TV movie was the most watched program in television history. A well made story of a fallen from grace reporter (Darren McGavin) who comes to believe a series of murders in Las Vegas are being committed by an actual vampire (a creepy Barry Atwater). As the authorities (led by movie and TV vet Claude Akins) are in denial, reporter Carl Kolchak decides to confront and destroy the undead fiend himself, if the bloodthirsty Janos Skorzeny doesn’t kill him first. A solid horror thriller for a TV movie and a strong characterization from Christmas Story dad, McGavin as Kolchak. There is very little blood as it was made for TV but, director John Llewellyn Moxey (Horror Hotel) directs from legendary writer Richard Matheson’s script based on the book, ‘The Kolchak Papers’ by Jeff Rice and makes up for it by providing a healthy dose of thrills and chills and takes the proceedings very serious and that makes it all work. The Night Stalker is considered a classic by many and it spawned a decent sequel, Night Strangler, before becoming a TV series that sadly took a campy approach to the supernatural stories and the Kolchak character. Said to have been the inspiration for The X-Files (which returned the favor by having McGavin guest star in 2 episodes as an agent.). Also starring Simon Oakland as Kolchak’s long suffering boss, Tony Vencenzo who would also join McGavin in the sequel and the short lived series. I am proud to say I watched this the night it first aired and it scared the heck out of my 7 year old ass!
MonsterZero NJ Extra Trivia: There was a brief run new version of the show in 2005 with Stuart Townsend as Kolchak and now talk of a movie version with Johnny Depp as Kolchak and directed by Shaun Of The Dead’s Edgar Wright.
3 and 1/2 supernaturally savvy reporters
Sorry folks, no trailer available…
THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1973)
After being chased out of Las Vegas as part of covering up their vampire problem, sequel to the classic Night Stalker has Carl Kolchak now in Seattle and coming up against a serial killer who is part Jekyll/ Hyde and part Dorian Gray. Kolchak’s investigation leads him to a doctor (The Six Million Dollar Man’s boss, Richard Anderson) who resurfaces every 21 years to murder victims for a serum that keeps him alive and young. As with the previous entry, Kolchak is the only one who believes there is something supernatural going on and the only one who figures out how to stop it. For a sequel, it’s not bad and pretty entertaining in it’s own right. Directed by Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, Trilogy Of Terror) and again written by legendary genre writer Richard Matheson (Twilight Zone, The Night Stalker and Spielberg’s Duel), the film has it’s share of spooky moments and suspenseful chases as Kolchak once again finds himself alone and trying to stop the fiend before his serum is complete and he goes back into hiding. The formula didn’t start to wear thin till the often silly weekly series that struggled to keep coming up with supernatural opponents for the intrepid reporter. They probably should have stuck with an annual TV movie instead. Strangler also features Simon Oakland returning as Vencenzo and an adorable and fiesty Jo Ann Pflug as a belly dancer with a soft spot for McGavin’s hard nosed reporter. Also stars legendary actors, John Carradine, Margaret Hamilton and “Grandpa” Al Lewis.
3 supernaturally savvy reporters
A third film written by Matheson was planned but, ABC went with a weekly series instead. The film was called The Night Killers and would have involved Kochak and Vinchenzo working together in Hawaii and investigating a story involving aliens, a UFO and a plot to colonize earth.