Thursday, October 01, 2015

MEMORIES OF KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER

"JUDGE FOR YOURSELF ITS BELIEVABILITY AND THEN TRY TO TELL YOURSELF, WHEREVER YOU MAY BE, IT COULDN'T HAPPEN HERE."  
I can't think of a better way to start off the Halloween month of October than with "THE NIGHT STALKER".    And I can't watch KOLCHAK:  THE NIGHT STALKER without always thinking of visits as a kid to my grandparents' house.  In particular, my grandfather who was a big fan of the TV movies and the TV series that followed.

The year is 1972.  Richard M. Nixon is President.  On January 11, the top song in the nation is Don McLean's "American Pie" followed by #2) Al Green's "Let's Stay Together", #3) Jonathan Edwards' "Sunshine", #4) Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band's "Scorpio" and #5) Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman".  The big box office movies were HAROLD AND MAUDE, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, DIRTY HARRY and STRAW DOGS.  And the best selling books were JONATHAN LIVINGSTONE SEAGULL, THE ODESSA FILE and DAY OF THE JACKAL.  But on television that night would debut what would become the highest watched TV movie of all time:  THE NIGHT STALKER starring Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak the rumpled reporter in the straw hat and seersucker suit.  The story, from Jeff Rice's unpublished novel "THE KOLCHAK PAPERS" featured a modern-day vampire on the loose in Las Vegas.  The movie was a phenomenon which spawned a second TV movie called "THE NIGHT STALKER" in 1973.

The year is 1974.  Gerald Ford is President.  On Friday the 13th of September, the top song in the nation is Paul Anka's "You're Havin' My Baby" followed by #2) Dionne Warwick's "Then Came You", #3) Billy Preston's "Nothing From Nothing", #4) Andy Kim's "Rock Me Gently" and #5) Eric Clapton's "I Shot the Sheriff".  The big box office movies were Fellini's
AMARCORD, THE LONGEST YEAR and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA.  And the best selling books were JAWS, WATERSHIP DOWN and TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY.  But on television that night debuted the first episode of the new ABC series KOLCHAK:  THE NIGHT STALKER.  I had seen THE NIGHT STALKER TV-movie either when it was first broadcast or in a subsequent airing.  I don't recall having seen THE NIGHT STRANGLER.  My grandfather and I were both big fans.  I even recall getting at the time an issue of Marvel's humour comic book "ARRGH!" which had a parody entitled "THE NIGHT GAWKER";
this story quickly became a favourite and I reread it often.  Naturally, we were both excited to hear about KOLCHAK becoming a weekly series and we waited in breathless anticipation of the series debut.  Then the 4th episode titled simply "THE VAMPIRE" was a sequel to the first NIGHT STALKER movie in that a female vampire created by the original film's Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater) was on a terror rampage and Carl Kolchak had to track her down and end her reign of terror.  This episode was fantastic and, while later episodes may not have been quite as great, the whole series was always fun, spooky and enjoyable.  Sadly, ABC cancelled the show after only one season but my grandfather and I caught it in the following years frequently in reruns on late-night TV.  The character of Carl Kolchak as played by Darren McGavin is a classic of television and the show obvious and admitted influence on later spookshows such as THE X-FILES is well-known.  I never tire of watching the TV movies and the series with that exquisite early 70's ambiance and spooky monster mood even after all these decades.  My grandfather died back in 1981 but these shows always bring me back to those days of my youth when a grandfather and his grandson could enjoy a fun and spooky hour of television together while creating lasting memories which come back to me strongly on this October day.   

3 comments:

P.E. Cor said...

I was such a huge fan of Kolchak! Had books, watched the series, started my own weird things detective agency...with my cousin. We never did get a case tho, ha!

Cerpts said...

I've still never actually read the Jeff Rice book. Methinks I need to rectify that. And similarly, my cousin, her best friend and I started our own weird detective agency but instead based it on the series of books ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE THREE INVESTIGATORS!

P.E. Cor said...

That's hilarious!

I still haven't given up the amateur detective dream. But now my models are the
Snoop Sisters
, ha!!