Kolchak: The Night Stalker

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Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak
Simon Oakland as Tony Vincenzo
Jack Grinnage as Ron Updyke
Ruth McDevitt as Emily Cowles
John Fiedler as Gordy Spangler
Carol Ann Susi as Monique Marmelstein

Special Features:
None

Other Info:
Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Dolby Mono Sound
Spanish Subtitles

Synopsis:
This series originally aired from 1974-1975. The following is the description from the DVD cover:

“Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the uniquely eerie mystery series that paved the way for The X-Files, comes to DVD for the first time with all 20 original one-hour episodes of the 1974-1975 series. Emmy┬« nominee Darren McGavin stars as Carl Kolchak, a headstrong investigative reporter on the trail of the paranormal: zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, succubi and even aliens.

No matter how unnatural or unbelievable, Kolchak is there to uncover the truth…one supernatural threat at a time. Join the hunt in the dark alleys and creepy hidden lairs of Chicago with such sensational guest stars as Scatman Crothers, Antonio Fargas, Sharon Farrell, Dick Van Patten, Jamie Farr, Larry Linville, Jim Backus and more. Kolchak: The Night Stalker is finally on DVD, digitally restored to capture every shiver, every scream, and every bump in the night.”

Kolchak: The Night Stalker is not rated.

The Series:
I had never heard of Kolchak: The Night Stalker before, but I was immediately drawn to the concept. The idea of a reporter investigating the supernatural was appealing to me. It allowed the show to cover everything from werewolves to ghosts and created an incredible number of story possibilities. It’s obvious that the show was appealing to the creators of the X-Files, too, since they credit this series as part of their inspiration.

What I wasn’t expecting was the humor in the show. In fact, the show is 80% comedy and 20% horror. Darren McGavin provides most of that humor as Carl Kolchak, a reporter willing to do or say anything to get the story. He is often shown verbally sparring with authorities and telling elaborate lies in order to get more information on the supernatural crimes he runs across. This comedic banter is amusing and it is in stark contrast to the overall subject matter of the show. Anyone expecting more suspense or horror may be disappointed.

Unfortunately, the special effects of 1974 weren’t quite capable of living up to the imaginations of the writers of this series. For the most part, the monsters look very cheesy. For example, there’s a terrible looking werewolf that wears a suit and terrorizes people on a cruise ship. A version of the headless horseman on a motorcycle looks incredibly stupid despite the intriguing concept. (This particular show was written by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) and Bob Gale (Back to the Future, Amazing Stories, 1941).)

Like most TV series, Kolchak settled into a formula early on and rarely wavered from it. Typically, some supernatural related murder takes place, the police try and cover it up, Kolchak finds out what is going on, the police ignore him, then he finds out how to get rid of the evil and saves the day but is unable to print the story. Despite changing the monsters out each week, the story does become predictable and you don’t have to see many episodes before you can figure out what’s going to happen. Because of this lack of originality, the series quickly becomes tiresome. But what does make it worth revisiting is the entertaining performance by Darren McGavin and the parade of guest stars including Scatman Crothers, Dick Van Patten, Jamie Farr, Jim Backus, and others.

The Extras:
There are no bonus features on this DVD.

The Bottom Line:
Though predictable and very dated, Kolchak featured an interesting concept. Fans of The X-Files and supernatural mysteries may enjoy it.

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