The Night Stalker (1972)


Original Air Date: January 11, 1972
Written by: Jeffrey Grant Rice (as "The Kolchak Papers")
Teleplay by: Richard Matheson
Produced by: Dan Curtis
Directed by: John Llewellyn Moxey
Starring: Simon Oakland, Barry Atwater, Carol Lynley, Claude Akins, Kent Smith, Ralph Meeker, Charles McGraw, Larry Linville, Elisha Cook Jr., Stanley Adams

Plot: Young women are turning up dead in Las Vegas, their bodies drained entirely of blood. Only Carl Kolchak, a local reporter, eventually allows himself to believe that an actual vamprie may be responsible for the deaths. The police are unable to stop the killer, who displays super-human strength and invulnerability. Based on eyewitness reports, the police determine that the killer is one Janos Skorzeny, who has left a decades-old trail of mysterious deaths and disappearances from Europe to America.

The police reluctantly listen to Kolchak. Claiming that the murderer may think he is a vampire, they arm themselves with holy water and crosses on Carl's insistence. Skorzeny is located by one of Kolchak's contacts, and the reporter gets to Skorzeny's home just before sunrise. Wielding a cross, he is temporarily able to hold Skorzeny at bay until he loses his protection. Just as he is about to be killed, Kolchak pulls aside the drapes to reveal the sun, immobilizing Skorzeny. The reporter then drives a stake through the killer's heart, just as the police burst in.

Kolchak writes his story and submits it to his boss, Vincenzo. He is then summoned to police headquarters, where he is told that if he does not cooperate, they will arrest him on charges of murdrering a suspect wanted for questioning. The true story is never printed, and Kolchak is forced to leave town.

Author's Comments: Even after two decades, The Night Stalker remains an excellent piece of work. The movie is McGavin's, who stands center stage, but credits also go to author Richard Matheson, who decades earlier penned a number of the most famous Twilight Zone episodes. Although not a comedy, there are plenty of humorous moments. Overall, the tone of the movie is grim and straight-forward, with the facts presented by narrator Kolchak. There is a noticeable lack of special effects, as Skorzeny does not transform into a bat and we don't get a clear look at him at all until the final confrontation. The lack of F/X helps to keep the movie from looking outdated, as do the conspiracy element as local law officials rush to cover up what truly happened.

There are a number of excellent performances. McGavin neatly strides the line between the initially skeptic reporter who later accepts the truth because the facts support it. Simon Oakland as Vincenzo provides a "status quo" balance to the stubborn Kolchak. Claude Akins is by turns menacing and authoritative, light-years away from his Sherrif Lobo buffoon act. Carol Lynley is probably the most underused among the cast. Barry Atwater (the "father of all Vulcan" in the Star Trek episode "The Savage Curtain") does not have a lot to do except lurk and snarl menancingly, and Skorzeny comes across more as a wild animal than the cunning predator made out earlier.


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