tek's rating: ¾

The Night Stalker, on ABC
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This first aired in 1972, a few years before I was born. I first saw it in 2019, on DVD. It's something I've been wanting to see for years, but probably not as long as I've been wanting to see the 1974 spin-off TV series "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," because I'm fairly sure I was aware of that before I became aware that it was based on a couple of TV movies. (I probably first heard of the series in the 90s, being referred to as a spiritual predecessor to The X-Files.) I got both movies on a single DVD that was released in 2004, which by the time I bought a secondhand copy, I think was out of print. But there are now separate DVDs (or Blu-rays, if you prefer) released by a different company in 2018. Anyway, I guess I liked the first movie, though it's one of those things I can't help wondering if I gave it a better rating than I would have if I hadn't already known that it was highly regarded. (And at the same time, worry that fans of the movie might think it deserves a higher rating than I did give it.) It's not that I really have anything against it (aside from just a bit of casual objectification of women). I guess the movie is just a bit too 70's, for my taste. Plus my idea of what makes for good vampire movies is naturally more modern, considering this is before my time. But I do think it's an interesting sort of mash-up of a vampire movie and... well, I'm not sure what to call it, except to say that the supernatural aspect is secondary to the main plot, which is really about a down on his luck investigative journalist, looking to make a comeback. I think... the fact that the supernatural aspect is couched in a more realistic atmosphere than most vampire movies is something that simultaneously makes it more and less interesting or entertaining than what I'm used to, if that makes any sense.

So... it's set in Las Vegas. It begins with Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) in a hotel room, listening to an audio recording of his narration of the events that make up the movie. (The movie is book-ended by scenes of this recording, but it also seems Kolchak has typed up a manuscript for a book.) The story is about a series of murders where young women have been drained of pretty much all their blood. After the first murder, the editor of Kolchak's newspaper calls him back early from his vacation to investigate the crime. As the murders continue, and Kolchak learns more about them, it begins to seem as if the murderer believes himself to be a vampire, though I don't think anyone, including Kolchak, believed he actually was a vampire... at least not at first. Actually, the first person to suggest to Kolchak that the killer might be a real vampire is his girlfriend, Gail Foster (Carol Lynley), who provides him with reading material about vampire lore.

Throughout the movie, both before and after Kolchak comes to believe the killer really is a vampire, he faces obstacles from various people in law enforcement who are also investigating the murders, as well as from his editor, who doesn't want to print Kolchak's wild theories. Aside from Gail, his only real ally is a friend of his in the FBI, Bernie Jenks. But even Bernie's hands are tied as to how much help he can actually give Kolchak. Anyway... I don't want to spoil any details of how it all ends, but it's mostly a downer, even if the killer was finally stopped.

Followed in 1973 by a sequel, "The Night Strangler," and in 1974 by a TV series, "Kolchak: The Night Stalker."


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