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Part of the success of The Night Stalker and this its sequel has to be the ever-present humour created throughout the script in the character of Carl Kolchak. He is a character that is as stubborn as ever andone that despite his need/desire for a story shows more humanity and ethical standards than the system which continually steps on him. He is at one point a caricature...sneakers and the same suit and the same straw hat....and yet possesses common sense, intelligence and wit. These contradictions in character often provide a lot of comedic relief in the Night Stalker/Strangler movies and the television series as well. No one better understands this than Darren McGavin who essays the role of the obstinate reporter. Each of his performances is a real treat. And although I have been genuinely frightened by these films and the series...many of my fondest memories are about the funny things..the character traits(and outfit) of Kolchak, the discussions between Kolchak and super veteran character actor Simon Oakland(his boss), the situations Kolchak faces out of lack of care, and so on. In many ways The Night Strangler is a better film that the first one...perhaps not as scary..but better written and acted. Great character actors abound with the likes of Al Lewis, Margaret Hamilton, Wally Cox, and John Carradine. The story this time deals with the secret of a man who kills young women for their blood...a need he must satisfy every few years. He lives in a city below a city...and the shots of this subterranean polis are visually striking. Great story, great acting, wonderful sets, and lots of scary moments and funny ones make this a triumph of the small screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The original network thriller "The Night Stalker" was such a mammoth
ratings hit that the following year ABC broadcast this highly
successful sequel that proved the character of Carl Kolchak had the
potential for still more adventures.
The approach of "The Night Strangler" pretty much follows the formula of the original tale in which reporter Carl Kolchak searched for a killer who turned out to be a modern day vampire. In "The Night Strangler", while victims are being murdered by yet another mysterious killer, the variation here is that he doesn't bite their necks but rather crushes them in his grip. Only then does he remove a small amount of blood, but drawing it through a syringe rather than with the use of fangs.
Other basic conventions carried over from the original include an action-packed sequence in which police attempting to capture the strangler discover that, like the vampire, this killer is too powerful to subdue with the use of conventional methods. There's also the climactic encounter in which, once again, it's Kolchak who tracks the killer to his lair. Oh, and of course there's the tie-up at the end where Carl is once again prevented from reporting the facts of the case.
However, distinguishing "The Night Strangler" from the original and elevating it above a simple carbon copy is the interesting back story of the killer (supplied by the imagination of the brilliant Richard Matheson). We learn here that the "Strangler" is actually Dr. Richard Malcolm, a 19th century surgeon who'd been experimenting with a method of extending life beyond normal human length. He eventually develops an elixir made from, among other ingredients, human blood.
In a scene that's both riveting and amusing, Kolchak explains his theory to skeptical police officials that the bloody trail of murders can be traced from the then present day Seattle of the 1970's all the way back to the previous century.
Indeed, Dr. Malcolm is not a ravenous vampire in search of food, but rather a mad scientist in need donors. When they eventually meet, Dr. Malcolm reveals to Kolchak that he considers these murders a small price to pay compared to the benefits that his blood-based elixir will bring to mankind.
Seattle's underground city turns out to be an inspired setting that greatly enhances the eerie atmosphere of the conclusion when Kolchak descends into it's musty depths in search of the killer. Playing the murderous Doctor is actor Richard Anderson who alternates his performance between a cultured sophistication and an explosive menace. This is probably his best work as an actor.
One other thing that sets this sequel apart from the original is the script's somewhat greater emphasis on humour amid the spooky elements. Thankfully, this works quite well without diminishing the suspenseful aspects of the story. Particularly memorable are the scenes between Kolchak, the reckless, pit-bull of a character who refuses to give up on his story, and Tony Vincenzo, the harried newspaper editor more desperate to please his employers than in committing the professional suicide of backing his ace reporter. Their exchanges are extremely funny and actors Darren McGavin and Simon Oakland carry them off with great élan.
Of course it's debatable whether "The Night Strangler" is actually a superior film or more frightening than "The Night Stalker". Certain touches in the original (like the vampire's hungry, black eyes presented in spine tingling closeups) are perfect, indelible and hard to top.
There is a case to be made that silent characters just seem more mysterious and frightening than those who have a lot to say (like "The Night Strangler's" more loquacious villain). The vampire of the first film doesn't utter a single word, but instead hisses like some vicious beast and this makes him seem more alien in nature than the refined, well-spoken mad Doctor. At the same time, the Strangler crashing through a window to attack a young girl is a pretty startling moment, too, as is his degeneration at the end into a living corpse. Indeed both films contain some undeniably memorable chills courtesy of their titular characters.
It does seem the over-all tone of the "The Night Strangler" (with it's well balanced, dead-on ratio of humour to horror) is what the subsequent "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" series most seems to have been trying to emulate. If you're interested in that series, you can click on the a_l_i_e_n link for reviews of all 20 episodes.
Relocated to Seattle, reporter Kolchak stumbles on yet another series of
murders, a series which seems to be repeated every twenty-one years. Of the
two movies, `The Night Strangler' has the slight edge. This is possibly
down to its location, Seattle. Very unfamiliar to me, it adds certain
freshness to the story, while the underground old' Seattle is a fantastic
location, macabre and memorable; it sticks in my mind long after watching
the movie. The candle lit, cob-webbed corpses are perhaps one of the most
vivid images in American genre television.
Also of note is Richard Anderson's villain, a crazed, immortality seeking Doctor, he is far more impressive than the original's vampire. A more assured script (which is genuinely funny in places), plus some enjoyable cameo's (Carradine, Hamilton), help make this a rare sequel which is better than the original.
Sadly, plans for a third movie were abandoned and instead a short-lived, inferior television series (without Matheson's involvement) resulted. A patchy effort, despite McGavin's best efforts it never attained the quality of the two movies.
After an estimated 75,000,000 viewers tuned in to ABC-TV on Tuesday, January
11, 1972, television history was made. That night, one-third of America was
transfixed to its TV sets as the tale of an intrepid, hard-nosed reporter
named Carl Kolchak pursued an elusive modern-day vampire across Las Vegas
before dispatching the bloodsucker with an inevitable stake-through-the-heart.
At the time, THE NIGHT STALKER, an ABC Circle Film, became the most watched
television program in the history of the medium, which enticed the ABC brass
to quickly reassemble key players of the telefilm (actor Darren McGavin,
producer Dan Curtis, and writer Richard Matheson) to lay plans for its
Thus, THE NIGHT STRANGLER hit the airwaves a year after its popular predecessor. The talented Darren McGavin reprises his role as Kolchak, the tenacious newsman in trademark straw porkpie hat and rumply seersucker suit, who arrives in Seattle, meets up with his cantankerous former editor Tony Vincenzo, and lands another unearthly assignment. This time around, the locum tenens of the vampire is an immortal alchemist named Dr. Richard Malcolm, an ex-Civil War physician who gains superhuman strength and avoids death by concocting an elixir of life, a substance whose main ingredient is human blood! Every 21 years since the end of the Civil War, Malcolm returns to the Seattle streets to procure blood from the bases of strangled women's skulls. But Kolchak manages to locate the undead medico's lair in Old Seattle's underground ruins and foils the creature's attempts at another 21 years of dormancy. Again, local authorities ice his chances at publishing his macabre story and the hapless reporter becomes footloose once more.
Like THE NIGHT STALKER, THE NIGHT STRANGLER is a bone-chilling tale that blends gritty detective drama with a touch of the supernatural. Fast-paced plot, nail-biting suspense, and above-average dialogue highlight this sequel, which rivals the original telefilm for originality and overall quality. Contrary to popular opinion, THE NIGHT STALKER and THE NIGHT STRANGLER are much better TV fare than any episode of the much-overrated Kolchak rip-off THE X-FILES, and these telefilms serve to remind viewers that TV has indeed produced some outstanding programs, programs which mark the halcyon days of the medium.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Second pilot episode (following THE NIGHT STALKER) to the TV series
"Kolchak: The Night Stalker," this is about on par with the terrific
original. Driven out of Las Vegas by the corrupt officials, reporter
Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) and editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland)
have relocated to Seattle, Washington. Both begin working for The Daily
Chronicle, a newspaper owned by stern publisher Llewellyn Crossbinder
(John Carradine), who reminds the boys, "Mind your p's and q's!" A new
string of murders, all young women, begin in the Pioneer Square
district; each victim having been strangled to death by a madman so
strong he crushes their necks. A little blood is also removed with a
syringe. Doing some research, Kolchak discovers that the same exact
style of murders have been going on in the city (6 killings every 23
years) as far back as 1889! Witnesses claim the killer, an alchemist
old enough to be around for the Civil War, who lurks around the shadows
of the city in a top hat and trench coat, takes up residence in an
underground city with the skeletal remains of his long dead family and
is described by one witness to have "the strength of ten men and the
face of a corpse!"
Again blessed with a well-balanced script by Richard Matheson, this has ample does of comedy and terror and follows the same format as the first film without losing much of the freshness of the concept. The ending, which resolves the story in convoluted 'mad scientist' terms is slightly disappointing, but otherwise, this is an excellent follow-up. And the supporting cast is first-rate; Jo Ann Pflug as a fast-talking dancer/psychology undergrad, Wally Cox as a researcher, Scott Brady as the police captain who wants to keep the murder spree a secret, Al ("Grandpa Munster") Lewis as an unshaven drunken tramp living underground and Margaret Hamilton as an anthropology professor who explains how to make "the elixir of life."
The ending, with Kolchank, Vincenzo and Pflug on their way to New York City, and presumably more cases of supernatural phenomena, is a set-up for the TV series.
It's a toss-up, but Night Strangler is actually a better movie than the original Night Stalker it derives from. The characters are a lot more fleshed out in this one, while none of the horror is left to slide. There is an incredible range of performance from Simon Oakland, John Carradine, Wally Cox, and particularly Richard Anderson as the alchemist/murderer. There's humanity, pathos, horror, and comedy all mixed up in this one. The original is maybe scarier...but Stalker is still better.
I love this movie! It's better, sexier, and even more scary than the
original "The Night Stalker". I know sequels degrade the first films, but
this is the best sequel besides "Scream 2" and "A Nightmare On Elm Street 3"
that I have ever seen.
I love this movie and give it **** stars. SEE IT!
The Night Strangler is the follow up to the successful 1972 TV movie
'The Night Stalker'. Aside from featuring similar titles, the films
also share similar plot lines, and it could be said that this is
something of a remake of the first film with a slightly more in depth
story. I won't profess to be a big fan of the first film in the series,
although I found it to be a more than decent TV movie and I did enjoy
it. This film isn't a big improvement over the first one, although I
would say it's an improvement; with a longer running time and a more
well thought-out plot, this one delves into it's subject matter more
and feels more like a proper movie than a made for TV movie. Darren
McGavin once again plays Kolchak; a maverick reporter who this time
finds himself in Seattle after being ran out of Las Vegas (probably for
annoying everyone with his constant persistence!). Coincidence strikes
and pretty soon he's on the trail of yet another vampire! He discovers
that every 21 years for over a hundred years, a group of people have
been killed within a small time period and thinks the murders are
The thing that stands out most about this film is most definitely the central performance from Darren McGavin. His portrayal of the stubborn reporter is great to watch and always ensures that the film is entertaining. A lot of the film consists of our unlikely hero trying to convince the relevant authorities that his suspicions are fact and them disbelieving them. These scenes are fairly clichéd, although they are fun to watch; and again it's mostly because of McGavin's excellent impersonation of the central character. Since the film is really about the detective on the trail of the vampire, there's not a great deal of actual bloodshed or bloodsucking in the film, although that isn't much of a hindrance because as a thriller it works very well and director Dan Curtis does manage to create several moments of suspense that kick the action up a level. It's always obvious where it's all going, and the ending doesn't come as a surprise; but it's a fun time getting there. This film and the first one were pilots for a TV series and obviously they did the trick because Kolchak was solving more mysteries in his own TV series a year after this film was released.
This is the sequel to the hugely successful "Night Stalker" and unlike most sequels this one was just as frightening and just as funny as the original. The story has just the right mix of horror and humor to have made it as successful as it was. The fact that it never took itself seriously and Darrin McGavin's performance helped to make this a very memorable film. After this the critically acclaimed, but short lived series was released the next year and it like this film and its predecessor are still great to watch.
This was a second pilot for a television series that aired after this
movie was shown. Another pilot, "The Night Stalker," a year earlier.
This one actually kicked off the series, called "Kolchak: The Night
Stalker," which ran only two years. It seemed to be popular so I don't
know why it didn't last longer.
At 90 minutes, this was longer than the first pilot but very similar in plot. The only major change is in the cities. Here, our intrepid reporter-hero "Carl Kolchak" (Darren McGavin) is hunting down a serial-killer werewolf in Seattle instead of Las Vegas.
He has the same common opponents, meaning his newspaper boss "Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) and a hostile police chief (played by Scott Brady). Along the way you get to see a bevy of beauties including Jo Ann Pflug and Nina Wayne. You also have brief appearances by somewhat-famous actors John Carradine, Margaret Hamilton, Al Lewis and Wally Cox.
The story will keep your interest and has good suspense at the end. The only annoying part - at least for me - is the overdone yelling between McGavin and Oakland, and McGavin and Brady. Every single time - every time - that pairing is on screen it is nothing but a shouting match. Can you say "abrasive?" It's just too much. Thankfully, on DVD, I can use the English subtitles and mute the sound button so I can turn off these screaming lunatics. Unfortunately, those shouting sessions take up a good chunk of the movie.
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