The Horror Honeys: Saturday Creature Feature with Suzanne!

Saturday Creature Feature with Suzanne!

The Night Stalker (1972)

As Vampire Month winds down, my spooky darlings, I have one more story for you. Pull a bean bag over to the TV and I’ll tell you, but don’t sit too close or you’ll ruin your eyes.

The 1970s were a great time for TV movies, especially those with a horror theme, and nobody did it better than Dan Curtis. The man who brought us the original Dark Shadows would give us a made-for-TV movie that would spawn not only a sequel, but a short-lived TV series that would eventually inspire The X-Files. That movie is The Night Stalker.

Curmudgeonly reporter, Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin), is hot on the trail of a serial killer in Las Vegas. The victims of these murders are completely drained of blood. No one seems to have a clue who could be terrorizing the Vegas strip. Armed with a camera and a tape recorder, Kolchak carries out his own investigation, but what he uncovers isn’t to be believed by the police or his editor. Carl will have to prove his theory of a Vegas vampire or die trying.

With a script by the legendary Richard Matheson, based on a story by Jeffrey Rice, The Night Stalker uses the flashy Las Vegas strip as the backdrop, which is the perfect setting for serial murders, particularly those committed by a vampire. In fact, the producers were so astounded by how oblivious people were, they had actor Barry Atwater, who plays vampire Janos Skorzeny, walk around in a casino in full makeup for nearly an hour without a single person noticing.

Darren McGavin is probably one of my favorite character actors of all time. Even with everything else it has going for it, without McGavin’s performance, I don’t believe it would be as beloved as it is. Additionally, Simon Oakland as Kolchak’s surly editor, Vincenzo, is a superb compliment. Rounding out the cast is Carol Linley as Kolchak’s girlfriend, Gail Foster and Ralph Meeker as FBI agent, and Kolchak informant, Bernie Jenks. 

Of course, this is not a big Hollywood production and, therefore, low budget. There are no flashy special effects or gore, but fortunately, they aren’t needed. The Night Stalker blends the perfect amount of horror and humor, but it’s definitely not a comedy. Kolchak’s sarcastic wit, delivered impeccably by McGavin, adds enough levity to make the story seem plausible, rather than utterly ridiculous. Curtis and Matheson would go on to collaborate on the sequel, The Night Strangler, and several other TV films, such as the horror anthologies Trilogy of Terror and Dead of Night.

Definitely dated, from the wardrobe to the vehicles, it is still one of the best TV movies out there. 

The Night Stalker is available on DVD!

Do you still have a soft spot for Kolchak?
Tell me on Twitter: @suzebee04