The Night Strangler (1973)


Original Air Date: January 16, 1973
Teleplay by: Richard Matheson, from material by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Produced and Directed by: Dan Curtis
Starring: Simon Oakland, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Anderson, Scott Brady, Wally Cox, Margaret Hamilton, John Carradine, Al Lewis

Plot: A series of brutal murders of young women are taking place in Seattle. Kolchak, having found work in the city thanks to Tony Vincenzo (who has moved there as well), finds that the murders are similar to those in Las Vegas. However, this time only a very small amount of blood is missing from each corpse. Research reveals that a similar set of murders took place in Seattle every two decades, and that blood could be used in an alchemical potion. An eyewitness report describes the killer as having the face of a corpse, and the murderer is strong enough to escape the police with ease.

Kolchak again suspects that some supernatural force is at work, and that there is a connection to a Dr. Richard Malcolm, who supposedly died in a fire at his clinic at the turn of the century. The reporter tracks the murderer to his lair in the Seattle Underground on the site of the clinic, and discovers Malcolm. Obsessed with extending his life through alchemy, the doctor requires the blood of recently deceased women to create a potion every 20 years that extends his life.

The potion must be taken at a precise moment. Kolchak manages to distract the doctor and destroy the serum. In moments, Malcolm's years catch up to him and he decays into dust. Kolchak is driven out of town once more, accompanied by a stripper he has befriended and Vincenzo (who has also been fired for supporting Kolchak).

Author's Comments: In some ways a better movie than the first, in some a worse one. The plot is _very_ similar to The Night Stalker, and in many ways Strangler is a remake. There is also a greater emphasis on humor. The novelty of a monster roaming a modern-day city is lost here, and there are very few surprises.

On the other hand, Strangler is a better movie in many ways. The performances are equal, if not better, to the original. The characters are both quirkier and more developed. While McGavin is still the center of attention, a little more room is made for supporting cast members Simon Oakland, Wally Cox, Margaret Hamilton, and JoAnn Pflug. Richard Anderson, as Dr. Malcolm, gets a chance to portray a convincing megalomaniac who believes that any sacrifice is worth the secret of eternal life he plans to give the world...as soon as he has perfected it. The fact that he is presented as more than a snarling beast puts him a step above Janos Skorzeny in the previous movie.

Familiar faces abound in this movie. Wally Cox is well known as "Mr. Peepers" (and as the "specialist of the week" in the first episode of Mission Impossible, safecracker Terry Targo). John Carradine had appeared in any number of Dracula and other horror movies. Margaret Hamilton is best known as the Wicked Witch in "The Wizard of Oz", and from commercials everywhere. Richard Anderson played the character of Oscar Goldman in two series: The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Al Lewis, in a brief part, played Grandfather Munster on "The Munsters."

The best way to watch The Night Strangler is probably to sit back, not worry too much about how original the plot is, and enjoy the performances.


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