He would have been right at home in some 1940’s era newspaper film. The evidence of his wild stories always seemed to get lost, destroyed or somehow covered up by the powers-that-be. He was played by Darren McGavin, who was most often remembered for portraying the crusty father in the 1983 film “A Christmas Story”.
“The Night Stalker” was a made for television movie which aired on ABC in 1972 about an investigative reporter, who has a penchant for dealing with the bizarre, supernatural, U.F.O.’s, and the paranormal. The “Night Stalker” movies and series in which he starred have been credited with inspiring contemporary mystery works including the WB series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the 1997 film “Men in Black.” Writer-producer Chris Carter has often cited Kolchak as the primary inspiration for the long-running fantasy-drama “The X-Files” that first aired on the Fox network in 1993. “The Night Stalker’s” combination of fear and fun worked in large part because of the “jauntiness in the face of doom” that McGavin brought to what he called “the role of a lifetime”.
In the opening of the film, Kolchak is sitting on the bed of a sleazy hotel room talking about the story he has written about and how it has been withheld by the authorities. He describes a series of murders that had horrified the Las Vegas Strip. All of the victims had their blood drained, and Kolchak discovers the killer is really a vampire.
Carl Kolchak’s roots were in an unpublished novel by Jeff Rice called “The Kolchak Papers”, written around 1970. Someone saw some TV potential in this unpublished story about a fast-talking newshawk trying to track down a modern-day vampire, and it was adapted into the movie. “The Night Strangler” the sequel was made in 1973, it featured another serial killer in Seattle who strangled his victims and used their blood to keep himself alive for over a century through the use of alchemy. The Seattle Underground City was used as a setting for much of the action, and provided the killer with his hiding place.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker was a television series derived from the Tv films that aired on ABC television in 1974. The show featured newspaper reporter ” Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin reprising his earlier role of Carl Kolchack ” who investigates crimes with mysterious and unlikely causes that the proper authorities won’t accept or pursue. The Tv series was the first regular TV gig for “Sopranos” mastermind David Chase, who served as “Kolchak’s” story editor and authored eight of its 20 teleplays. The show had an unforgettably creepy, strings-driven theme score and it had that amazing performance by Darren MaGavin. It was a show about journalism, conspiracies, detective work, and cryptids, all the things we cherish.
In the show Carl Kolchak was a Chicago reporter who, episode after episode, investigated stories which were definitely “out there”. On a weekly basis, he faced vampires, werewolves, Greek goddesses with a grudge, robots, reptiles, space aliens, zombies, Jack The Ripper, and assorted demons. This short-lived TV series still has a cult following to this day. The evidence that the show was the original inspiration for “The X-Files” seems to be confirmed by the fact that Darren McGavin was cast in a guest role as retired FBI Special Agent Arthur Dales. The first agent assigned to such cases, and described as the “father of the X-Files”.
Chris Carter, acknowledges that “The Night Stalker” influenced him greatly. He paid tribute to Kolchak in a number of ways. A character named “Richard Matheson”, named for the screenwriter of the pilot films, appeared in several episodes.
Two more television movies in the Kolchak series “The Demon” and the “Mummy and Crackle of Death” were cobbled together in 1976, with each new movie being composed of two previously screened episodes from the Tv series. A voice-over provided by McGavin allowed for some continuity in the narrative. Due to this reediting, the four actual episodes were removed from the syndication package and were unavailable in their original format until Columbia House released them on VHS.
The series is now occasionally rerun on the Sci-Fi Channel with its original expanded title, Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Carl Kolchak, A true adventurer, if ever there was one.
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