My history with the NIGHT STALKER show goes way back. KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER was a series that ran for one season on ABC in 1974. The show starred Darren McGavin as a journalist for the Independent News Service who would investigate murders that were mainly the result of a monster of some sort. He would wear a wrinkled sears-sucker suit and a really lame hat and drove around in a convertible yellow mustang. How rad is that? You don’t see that that level of rock your face coolness anymore. After patiently waiting for years and years, the complete KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER has been released on DVD from Universal Studios Home Video and let me tell you I’m stoked! I can watch this show over and over. Some of it was so cheesy it could be rolled in nuts, but it’s still a funny, scary and overall fun show.
The show was a spin-off of a movie of the week called THE NIGHT STALKER wherein audiences were introduced to Carl Kolchak as he hunts down a vampire in modern day (At least in 1970) Las Vegas. The movie was a phenomenal success and became the most watched TV movie up to that point. There came a sequel named THE NIGHT STRANGLER, which took place in Seattle. This time around a corpselike killer who syringes blood from the back of their necks strangles a bunch of women. This movie too was popular and prompted Universal to create a series based on the characters. The show lasted a season and was dumped by the network. Over the years though, KOLCHAK became a cult show. It later came to the SCI-FI channel and I think it’s still running in rerun to this day. I got cable TV just to get the SCI-FI channel to watch the KOLCHAK. I nearly crapped when I saw it for the first time after so many years. (Item: I actually did crap my pants, but I don’t want you to think I’m some fool who craps his pants).
Kolchak was an everyman type of hero who would doggedly pursue the leads to the truth by putting life and limb on the line for the answers he would seek. In every episode he would usually end up getting arrested for trying to get his story and also nearly getting killed by the monster he was hunting. I always liked the fact that no one liked him on the show. It was nice to see this guy be a pushy jerk to the police, his boss, and pretty much anyone he would come across. Here’s an interesting fun fact: My mom named me after Darren McGavin, the star of KOLCKAK. Funnier still is that my Dad wanted to name me Kirk and even funnier still my Grandpa wanted to name me “Lil’ Asshole”.
The show had a huge appeal for me growing up because it dealt with my favorite subject …friggin’ monsters! Every week they would have some new monster that would kill a bunch of people. I remember being terrified by a swamp monster in one of the episodes. It was tall and ran around in an underlit sewer trying to crush the life out of Carl. This show had it all…A zombie, a werewolf, a vampire, a robot, a lizard creature, a shape changing Indian spirit. There were also aliens and weird government conspiracies that would later influence Chris Carter when he created THE X-FILES. Sure…some of the monsters are pretty lame even by ‘70s standards. The Werewolf in the episode entitled THE WEREWOLF (didn’t see that coming did you?) looked like some guy who had fur glued to his face with shoe polish around his eyes. He looked more like a minstrel then a lycanthrope. There was a headless, kitana sword wielding ghost of a murdered biker who would tear ass around on his chopper and decapitate people! Great GREAT idea! Make a show just about that you network pussies! I would buy that action figure and tattoo it on my forearm and butt. But sadly the delivery was really…well…sad. It looked like when the neighborhood retarded kid pulls his shirt over his head to look like he’s headless only this time on a Triumph motorcycle.
Every episode went by a certain scenario… Kolchak would investigate a crime and would piece together that the culprit was a big evil monster of some sort, he would then get in trouble with the police and his managing editor Tony Vincenzo played by Simon Oakland. Kolchak would ultimately face the creature and destroy it, barely managing to save his own hide only to have his story not printed.
Some of the episodes rule all they survey. THE ZOMBIE is one of the best. THE VAMPIRE was another of the shows high points. There’s THE SPANISH MOSS MURDERS that had the swamp creature that scared the pee-pee out of me. The episode that rules the most in my opinion is HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS where a shape changing Rakasha (an Indian demon that looks like a gorilla with big teeth…look it up in your old D&D MONSTER MANUAL ya geek) starts eating a bunch of old people. Where was this thing during the run of THE GOLDEN GIRLS?
The new DVD looks really clean and the sound quality is as good as you could expect for a ‘70s TV show. For the most part Universal Studios Home Video did a really good job putting this series together, although it’s somewhat dark and they could have put in a bit more time in the restoration (There is hardly any difference between the video tapes of Kolchak and the DVD), but hey…as I said before this is a show from the ‘70s. It could add to the whole feel of the show if you look at it that way.
If you’re into ‘70s horror shows then don’t even think about missing this DVD set. For being only one seasons worth of spooky fun before they pulled the plug, KOLCHAK has more heart and soul then most of the crap that filters into peoples homes every night. Don’t get me even STARTED about the new version on ABC.
Now put out a DVD collection of IN SEARCH OF… Nothing this side of a bunch of dancing naked midgets would make me happier.