US tv series (1974-1975). Francy Productions for Universal TV/ABC. Created by Jeff Rice. Executive producer: Darren McGavin. Produced by Paul Playton, Cy Chermak. Story consultant: David Chase. Cast includes Darren McGavin. Twenty 50-minute episodes. Colour.
This fondly remembered Television series was a spin-off from a successful made-for-tv movie, The Night Stalker (1972), produced by Dan Curtis and written by Richard Matheson from Jeff Rice's then unpublished novel The Night Stalker (1973), about a Vampire in contemporary Las Vegas. This led to a feature-length sequel, The Night Strangler (1973), also written by Matheson, about a youth serum produced from murdered women. The television series was partly sparked off by the enthusiasm of McGavin, star of the two movies, who became Kolchak: The Night Stalker's executive producer. He again played the reporter, Carl Kolchak, who each week uncovers some fantastic threat. Unable as a rule to persuade anyone in authority of its existence, he is usually obliged to combat the menace alone. Most storylines feature Supernatural Creatures, including the traditional threesome of a Werewolf in "The Werewolf" (1 November 1974), a Vampire in "The Vampire" (4 October 1974) – a sequel to the film The Night Stalker – and a Zombie in "The Zombie" (20 September 1974); a serial killer in "The Ripper" (13 September 1974) is identified by Kolchak as Jack the Ripper. Arguably sf-related episodes are "They Have Been, They Will Be, They Are" (1974; vt "U.F.O."), in which an Alien temporarily stranded on Earth survives by consuming its victims' bone marrow; "The Energy Eater" (13 December 1974), with an invisible (see Invisibility) creature feeding on both a hospital's building fabric and its patients' protein; "Mr. R.I.N.G." (10 January 1975), whose menace is a government-created killer Android; "The Primal Scream" (17 January 1975), where ancient cell samples from the Arctic grow into ferocious prehistoric ape-creatures (see Apes as Human); and "The Sentry" (28 March 1975), with a lizard-like Monster killing Underground workers who appropriate its eggs.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker was entertaining and atmospheric; though rather too unvarying in its rigidly formulaic stories, it remained successful in syndication for several years and can be seen as a forerunner of The X-Files (1993-2002); indeed, that series' creator Chris Carter has acknowledged Kolchak as a major influence. Two pairs of episodes were re-edited into television movies, of which Crackle of Death (1976) is of sf interest for its incorporation of "The Energy Eater". A much later remake/sequel series, Night Stalker (2005) with Stuart Townsend playing Kolchak, had little success and was cancelled because of low ratings after six of the ten completed episodes had been shown. All ten were made available for download and on DVD in 2006, though intended story arcs remain incomplete. [DRL/JB]
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