296 – The Night Stalker

1972 a surprise TV movie became the most-watched TV movie in American history.  Darren McGavin starred as Carl Kolchak, an abrasive investigative reporter who is investigating the story of a lifetime.  A vampire is prowling the streets of Las Vegas.

Simon and Eugene discuss the TV movie that inspired the TV series that inspired the X-files.  Could it really be that simple?


2 thoughts on “296 – The Night Stalker”

  1. I saw this when it originally aired, from my vantage point hidden behind the couch. This telemovie, and the series, remain as some of the most indelible, frightening memories from my childhood. I’m sure my heart stopped for the entire 10 minutes Kolchak was creeping around the vampire’s lair.

    Although the plots are paper thin, the show’s directors had a skill for filming each monster in a way which radiated menace. The monsters never speak. Their faces are seldom shown. They never expound on how society has driven them to their evil deeds. They just are. A force of un-nature.

    From what I remember, the show had a huge audience because the idea of presenting a vampire in a serious, real world, modern day setting was extremely novel. Previous vampires had exclusively been 16th Century East European counts.

    The telemovie played heavily on the zeitgeist – the Manson Family and the Zodiac Killer were still fresh in the public consciousness. A mysterious serial killer in Vegas seemed all too plausible.

    I too was thinking heavily about X-Files. I was a massive X-fan when it first aired, but have zero interest in rewatching it today. Kolchak gets rewatched every five years or so. 70s nostalgia is part of it. Annoyance that the X-Files mythos is manipulative bunk is another part. But overall, I think Kolchak is a simply fun character to spend time with, rather than the morose and world-weary duo of Mulder and Scully.

    Curiously, for a show about vampires, there’s almost no blood (other than dark liquid in bottles) shown.

    I do enjoy the battle at the hospital, where the cops blast away at anything and everything, with enough firepower to sink a battleship. Completely OTT. It’s curious that the standards of the day proscribed a little red, but revelled in massive gunfire and billy clubs.

    For a program about a real world, modern day vampire, that Kolchak manages to have that “hostess” as a girlfriend is the most unbelievable thing in the show.

    1. Maybe it’s one of those things where if it’s groundbreaking when you watch it, your first impression sticks with you. When something is so influential you’ve seen its impact but you’re going back to watch it for the first time, the novelty is no longer there… I get like that about Star Wars; they were ground breaking special effects, to see them in the cinema in 1977 must have been a revelation… but to watch it for the first time on VHS in 1997 the special effects were fine, but the clunky dialogue was too off-putting. (Something similar probably explains my reaction to Blake’s 7…)

      Anyway, the interesting upshot here is that I have completely the opposite response to you: I’d much rather spend time with the unquenchable optimism of Fox Mulder and the faithful rigour of Scully than the grouchy misanthropy and recklessness of Kolchak!

      I think your point about playing on the zeitgeist is key – something else common to both shows.

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