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Friday, 22 February 2008 07:51

Kolchak The Night Stalker

All the news that's unfit to print ...


USA - 1974-75 - 20 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Created by Jeff Rice in his novel "The Kolchak Papers", Carl Kolchak, a burnt-out reporter from the old school of print journalism, first appeared in the 1972 television movie "The Night Stalker", with Darren McGavin playing Kolchak, on the trail of vampires in Las Vegas. Returning the following year in "The Night Strangler", the star was quick to recognise the potential of both the character and situations, and soon a series was in production.

Executive produced by McGavin, Kolchak: The Night Stalker relocated to Chicago, with the rumpled reporter working for the crime desk at the city's Independent News Service. Not merely a pure horror show, which would have been unacceptable for network television at the time, the series aimed to titillate rather than terrify. Toning down the violence by exploiting the power of suggestion, and expanding on the character's mordant humour, Kolchak stumbled onto all manner of inexplicable happenings and things going bump in the night. From zombies and werewolves to rampaging robots and even Jack the Ripper, Kolchak's main dilemma was trying to convince his sceptical editor, the long suffering Tony Vincenzo, to print these startling revelations.

Missing the plot continuity that contemporary shows have embraced, Kolchak: The Night Stalker was perhaps doomed for the outset to being short-lived. Finding enough stories to fill the twenty episodes without repetition was a major achievement, although towards the end plots were already wearing a thin. Credited by Chris Carter as being the major influence for The X Files, the shadow Kolchak: The Night Stalker can still be seen in the supernatural adventures that have succeeded it. However, a recent attempt to reinvent the franchise has fallen flat on its face.


Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak
Simon Oakland as Tony Vincenzo
Jack Grinnage as Ron Updyke
Ruth McDevitt as Edith Cowles

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