Take a Drink: each time someone doubts Kolchak’s theory
Take a Drink: for every failed attempt to catch the killer
Drink a Shot: each time the body count rises
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is an investigative journalist called home from vacation to work on a strange new murder case, in which a woman’s body was completely drained of blood. When additional bodies begin to appear bearing the same bite marks, along with missing blood from hospitals, Kolchak begins to court the possibility that the police are dealing with a real-life vampire.
Made for ABC Television, and at the time the highest rated TV movie ever made, The Night Stalker approaches its rather silly concept without a trace of irony. The story benefits greatly from being taken seriously, as it allows the audience to empathize more with Kolchak’s situation, and ups the horror quotient.
The screenplay was adapted for the screen by Richard Matheson, best known for penning Steven Spielberg’s Duel, I Am Legend, and over a dozen episodes of the original Twilight Zone (including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”). Matheson’s writing prowess no doubt helped shape the story cinematically, giving it the feel of a 1950s Film Noir. John Llewllyn Moxie provides the film with steady, solid direction, and for a TV studio-backed film, he even manages some cleverly placed shots and mood-setting camera-tricks, as well as some creative lighting. This feels like it could have gone theatrical, if properly promoted.
Actor Darren McGavin is probably best known as the curmudgeonly father in A Christmas Story, but before he fought the Bumpus’s Dogs over Turkey dinner, he took on Nosferatu on the mean streets of Las Vegas!
McGavin gives his all, in a performance that owes much to Sam Spade and other hardboiled novels. It is perhaps no surprise to learn that McGavin played Mickey Spillane’s “Mike Hammer” on the 1950s detective series.
The standard cliché of “nobody believes the crazy truth” is an ever-present one here. Fans of The X-Files will undoubtedly recognize the storytelling approach here. Even so, the police officials doubt Kolchak for a long time, in the face of evidence that is seemingly insurmountable. Not only won’t the police listen, but his editor won’t listen. This is in spite of photographic evidence, witness accounts, and facts which would give cryptozoologists a wet dream. But they didn’t listen, they just DID NOT LISTEN!
The more gruesome elements of the film’s concept are mostly hidden in shadows, which was no doubt a result of the film’s made-for-TV nature. That said, the effects actually hold up quite admirably compared to the Hammer horror films of the 70s, and for a movie made for popular consumption on TV, chances are still taken. Had this film been given a theatrical release, I have no doubt it would have been given more chances to use makeup.
A Neo-Noir lark with a supernatural twist, The Night Stalker is a breezy piece of mystery entertainment for horror fans, given extra life through star Darren McGavin’s “1940’s Gumshoe”-style performance