|Page 1 of 7:||      |
|Index||68 reviews in total|
The 1970s produced a large volume of made-for-TV movies, and, unlike
they did not have to be about relevant social topics or preach political
correctness. Back then, TV movies could actually be made with no intent
other than to entertain--what a decade!
The Night Stalker is one of the very best of these made-for-TV films. Be warned, the production values are not as good as a feature film, but the story, the writing, the acting, and the director's mastery of creepiness make up for any other faults. From McGavin on down the line, the acting is terrific! In fact, Carl Kolchak may be McGavin's finest role. Richard Matheson's writing is up to his usual standards of excellence. Barry Atwater is a great bit of casting as the vampire. If there is one fault, and it has to be laid at the feet of the director, it is the inept use of a stunt man as a substitute for Atwater during the action scenes. In some scenes it is painfully obvious that it is not Atwater; it's a wonder the scenes weren't clipped. But this is the price that is paid for a TV movie with a short shooting schedule. As a whole, The Night Stalker is one of the very best vampire movies ever made. Don't let a few faults deter you from an otherwise classic bit of horror film-making. Remember, this is a TV movie; if you want lots of gore, don't waste your time.
Item - Take one modern setting such a Las Vegas and tell a story of vampirism set there. Item - Add one eccentric, cynical reporter out for a good story with a great personality. Item - Add supporting characters that are interesting. Item - Add a fine cast headed by Darren McGavin as the relentless reporter Carl Kolchak. and Simon Oakland as the head of the newspaper Kolchak works for. Also add great supporting stars such as Barry Atwater, Larry Linville, and Claude Akins. Item - Have one of the kings of horror fiction...Richard Mathseon write a script based on the excellent novel by Jeff Rice. Item - Add the final ingredient of artful direction and you have one great movie that was made for television and that spawned a sequel and a television series on the title character. The Night Stalker is easily one of the best horror films ever made and certainly one of the best ever produced for television.
And it took a TV movie to achieve this feat. But there's no denying the
powerful intersection of screen writer Richard Matheson, producer Dan
Curtis, and Darren McGavin in perhaps his best role (after A Christmas
Story). Ably assisted by Jeff Rice's original novel, Night Stalker works on
every level. The humor is there, but a bit subdued. The vampire is a feral
beast who is strong, invulnerable, and drinks blood...and that's it. No
lame transformations into a bat: The script's portrayal of Skorzeny the
Vampire echoes that of Christopher Lee (Hammer also resisted displaying much
of Dracula's superhuman abilities).
Skorzeny has none of the sexuality or personality of Dracula, but in a sense the movie isn't about him even if he's the "Stalker" of the title. It's a movie about Carl Kolchak, reporter and undeterred seeker of truth. He could be stalking a story about corrupt politicians, or mobsters, or whatever. The only difference is here, he's after a vampire. This extra supernatural element rises it above what few dramatic reporter-featured movies there are out there.
For those who remember this television show, re-visiting it on VHS or
DVD is a nostalgic experience. Darren McGavin was a likable, funny guy
as "Carl Kolchak," a reporter for an independent news service who
chases after vampires and assorted weirdos.
In this pilot show, "Kolchak" goes after a vampire in Las Vegas. Ah, a good place for any bloodsucker. Since this was on television back in the early-to-mid '70s, you see a thriller with no gore and no profanity and you also get to see the beautiful Carol Lynley's face again.
Darrin McGavin was an underrated actor, a guy who always seemed to make whatever character he was playing an interesting guy. He was great in this short (2 years, I think) television series.
The only annoying part of the this film and the TV series is all the hostility toward Kolchak, particularly by his loud and obnoxious employer, "Tony Vincenzo," played by Simon Oakland.
At one point in the 1970's ABC movie of the week was the king of television movies. The Night Stalker was one of those reason why movie of the week reigned supreme. This along with movies like Duel and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and others I can't think of off hand were the reason. The Night Stalker is probably the best of these movies. It was a good story, with a very good and experienced cast of actors. While many were character actors and second bananas, they played their roles well.All of the actors were believable in their roles.The movie was believable and the vampire element was kept simple with little or no special effects.It was not needed. I will grant some of the criticisms about how a middle-aged reporter like Kolchak was able to battle the vampire whereas the police had trouble have merit.However, this doesn't take away from the story. Remember, Kolchak was the only one armed to fight a vampire in the first place.Also, remember it was a made for t.v. movie and plus do you really think Peter Cushing could match Christopher Lee evenly in all of the Hammer Dracula movies, I mean there was a size and strength difference there too. Suspend your belief just a little.The movie was perfect for the times, towards the end of Vietnam and right before Watergate when we were skeptical of everything. This is one of the very few movies from the 70's that I remember fondly.The ending was perfect for the times as well. The Night Stalker as both a story and a movie has to rank in the top ten vampire movies bar none. This is a vampire classic that you can sink your teeth into with great satisfaction!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Decades after it's original broadcast on ABC, this exceptional 72
minute made-for-television masterpiece has lost none of it's power to
frighten and enthrall an audience. From the startling discovery of a
girl's body stuffed into a garbage can, to the blood chilling image of
two black eyes gazing upon an intended victim, or the heart-pounding
jolt received when the vampire discovers Kolchak hiding behind a closet
door, this movie is filled with unforgettable moments that still
resonate with potency.
Much credit belongs to John Llewellyn Moxey for his solid, assured direction. "Dark Shadows" legend Dan Curtis was a fine choice to produce this, certainly the best film of his television career. And, of course, Darren McGavin's right-on-the-nose performance as reporter Carl Kolchak is the cornerstone of this remarkable thriller. In another time (and another genre), McGavin's work as the cynical, wisecracking news hound would surely have earned him an emmy. Likewise, Simon Oakland deserved recognition for his work as the hardboiled news editor Tony Vincenzo, and the on-screen chemistry between these two actors was instant and undeniable. Barry Atwater must also be singled out for his creepy embodiment of the role of Janos Skorzeny. The cold, feral craving he displays as the vampire, like some ravenous animal, is achieved entirely through behaviour (he utters not a single word in the entire film) and it sure is effective.
Screenwriter Richard Matheson's straight forward approach to the material lends a remarkable feeling of realism and authenticity to this supernatural-themed tale, adapted from a story by Jeff Rice, to whom all Kolchak fans owe thanks. Without his original inspiration and memorable characters, the entire "Night Stalker" phenomenon would never have come to be.
It's ironic, but it really wasn't supposed to be anything special; just another made-for-TV movie. But instead, it turned out to be an unforgettable vampire story, a seminal hit that served as the template for all the subsequent Kolchak adventures (not to mention inspiring hit shows like "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "The X-Files"), and remains, arguably, the best horror film ever made for television.
Anyone who might be interested in the "Night Stalker" TV series can click the a_l_i_e_n link above for reviews all of 20 episodes.
Richard Matheson has scripted some of the finest fantasy to ever grace the screen (big and small) and this one, based on the then-unpublished novel by Jeff Rice, took us all by surprise in 1972. I remember the feeling of unease that crept over me as the tale unfolded that night so long ago. I remember a pale man dressed in black, robbing bloodbanks, and the not-so-heroic reporter who dogged his trail, determined to find the truth of the matter, no matter what the cost. I was mesmerised. And greatly satisfied, on all counts. Try watching this one alone, at night, and you'll experience the sheer terror that only the best fright films can engender.
I have never been a great fan of Darrin McGavin.But here HE is
obviously having the time of his life!As "Karl Kolchak" McGavin has the
job of convincing his TV viewers that HE is convinced that a real-life
Vampire killer is running loose in modern-day Las Vegas!
And "the Night Stalker" is just the right mix of atmosphere and scariness and doubt to keep it's TV viewer on the edge of the seat!Maybe it even works BETTER as a TV movie!! We the viewer are left with that final puzzling question...try to tell yourself "it couldn't happen here"!
Of course,this wouldn't be possible without Darrin McGavin's performance.He took the best of an opportunity late in his career,paving the way for a future TV horror series.I don't think the series was nearly as good as the original.But only Darrin McGavin could have carried it at all!!!
Long a staple of late night television schedules, `The Night Stalker', is a
memorable slice of seventies horror. Darren McGavin is fantastic as Carl
Kolchak, an eccentric, down at heel reporter covering a series of murders
which are not what they seem. He is backed by a fine cast of familiar faces
who help reinforce genre veteran Matheson's quality script and the
atmospheric direction of John Llewellyn Moxley, which hides the made for
television origins of this movie.
If this has a weak spot, it lies in the bad guy', who is basically all teeth and snarls. Lacking character (and plainly odd) it's surprising that he wasn't spotted long before he arrived in Las Vegas (incidentally, the location adds a certain charm to the story).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Right after his long stint working on DARK SHADOWS (the TV show and two
theatrical releases) Dan Curtis returned to produce this excellent TV
movie, which benefits from top-notch acting, good location work and a
witty, suspenseful script by Richard Matheson (based on an unpublished
Jeff Rice story). He also brought over talented British filmmaker John
Llewellyn Moxey (HORROR HOTEL) to direct.
In Las Vegas, unstoppable reporter (and, as his harried boss puts it, "amateur bloodhound") Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) gets assigned to cover a story involving a young woman found dead completely drained of blood and with puncture marks on her neck. More victims follow and fit the same m.o., as Kolchak tries in vain to convince the authorities that what they are actually dealing with is a 70-year-old, super-strong vampire named Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater). He ends up right in the middle of "the largest manhunt in Las Vegas history," but the district attorney (Kent Smith), county sheriff (Claude Akins), police chief (Charles McGraw) and others want to cover it all up and "don't want to cause a panic." Kolchak is just interesting in uncovering the truth and bears witness to the vampire robbing a blood bank, taking dozens of bullet hits, throwing cops around with ease and keeping a victim tied to a bed in his home for quick late-night snacks.
McGavin is great fun in this role; energetic, quick-witted, no-nonsense, sardonic, pushy, courageous and his rapid-fire sarcastic exchanges ("What do you want? A testimonial from Count Dracula?") with flustered, screeching editor-in-chief Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) are highlights. Atwater's silent bloodsucker is pretty creepy, too, especially in close-up. After the success of this TV movie, Curtis, followed with THE NIGHT STRANGLER, the second pilot film for the eventual television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. The MGM DVD contains both films and two interesting interviews with Curtis.
|Page 1 of 7:||      |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|