Friday, 26 April 2019

The Night Stalker (1972) – movie review

 **imported content from the old website**

The Night Stalker is the original TV movie that first introduced the world to Carl Kolchak, an investigative journalist who hunts down the supernatural.

The character went on to star in a sequel movie, The Night Stranger, and a short-lived series called Kolchak: the Night Stalker, which became the direct inspiration for big hits like The X-Files, as well as having a clear influence on many similar shows to come. There was even a failed remake of the TV series in 2005, titled simply The Night Stalker (2005).

In this review series, I’ll be diving into each and every entry in the original Kolchak canon (and possibly even the remake) to find out what made this dark fantasy series so captivating – even while it remains mostly relegated to a cult favourite these days.

So, should Kolchak come out of the shadows? Or does it belong in the dark? Here’s my review of the film that started it all.


Investigative reporter, Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin), has been fired from countless newspapers in the past for his difficult attitude, and is now working for a new publication in Las Vegas. He spends his days chasing the latest headlines and sparring with his very shout-y boss, Vincenzo (Simon Oakland).

At the beginning of the film, we find Kolchak in a sleazy motel, narrating events (this framing device also ties into the end of the story). In his recollections, Kolchak finds himself hot on the heels of a series of grisly murders; young women are turning up dead on the Vegas strip. Their blood is drained from their bodies, and there are strange bite marks on their necks. As the evidence – and the corpses – pile up, Kolchak begins to suspect that the serial killer may just be a vampire. However, the real challenge may be convincing everyone else.


This movie oozes low budget 1970s style. As the murders increase and the noose tightens around the killer, we see very little; there are no crazy supernatural stunts or magic tricks, just Kolchak and a very pale man with pointy teeth. And yet, it’s what the movie doesn’t show that makes it so effective. Rather than relying on flashy effects, it builds suspense with each clue, and because we’re privy to Kolchak’s thoughts, we’re along with him for the ride; we know little more than he knows, so we piece it together with him.

Kolchak himself is an engaging enough hero, too; he’s crotchety and stubborn, but though he begins as a skeptic, when his girlfriend suggests a more supernatural explanation for the murders, he listens to the evidence and changes his view. The other characters are pretty forgettable, but as background dressing for Kolchak and the wider mystery, they fill their purpose.

The final confrontation between Kolchak and the vampiric serial killer is tense but short. Actually, I found the aftermath a little more engaging, as the story took a twist that I didn’t necessarily expect. It also ends very resolutely, so you could easily conclude your Kolchak journey on this and feel satisfied.

Closing Analysis

The Night Stalker is a slick, spooky crime film that balances the supernatural with its gritty 70s reality. Kolchak is the only character to leap off the screen, but the story is effective and creepy. This bodes well for the next installments!
Cheers and cheerio!

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