Friday, 26 April 2019

The Night Strangler (1973) – movie review

 **imported content from the old website**

In this follow-up to the first Kolchak adventure, The Night Strangler moves the action to Seattle and gives us another creepy killer for our intrepid reporter to hunt down.

So, does this sequel live up to the first? Or is it dead on arrival?

Plot


A year after being driven out of Las Vegas, Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) coincidentally reconnects with his former editor, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) at a bar in Seattle. He easily convinces Vincenzo to rehire him – and on his first assignment back, he is set on the trail of a new series of murders.

The victims this time are exotic dancers, popping up strangled to death. This is horrible enough, before we discover that there are also traces of rotten flesh left around their necks. Furthermore, they’ve all been trained of a few ounces of blood….

Now a firm believer in the supernatural, Kolchak recruits a researcher named Titus Berry (Wally Cox), who discovers a similar group of killings back in 1952. Pushing further, they realise that similar murders are occuring every 21 years since the 1800s. With the police against him, Kolchak must put together the clues and find the supernatural killer before he vanishes again without a trace.

Thoughts


One of the greatest detriments to the first movie was the lack of surprise; it’s advertised all over that the killer is a vampire – and just moments into the episode, you know which direction it’s going in anyway. One of the greatest strengths for its sequel is that I had no idea what the creature was going to be. This made the story more engaging and kept me hooked into the mystery. Not only that, but there were more comedic elements to balance out the tone.

The horror elements also feel stronger than before. Maybe I’ve been desensitised to vampires thanks to over-stuffing in pop-culture, but I wasn’t as creeped out by that one as I was with this. While it’s still nothing completely new, it doesn’t have to be, either – it’s all about the way it’s framed.
I get the sense of a slightly higher (though still small) budget this second time around, too; the corpses are paler and spookier, and the killer’s got a bit more oomph to him. Not that much, because it’s a TV movie, but still.

However, while there were a lot of improvements made, large chunks of this film retread basic plot points from the first: the victims are all young women of a certain ‘type’; Kolchak’s boss is back and angry as ever; no one believes Kolchak, etc. So, even though I feel this second film does a better job in many ways, its lack of originality in other regards is a serious shame.

Closing Analysis


Could’ve been better – could’ve been worse. It’s a 1970s TV movie, so it wouldn’t be fair to expect the world. Even so, what we did get was a fun, spooky, supernatural procedural.
Plus, the slick 1970s neo-noir style will always be a hit with me.
 
 ~

Keep your eyes on this space, dear reader, as we will soon be diving into the short-lived TV series. If these reviews have inspired you to give the TV movies a try, they are currently available on YouTube, or for sale in the regular places.

Cheers and cheerio!

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