|The Night Stalker (film)|
Barry Atwater as The Night Stalker
|Format||Thriller / Horror|
Richard Matheson (teleplay)|
Jeffery Grant Rice (novel)
|Directed by||John Llewellyn Moxey|
|Country of origin||USA|
|Running time||74 minutes|
|Original airing||January 11, 1972|
|Followed by||The Night Strangler|
The Night Stalker is a made for television movie which aired on ABC on January 11, 1972. It is about an investigative reporter, played by Darren McGavin, who comes to suspect that a serial killer in the Las Vegas area is in fact a vampire.
In the opening of the film, Kolchak is sitting on the bed of a sleazy hotel room speaking into his trademark portable tape recorder about the story he has written and how it has been withheld by the authorities. He describes a series of murders that had plagued the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. All of the victims had their blood drained, and Kolchak comes to suspect that the killer believes himself to be a vampire, much to the chagrin of his cantankerous boss Anthony (aka Tony, Antonio) Vincenzo, portrayed by actor Simon Oakland. Kolchak also has a girlfriend named Gail Foster (Carol Lynley) who earns her living as a dancer. During the movie, Kolchak attempts to get her to give up her night job, though he does not offer her a proposal of marriage, or other commitment. At the urging of this girlfriend, Kolchak begins to look into vampire lore, but is skeptical.
Inexplicable events lead Kolchak to begin to believe that something supernatural is occurring, and the evidence of his own eyes eventually persuades him that this is in fact a real vampire. Kolchak is able to convince the police that they are fighting a vampire, but it is he who ultimately takes the vampire down and unlike subsequent productions, he does so with the help of his friend in the FBI (a credible eyewitness).
In the end, Kolchak relates that his deal with the police for an exclusive was not honored. Kolchak finds himself out of a job once again, and blackmailed by the Las Vegas police never to return to Las Vegas. Kolchak is told that his girlfriend Gail has also been "asked to leave town" for engaging in unsavory activities. Carl exhausts his savings placing personal advertisements across the country in an attempt to find her but is unsuccessful.
- Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak
- Carol Lynley as Gail Foster
- Simon Oakland as Tony Vincenzo
- Ralph Meeker as Bernie Jenks
- Claude Akins as Sheriff Warren A. Butcher
- Charles McGraw as Police Chief Ed Masterson
- Kent Smith as District Attorney Tom Paine
- Elisha Cook Jr. as Mickey Crawford
- Stanley Adams as Fred Hurley
- Larry Linville as Dr. Robert Makurji
- Jordan Rhodes as Dr. John O'Brien
- Barry Atwater as Janos Skorzeny
The film is based on an original unpublished novel written by Jeff Rice. In the story, Las Vegas newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak comes across a serial killer while working on the Las Vegas Strip who is a modern day vampire named Janos Skorzeny. Pocket Books finally published the book as a paperback original using the title The Night Stalker, with a photograph of McGavin wearing his trademark porkpie hat and seersucker suit.
The Night Stalker garnered the highest ratings of any TV movie at that time (33.2 rating - 54 share). It did well enough that it resulted in a 1973 follow-up movie called The Night Strangler and a planned 1974 movie entitled The Night Killers which instead evolved into the 1974-75 television series titled Kolchak: The Night Stalker, with McGavin reprising his role in both. An episode of the series entitled "The Vampire" was an actual sequel to this movie, deriving its story from characters introduced in it.
Following the series cancellation, the franchise itself was still thought well enough of to prompt two more movies which were created by editing together material from 4 previous episodes of the series, with some additional narration provided by McGavin as Kolchak to help connect the plot lines. No new footage was included, however.
On September 29, 2005 ABC aired a remake of the 1974 series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, titled Night Stalker. ABC owned the rights to the original TV movies, but not the Universal TV series, and were limited only to using characters that had appeared in those movies.
Differences from subsequent productionsEdit
While Carl Kolchak and Tony Vincenzo both appear, no other characters from the movies appear in later productions. In this film and the next, Kolchak establishes the use of both a portable tape recorder which is considerably larger than that used in the series and clearly labeled Sony. His ubiquitous camera with flash attachment is also established but rather than the Pocket instamatic he uses in the series, he employs a standard 35mm in the first movie. He also introduces the trademark straw pork-pie hat. However, unique to this movie alone, Kolchak actually wears more than one suit as well as in a variety of materials, not the same identifiable seersucker suit seen in every production thereafter, à la Columbo. In the second movie, he permanently adopts the classic seersucker suit (though he alternates with one other in blue), but continues to wear different colored shirts and ties, the last production in which the character would do this. He wears white loafers in the movies, not adopting white leather tennis shoes permanently until the series. In contrast, Tony Vincenzo would only appear in the first movie without his identifiable 3-piece suits and instead sporting a substantially more casual look in open-collard short-sleeved shirts. Also, the first two movies found Kolchak driving an old rusted blue 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Rallye Sport Convertible, rather than his usual 1965 pastel yellow Mustang convertible driven throughout the series. Perhaps most importantly, Kolchak has a girlfriend in the first movie, the only relationship he would have during Darren McGavin's portrayal of the character.