Saturday, March 25, 2017

I'm finally acquainted with Kolchak: The Night Stalker!

Any Night Stalker fans out there? As in Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I'm new to the TV series and movies, and I'm feeling like the last one to the Kolchak party. :)

A handful of you have recommended Kolchak: The Night Stalker to me. I tried to find the old show at the library, to no avail. I wanted to binge watch through it. So imagine my happiness to hear that a local TV station, MeTV had decided to show Kolchak this season! What great timing. So far, I've watched a couple episodes and the movie The Night Stalker. The library did have that! Actually, it was a double feature DVD, including The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler.

So far, the big difference between the TV series and the first movie is the seriousness. I found the TV episodes more funny and the movie very intense. Watching the movie made me see the connection everyone's been telling me about between Kolchak and The X-Files. The shows have in common a supernatural element, but also the very strong message that there are powers-that-be that want our characters to keep their mouths shut about all they discover.

OK, so briefly for those who aren't familiar with the Carl Kolchak character, he's played by Darren McGavin. In my mind Darren McGavin is Kolchak. No one else gets to play him, nope. It's just one of those times when an actor becomes the character they're portraying.

So, Kolchak is a reporter who somehow keeps finding his way into the middle of murder, mayhem, and the supernatural. He's a real go-getter. It seems the minute there's a murder or a car wreck, there's Kolchak snapping away with his camera and running his tape recorder. He's always first to the scene. There's something strange nowadays about seeing anyone who isn't the police just show up to a crime scene and take up-close pictures of a body without being told to stop. That doesn't happen now, does it? For that matter, was this happening in the 70s?

Kolchak is always making waves. He's the one speaking out at press conferences and whipping zingers at his cranky boss. Kolchak's boss could have been hanging out with Clark Kent's boss, Perry White. But then, they might have clawed each other's eyes out. I'm just saying he's in that same school of the constantly yelling, ready to explode, newspaper bosses you see in old TV shows and movies. He tries to hold Kolchak back, but no one is going to hold Kolchak back.

Cranky boss man

It's inspirational really, watching Kolchak bounce back from every encounter with someone who tells him to go away, keep quiet, come up with a different news report, etc. I was struck watching the Night Stalker movie with how current it felt. A lot of people are giving the news media a hard time today, and boy does Kolchak get a hard time. I thought the scariest thing in The Night Stalker wasn't the vampire, but the district attorney and sheriff who are trying to keep Kolchak from sharing the truth by any means necessary. Man, were those guys hatable.

I could understand the frustration of Kolchak's boss, though. He needed to take a deep breath, but still. He was up against this catch 22 of either telling the community that there's a vampire on the loose and causing mass chaos or possibly endangering them more by hiding the truth.

Look into my eyes...

So about that vampire... I'm not spoiling too much here. I think most viewers could put 2 + 2 together when there are blood drained bodies showing up. This vampire wasn't too scary. He was in that kind of Hammer school of the tall, silent guy who stands there with his red eyes. Except, he isn't intimidating like Christopher Lee. I really wasn't scared by the parts of the movie he was in. The scariest parts of this for me are when the women are walking alone at night down an alley, etc. Because that's scary for real. I didn't see this as much of a horror movie so much as social commentary.

As for the TV show, as I said before, it's a lot more funny. I can tell Darren McGavin is just having fun being himself there. I can tell that a lot of what we're seeing there is actually him. Here, I thought he'd made up his character in A Christmas Story! But now I see that as Kolchak or "The Old Man" in A Christmas Story, we're seeing an awful lot of the real deal. Speaking of A Christmas Story, it goes to show how many times I've seen it, that I could feel like Darren McGavin was cheating on his wife from that movie with his girlfriend in The Night Stalker. I found myself being irritated with him for having that girlfriend and then I remembered how often I'd seen him with his movie wife in A Christmas Story.

"You were jealous! Jealous I won!"

Remember that? And here he is messing with my mind as Kolchak with his new girlfriend:

He's looking miserable with both women, and they with him, in these photos, but that's all I could find.

As for the sequel movie, The Night Strangler, it's much like The Night Stalker. It give some closure to those who were left with an uneasy feeling after watching the first movie. A few pieces of the first plot are dealt with and some aren't. There's a new supernatural problem, that seems a lot like the vampire in the first movie, but not quite. You'll just have to see. Kolchak has a new girlfriend in this one and I've noticed there's a romantic interest in some of the TV episodes I've seen. So I'll just have to get over him not being married to Melinda Dillon from A Christmas Story.

Back to the TV show, so far my favorite episode of the four I've watched has been "The Spanish Moss Murders" which I'll share here:

And a link to the video: The Spanish Moss Murders

This episode had the most creative plot of those I've watched. It felt very X-Files in that way where it seemed almost realistic. Like, even though the thought of this creature is somewhat outlandish, it's presented in a way where you think "There may be something to this..." You know, the way The X-Files could make you feel like there was some scientific basis to something that you don't even believe in!

I like shows that make me feel like a wild scenario has some basis in reality. I like to feel that at least in a TV or movie environment, these things are possible. We've all seen those shows that leave you saying "They wouldn't say or do that!" What I'm trying to say is that there are unbelievable things happening in a very believable environment here, and I appreciate that.

So, for those of you who aren't familiar with Kolchak, I recommend getting a hold of one of his movies or checking out the old episodes of the TV show on MeTV. Although, I've started to feel like the last person on earth to find out about him. So, for all of you who are familiar with him already, go enjoy some reruns! If you get MeTV, the show is on Sunday evenings at 9:00 PM (Central Time).

And for all you Kolchak fans, MeTV put together some trivia about the show: