Kolchak: The Night Stalker (DVD)

The second the whistling begins and the theme song heads into its 70’s rock TV themed crescendo, any classic TV horror fan knows they are home! Kolchak: The Night Stalker still stands tall as a true piece of Horror Americana, and rightly so.

Sure, the monsters are pretty hokey looking, and yeah, you don’t even see that much of them. That doesn’t seem to matter though. The character of Kolchak was played lovingly by Darren McGavin, and because of that apparent affection his performance remains one of the most solid pieces of genre acting to date. There’s magic in this production. The type of magic that can keep a horror fan glued to the tube. It’s evident in every frame.

Two years prior to the Kolchak: The Night Stalker series, genre fans were treated to a 1972 TV Movie of the Week vampire fest titled The Night Stalker. The film was met with pretty positive reviews, and we all know what happens then — WE GET A SEQUEL! The following year the world of Kolchak was revisited with 1973’s The Night Strangler. Riding high on the popularity of the two films a series seemed like a no-brainer.

Though it lasted barely a year, all twenty of its episodes are highly regarded by genre fans. Carl Kolchak complete with his tape recorder and straw hat paved the way for more modern television fare such as the wildly popular Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

In the 70’s things didn’t have to be billed as “The Television Event of the *insert season here*”. Times were different. Especially on TV. Nowadays, everyone seems to be chasing the newest and hottest property. What is considered Must See TV usually ends up stinking to high holy Hell. The reason why so many Movie of the Week‘s such as The Night Stalker, Gargoyles, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark are now considered classics is because there was less pressure to make the next big thing. All filmmakers were concerned with was making an enjoyable product. They succeeded. Everyone today should take their cue.

Thanks to this DVD set, things look great for Night Stalker fans — except in the extras department. There are no special features to speak of. I would have liked to have seen something. Anything. I guess we can’t have it all. At least there’s every episode of the series, and they look pretty damned good too.

Hopefully the release of this show will introduce our favorite wisecracking investigative reporter to a whole new generation of fans, while the rest of us older folk kick back and enjoy the spooky simplicity of days gone by.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974 – 1975)
Universal Home Video
Created by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Starring Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, and Ron Updyke

4 out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.