Kolchak: The Night Stalker (original)...

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Warped9, Apr 24, 2012.

  1. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

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    Mr R.I.N.G definitely feels like a proto X-Files episode, and if I remember correctly I found it interesting that the robot was built by the Tyrell Corporation!!!
     
  2. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    "Mr. R.I.N.G." was a nifty way for Kolchak to do a Frankenstein episode, after doing Dracula and the Wolf Man (the Mummy is coming up). It's also his second foray into science fiction after "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be."

    "Horror In The Heights" is the favorite episode of most fans, or so I've heard, because of his encounter with another Night Stalker. It's not my favorite, but it's very good and I like the way the story unfolds and the use of the pre-Nazi swastikas. The ending is also very good. "If I told Emily that she's the only person in the world I trust, I'd also have to tell her that I shot her with a crossbow." :rommie:
     
  3. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    I fired up Netflix and watched "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be." last night. What actually struck me is just how manual everything is, the typewriter, the camera, the film, the phones, radio, just everything. Back then, to be knowledgeable you really had to know what you were doing or be willing to do the legwork to learn.
     
  4. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

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    ^Yeah, no Googling for Carl, he has to get huge books out of the library or actually go and talk to learnded people.

    Ah, simpler times...
     
  5. Vendikarr

    Vendikarr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I always admired Karl. Here you have a guy who has a need to find truths. He's not satisfied to accept the lies society tells us to protect us from the darker side of things. He goes out there and finds out what, often leading to his discovery of the monsters. And his search for truth leaves him open to it and to accepting what he finds.

    He's not a macho hero. He would rather someone else fight the monsters, as shown many times in his trying to get the police or others to believe what he knows. But when they don't, he steps up and does what needs to be done.

    Much like Peter Falk was Columbo, Darren McGavin is Kolchak, and no one can replace him. Some people are so identified as their character that no one could ever really work in the role. The remake of Night Stalker just proves that point.

    If I were to guess, as much as Karl searched for the truth, I doubt his stories ever saw print. The general public just couldn't accept that there be monsters here.

    Perhaps Sam and Dean Winchester can come across The Kolchak Files.
     
  6. Starkers

    Starkers Admiral Admiral

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    Given Kolchak's stories never seemed to get printed it's amazing Tony never fired him :)
     
  7. Vendikarr

    Vendikarr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    We only saw the monster stories. Kolchak probably wrote a dozen normal stories for every monster story he came across.
     
  8. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I always thought that Kolchak should have gone to work for some sleazy tabloid of the Weekly World News variety. Then he'd be able to make a living writing about werewolves and zombies, but nobody would believe him. And, of course, he'd still be trying to convince the "real" papers to take him seriously . . . .
     
  9. Vendikarr

    Vendikarr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    He should have changed the names in his articles and sold them as short stories to horror magazines.
     
  10. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Where do you think MIB was getting its news in the '70s. :lol:

    Actually they could just as easily have called the series The Kolchak Papers because of all the stories Karl could have had on file but never printed until one day a book could be published...maybe years after he died.


    By 1970's standards Kolchak looks to be somewhere in his forties and yet McGavin was 52 when they began filming the series. The age factor rather suits the character settled in his quirky ways.


    "Primal Scream" ****

    A primitive primate/man is loose in the city.

    Kolchak learns that cells found in ancient ice core samples perhaps millions of years old may have let loose some sort of pre homo sapiens primate in Chicago.

    I'm not clear and may have to watch this again. Did the ancient cells mutate into a fully grown primate or was a modern primate infected and mutated by them? This story sort of presages Jurassic Park in a sense by bringing an ancient animal to life in modern times.


    "The Trevi Collection" *****

    A witch is at work inside a fashion house.

    Kolchak has heavies leaning on him while he's also trying to figure out who the real witch is within a house of high fashion. This episode nicely plays the series' humour against the creepier aspects, which is the formula that really makes the show click. The humour takes some of the edge off the horror. You find yourself laughing with the show rather than at it. I love it.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2012
  11. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Well said. :bolian:

    Actually, Jeff Rice's original title for the novel was The Kolchak Tapes.
     
  12. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Yes. Whether a character is just a bare bones outline for a series or an adaptation of a character from a novel the actor can make such a huge difference. Shatner took Roddenberry's character outline and breathed so much life into the Kirk we came to know. It's no different with McGavin and Carl Kolchak.

    Can anyone really imagine someone else playing Archie Bunker or Hawkeye Pierce or any number of so well defined fictional characters? Could anyone else ever play Dirty Harry and not stand in Eastwood's shadow? We've been hearing rumblings of a Magnum, P.I. remake for years and yet I can't really envision anyone other than Tom Selleck as Magnum.

    McGavin did numerous roles before and since The Night Stalker, including a series as Mike Hammer (late 1950s), but McGavin will always be the definitive Carl Kolchak.
     
  13. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    "Chopper" *****

    A headless motorcycle rider is exacting revenge for his death.

    Another example of this show's recipe for good storytelling: balancing humour with the macabre. This episode is basically an updated retelling of The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, only instead of a headless horseman we get a headless former bike gang member. Awesome and well done. :techman:

    Larry Linville (first seen way back in the first TV film) returns, but this time he's a police captain. First he played weanie Frank Burns on M*A*S*H and he plays a putz in this story.

    Another thing I love about this show is seeing so many of those old character actors. :)


    "Demon In Lace" *****

    Young men and women are dropping dead all over a university campus.

    Kolchak learns he has to find a succubus, an ancient mythical female demon who comes to life within a young dead female corpse to lure young men to their deaths in her amorous embrace. Now there's something to strike terror into any virile young male. :lol:


    Other than some scenes and the first two films I'm a little shocked how much of these stories I had forgotten. I remember liking the show, but over the decades of not seeing it I had actually forgotten about most of these except for the occasional part. I'm rediscovering now after forty years how damned good the series actually was. Like Star Trek it seems to have gone largely unappreciated during its time, only unlike TOS it didn't get the exposure in syndication. A damned shame. I've only got four episodes to go and yet so far none of the episodes has been bad. At worst the very few disappointments are that because they're just okay efforts and not as effective as the rest of the otherwise good-to-excellent episodes.

    I think after I finish these I'm going to get a hold of some of the Kolchak stories in print. Apparently there were quite a few stories written by numerous authors based on the original novel and the TV series itself.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  14. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    ^^ Yes, there are at least two good anthologies out there. My only quibble is that they are set in the present day rather than the 70s. Not what I would have done, but most of the time it can be overlooked.

    I loved "Chopper." Like "Mr. R.I.N.G.," it was a great way of updating classic horror into a modern context. And connecting a 50s biker gang with the French Revolution was kind of inspired. :rommie:
     
  15. Aeolusdallas

    Aeolusdallas Captain Captain

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    Yeah he usually wrote normal stories and occasionally the weird ones would interfere.
     
  16. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    "Legacy Of Terror" ****

    Victims are found with their hearts cut out in a ritualistic manner.

    The idea of having your heart cut out while you're still alive is a pretty gruesome. It gets weirder still when Kolchak learns the final victim of the current periodic spree is actually a willing sacrifice. Ouch!

    A real pity about the female Air Force officer getting offed. I thought she was smokin'.


    "The Knightly Murders" ***

    People are being killed with medieval weapons wielded by a knight in black armor.

    I always find it weird the way people are often shown being killed. Are they all so frozen in terror that they just sit there waiting for it? Kolchak seems to be the only one to use his fear to motivate his feet and try to run like hell. Very few others seem to put up a fight of any kind. :lol:

    This one felt off somehow. It was just okay I thought, but nothing special.


    "The Youth Killer" ***

    Beautiful young people in the prime of their lives are dying of advanced old age.

    This was just okay. The best part of it was seeing Cathy Lee Crosby in her prime and in a Grecian style dress. Nice! She also once got to play a version of Wonder Woman in a rather forgettable made-for-TV movie. Oh well...

    It seems the last few episodes are running out of steam just before the show got cancelled prematurely. There were originally supposed to be twenty-six episodes, but it just wasn't going to happen.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  17. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    "The Sentry" **

    A reptilian creature is loose in the tunnels of a data storage facility.

    This was a genuine disappointment where it felt like the players were just going through the motions, the characters were cliches and the monster was just cheesy without any quirky charm or cleverness. The aborted series, which otherwise was quite good in general ends on a whimper with this half-hearted effort.


    Overall this was a good show with cleverness, charm and wit. But it went unappreciated in its time. It was fun, but towards the end it felt like it was getting stuck in some cliches and formula.

    I have to wonder if it would have been better served as a series of made-for-TV movies where each story could have been given more care and each episode spaced out about every month to month-and-a-half, like Columbo and some other TV movie series.
     
  18. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    ^^ I liked "The Sentry." It was actually structured a bit differently than the others, with Kolchak in peril at the start and hurrying to get the story told. It was also a bit reminiscent of "The Devil In The Dark." But my favorite part of that episode was Kolchak's rant about the creatures getting into basements and underground garages and how people needed to know; this really spoke to the core of his personality, and his motivation for doing what he does.

    Similarly, my favorite part of "The Knightly Murders" was the scene where he tried to save the girl by shoving the bureau up against the door and putting his shoulder up against it, even though it was clearly hopeless. "Get in there and lock the door, ya dumb broad." An unlikely hero, but a hero nevertheless.

    A long time ago, I subscribed to a Night Stalker fanzine that gave information about episodes that were in development when the show was canceled. Three went to script and are listed on the Wiki page-- and there are excerpts on Darren McGavin's home page. But there were others in earlier stages of development. The only thing I can remember off the top of my head was "The Piasa Bird," which I think was another story based on American Indian folklore. I've still got those fanzines around somewhere; I'll see if I can find them.
     
  19. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    There were moments in each of the last few episodes I still liked even though I was somewhat disappointed overall. "The Sentry" bugged me mostly because the reptilian monster was so cheesy looking (and I recall thinking the same way back when). It makes TOS' Gorn look like high art. And, yes, I also saw the similarities with TOS' "The Devil In The Dark."

    There's little point in me breaking down the season by ranking since most of the episodes were either good or excellent. It's enough to say this was a damned good show which seemed to be largely unappreciated when it was on. But it's easy to see how it could develop a cult following. It's also easy to see how Chris Carter could be so inspired by it to create The X-Files. Hell, not just in ideas there are whole individual stories that are very similar to what X-Files would eventually do.
     
  20. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    They're really going through with the Depp movie - no Burton, though. Maybe it won't be horrible?

    Depp's going to have to play Kolchak as something other than a prissy weirdo or a drunk lunatic - right? At least that would be a change of pace for him (Depp).