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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A re-animated corpse deals with those responsible for his death.
Definitely one of the finest episodes, "The Zombie" follows Kolchak's attempts to get to the bottom of a series of murders among Chicago mobsters in which the only common link is a dead body that keeps turning up at the scene of each crime. Carl begins to suspect someone is using voodoo to send this Haitain stiff (the victim of a gangland hit) out to whack all those who had a hand in his murder.
The zombie itself is quite a frightening juggernaut the way it emerges out of nowhere, quickly dispatches a victim and then quietly stomps off into the night. A particularly effective (and grisly) touch is it's penchant for lifting victims into the air and breaking their spines with an audible "snap!"
Humourwise, this episode contains the welcome arrival of Carl's new "colleague", Monique Marmelstein. Monique may be the newspaper owner's niece, but as she's quick to point out, it's her journalism skills that got her there. As she puts it, "nesticism" had nothing to do with it. Whenever Monique gets in his way Carl deals with the problem by putting her in a cab and telling the driver to take her to Brooklyn, or by locking her in the trunk of his mustang for safe keeping.
The script's funniest line comes when Vincenzo presses Carl for details about how the zombie is being directed to carry out these murders. Kolchak replies, "well, I don't have it all put together yet, Tony, but I think it has something to do with chicken blood and corn kernels." In another tense and yet hilarious scene, when Kolchak is discovered eavesdropping on a gangland summit he attempts to talk his way out of trouble by mentioning every Italian name he can think of to the unimpressed mob boss.
Example: Kolchak- "I'm SURE you must know my editor, Antonio Vin-Cen-zo!"
"The Zombie" is peppered with terrific guest appearances by people like Scatman Crothers from "The Shining", Charles Aidman, narrator of the 1980's version of "The Twilight Zone", and Antonio Fargas ("Huggy Bear" himself) as a Haitian mob boss named "Sweet Stick". John Feidler, (mousey Mr. Peterson from the old "Bob Newhart Show") plays morgue attendant "Gordy the Ghoul".
The laughs aside though, this episode comes to an astonishing climax when Kolchak, who's discovered he, too is now on the zombie's hit list, tracks the walking dead man back to a deserted scrap yard. Venturing inside, Carl finds the zombie resting in (appropriately enough) an old hearse. To our spine-tingling delight, the jittery reporter then climbs into the back of the hearse and, laying down next to the slumbering creature, attempts to carry out a zombie-killing ritual. First, he must fill the corpse's mouth with rock salt. Then, ever so carefully, he must sew it's mouth shut with a needle and thread. From it's beginning right to the eventual moment when the zombie's eyes suddenly open and gaze up at terrified Carl, this scene has to be one of the most engrossing, unbearably suspenseful sequences ever broadcast on network television.
The quality of the zombie makeup deserves a special mention, too. The thing's wet, mottled flesh is quite effectively repellent and, oddly enough, this actually leads to the reason why "The Zombie" doesn't score a perfect ten. In one scene, this rotting corpse walks onto a city bus and quietly takes a seat. Now of course we know big city folk are supposed to be jaded, seen-it-all kinda' people, but the idea that this gross-looking (and probably foul-odored) monster could ride public transit without anyone paying notice (not to mention the fact it seemed to have exact change to ride the bus) is just a tad hard to swallow.
That nit-pick aside, much credit should go to Alex Grasshoff for his very capable direction of David Chase's excellent script. Gill Melle's fine musical scoring includes some great Haitian flavoured touches that well suit the theme of the story. Especially effective is the scene in the cemetery where the creepiness is enhanced ten-fold by Melle's brilliant use of strings.
As both an episode of this series, as well as an example of what television can achieve in the area of horror, "The Zombie" remains a stunning success.
These days, Zombies and vampires are cool--very popular in movies and
in books. However, back in 1974, neither was all that 'in' and "The
Zombie" is quite unusual for its time. This episode of "Kolchak: The
Night Stalker" begins with a few murders--mobsters whose backs had been
snapped like chicken bones! And, the only possible like is a guy named
Francois Edmonds...a guy who just happens to be dead! And, the more
Kolchak digs, the more likely Francois has been zombiefied and is
carrying out a series of revenge murders on local gangsters. Of course,
no one believes Kolchak's stories of zombie murders...so what else is
The best thing about this episode are the guest stars. For a 1970s TV show it's pretty impressive with John Fiedler (Piglet's voice), Scatman Crothers ("Chico and the Man"), J. Patrick O'Malley and Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear from "Starsky and Hutch") among others. As far as the story goes, it's exactly what you'd expect from the show with few major surprises other than an annoyingly stupid cub reporter who he's forced to take with him on assignment (is anyone THAT stupid?!).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The ever stubborn and impetuous Carl Kolchak (the always excellent Darren McGavin) once again unearths a sinister plot concerning vengeful voodoo Haitian priestess Mamalois "Marie Juliette" Edmonds (a pleasingly batty portrayal by Paulene Meyers), who resurrects her murdered criminal grandson (imposing hulk O. William Faison) as a lethal zombie so he can exact a harsh revenge on his killers. Capably directed by Alexander Grasshoff, with a sharp and witty script David Chase and Zekial Mako, a constant brisk pace, slick cinematography by Alrie Evans, a nicely spooky atmosphere, a spirited jazzy'n'shuddery score by Gil Melle, colorful characters (I especially dug a mysterious back alley informant known as the Monk), some inspired touches of spot-on sardonic humor, and a genuinely tense and harrowing climactic confrontation between Kolchak and the zombie in a decrepit old automobile junkyard, this show rates as a highly entertaining episode of the immensely enjoyable series. Of course, Kolchak's barbed exchanges with his long suffering editor Tony Vincenzo (the terrific Simon Oakland) are quite funny and delightful. A tip-top guest cast helps matters out a lot, with stand-out turns by Antonio Fargas as hip swaggering bookie Sweatstick Weldon, Joseph Sirola as fearsome mobster Benjamin Sposato, John Fiedler as cheerfully morbid coroner Gordon Spangler, Charles Aidman as the huffy Captain Leo Winwood, Carol Ann Susi as eager, but annoying rookie reporter Monique Marmelstein, and Scatman Crothers as friendly occult store owner Uncle Fitemon. Great fun.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With "The Zombie", the series finally broke away free and clear from
the recurring iconography and story lines that had characterized the
Made for TV movies and the first episode. That's not to slam those
efforts. Far from it. It's just that with "The Zombie" you get totally
new concerns for the first time, although at least one icon does
reappear but with a delicious twist.
What is especially new is the zombie himself. Aside from the brief scene at the end, where he suddenly sits up and reveals a rubber body suit, the feeling of horror created is abject and thus doubly effective. The sense of abjection itself is most creatively designed in the juxtaposition of two scenes. In the INS office, Carl describes how to destroy a zombie (pour salt in his mouth and tightly sew his lips together). But Carl ends the scene by demonstrating how he will bite off the thread once finished. And, then, next, when you, the viewer, are put in the junkyard scene, in the old hearse, with the dormant zombie, and after you have seen his rotting face, it becomes impossible to disassociate the idea of what you know is coming up next. Namely, that Carl is going to have to put his lips right on those of the corpse.
Multiple taboos are being threatened: racial, sexual, and social. Because, it's not just the suggestion of necrophilia that erupts. It's that this necrophilia also lies dangerously close to a sort of homo erotic necrophilia. And, to add the icing on the cake, the zombie is Haitian, a black man. All this taking place in the darkened confines of a junked hearse. The tension couldn't be higher. Most viewers literally must look away from the television set. Abject perfection!
All of which leads back to the twist on the recurring icon I mentioned above. In the two Made for TV movies and the first episode, the filmmakers thoroughly master the haunted house and its associated iconography. In "The Zombie", the haunted house has been replaced by a "haunted junkyard" of sorts. Where Carl previously found himself trapped in closets or behind curtains in small rooms, this time the claustrophobia is multiplied with Carl squeezed into that banged up hearse. In true Night Stalker fashion, the zombie awakes, the scene explodes, tension is released, and Carl tumbles out the back of the hearse and miraculously finds an alternative way of destroying his nemesis. Resolution complete. Some might even call it cathartic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This time Chicago reporter Kolchak has his hands full (a lot of his own making) with a voodoo zombie and a crime syndicate. It seems that the rotted corpse of murdered Francois Edmonds, his mother, Mamalois Edmonds (Paulene Myers, in obvious old-age make-up), a practitioner of voodoo and black magic, using her powers, through chicken blood and ritualistic chants, to send out her undead boy to snap the spines of the Italian crime syndicate, led by Benjamin Sposato (Joseph Sirola), who had him killed. While it appears Captain Leo Winwood (Charles Aidman), might "be on the take", the one in charge of the snapped spine slayings, he is able to keep a lot of the case under wraps, but Kolchak soon discovers his link to Sposato and why Mamalois is sending her son, very much dead but active thanks to mama, out to crunch bones, hoisting the victims in the air before tossing them to the ground with relative ease. Kolchak's story, of course, is too far-fetched for anyone to believe, as he voices his story to INS editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland, portraying his character as if he were on the verge of a nervous breakdown) while Captain Winwood looks on with bemusement from behind his office desk. Kolchak, ballsy, confronts Winwood about his ties to Sposato as the Captain threatens Tony with fire hazard sanctions if the voodoo zombie story is printed. Kolchak has to worry about his own hide when he looks on from afar, spying on Mamalois as she places a voodoo curse on him, writing his name on a tiny wooden casket in chicken blood! So Kolchak gets his gear (white candles, salt for the mouth, string and needle for the lips to be sewn shut) in preparation for ending the voodoo curse so his life will be spared a spine snapping. The main comedy, besides Kolchak trying to convince others that a corpse is responsible for the murders of an entire crime family, is the intrepid reporter's constant evasion of Monique Marmelstein (Carol Ann Susi), the niece of the Tony's boss in the New York INS head officebecause of her relations to the head honcho of the paper, Tony wants her to be happy so he tries, and fails miserably, to get Kolchak to take her along with him during the snapped spine slayings. During a shootout, Kolchak closes her in the trunk of his car, and at the end, he puts her on a bus for Brooklyn when she is stunned to silence by the appearance of Francois! There's a wonderful guest spot for J Pat O'Malley (the voice of Winnie the Pooh himself and notable character actor who has appeared in countless television classics, always memorable, his distinctive voice and nerdy persona intact) as a mortician who charges Kolchak for information that comes from "his sources" regarding the bodies that pass through his morgue! Other fun appearances include Antonio Fargas (the man can make an entrance and own a scene, let me tell you, quite a colorful character) as "Sweetstick" Weldon, a pimp-styled boss over the nickel-and-dime gambling operations in Chicago and Scatman Crothers as a practitioner of voodoo who also works as a bookie (!). The way Kolchak worms his way out of danger is rather impressive (the sweat, nerves, and fear are there in spades, yet he can sure talk and negotiate when it seems his goose is cooked). The finale in a junkyard is quite exciting, a cemetery of cars and throwaway parts, the place of rest for Mamalois' killer zombie son, as Kolchak squeezes into a vehicle to stop the voodoo curse, but of course it won't be so easy...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'The Zombie' finds star Darren McGavin in fine form as ever stubborn Carl Kolchak investigates a series of gangland killings. That's not unusual at all; what is unusual is the perpetrator in each case appears to have "died" once before. Kolchak finds that voodoo plays a key role as he pursues various leads and is as always threatened and / or admonished by everybody he meets. This episode has the expected number of laughs, many of them coming from the confrontations with editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland, just a delight). One sequence is particularly amusing the way that Kolchak speaks with a third party while Vincenzo is trying to speak to him on the phone. Adding to the mirth factor is the unwanted presence of Monique Marmelstein (Carol Ann Susi), an eager aspiring reporter and the niece of the I.N.S. head honcho. Vincenzo tries to make Kolchak take her along but he manages to come up with ways to get her out of the way. The best part of this episode is how successfully it creates some genuine scares. Kolchak tracks down his quarry to an automobile graveyard and before he can take the steps necessary to incapacitate him, the eyes open, in a supremely creepy moment. Fortunately for Kolchak, he's able to do some quick thinking. A solid cast of guest stars and bit players make 'The Zombie' great fun: Charles Aidman as grumpy police captain Leo Winwood, Joseph Sirola as mobster Benjamin Sposato and Val Bisoglio as his associate Victor Friese, J. Pat O'Malley as the cemetery caretaker, the ever smooth Antonio Fargas as dapper criminal "Sweetstick" Weldon, and wonderfully genial Scatman Crothers as helpful Uncle Filemon. John Fiedler makes the first of his appearances as cheerfully sleazy coroner Gordon Spangler, who's not known as "Gordy the Ghoul" for nothing. A mysterious informant named The Monk (Ben Frommer) makes for an entertaining element, and from beginning to end this is a neat and very enjoyable story that delivers plenty of chuckles and chills. Eight out of 10.
This assignment has Kolchak covering some syndicate murders of a most
unusual kind. Three bookmakers tallying the take have their backs
broken by a most strong individual.
The first clue that Darren McGavin has that this perpetrator is a zombie is from coroner John Fiedler who makes the first of a few appearances on the show. He actually says that one of the dead bodies, a black man had been a client the week before.
This all leads to Pauline Myers who is from the West Indies where certain folks do do that voodoo that raises the dead. She has and the deceased happens to be her son.
Simon Oakland also saddles Carl with the boss's daughter Carol Ann Susi who reminds one of a poor man's Gooch. McGavin locks her in a trunk during a police shootout.
At least McGavin learns how to keep a zombie down when you put him down in this story.
Carl Kolchak(Darren McGavin) is investigating the brutal murders of Chicago's underworld figures who are involved in the illegal numbers rackets, which turn out to have been committed by a zombie revived as a tool of revenge against his gangster murderers. The zombie snaps their spines, and seems to be unstoppable(he is dead) though Carl discovers who is responsible and find a way to stop the zombie's murderous spree, though it will involve him having to go into his coffin in a most personal way... Memorable episode makes fine use of its zombie, a chilling creation, though done with restraint. Climatic scene with Carl vs. the zombie is most effective.
An old black woman uses voodoo to resurrect her dead son to kill those
who murdered him, and to kill those like Kolchak who would interfere.
We have some nice guest stars here: John Fiedler (perhaps best known as Piglet, but also a "Twelve Angry Men" alum) and Scatman Crothers. Fiedler actually appears on the show a few times, but it is always nice.
And the plot is awesome: the Chicago mob meets a voodoo priestess, as well as the black street gangs who run the numbers lottery. Only in Chicago, and only in the 1970s! Unfortunately, this show really needs a clean-up on the picture. The Netflix version looks like VHS quality at best.
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