Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kolchak" The Night Stalker

When I was a lad, I watched a startling made for TV movie. I vaguely knew Richard Matheson as a science fiction writer of The Last Man on Earth (Vincent Price, I believe), and later a remake with Charlton Heston. I didn't know Jeff Rice, or make a connection of Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows). I knew Darren McGavin probably from some 1960's TV shows when he guested.

I was mesmerized by the fast pace (thank you Richard Matheson), the novel concept of a hard bitten reporter uncovering a modern day vampire story.

History tells us that was Tuesday 11 January 1972, and I was a sophomore in High School just after the Winter break. I'm sure I went to school the next day - I never missed with many years of perfect attendance - but doubt if I was able to discuss it with anyone.

Still, you had to be there.

Wow.

The next movie, in 1973, I waited in anticipation, and it was equally wonderful.

I try to watch these on Halloween as often as I can.

I've heard there was a third show that Matheson scripted of Kolchak in Hawaii. It was not filmed as the characters was picked up as a series.

The TV show was pretty thrilling, but quickly degenerated into a monster of the week. Not dissimilar to Lost in Space or even Star Trek as story lines quickly grew thin with the pace of churning shows out. When it was cancelled, I mourned, but I suppose it was for the best.

About a year ago I got some of the Kolchak paperbacks (though I haven't yet read Kolchak Meets Cthulhu, so to speak). They were every interesting take son the character. Some were better written, in my opinion, than others, but I enjoyed them all.

A few weeks ago I found at Half Price Book Store a DVD of the 2005 series. I never watched it, fearing it would tarnish the original. I've been watching them, scheduled to finish this weekend. My take on it, is not bad. The commentaries are spectacular, as the producers exposited what they intended. I can't give a spoiler, but I don't agree with a certain plot line they planned on taking. It would have warped the character, and I think they would have gotten themselves into trouble with the plot and continuity. They didn't have to worry, it was yanked pretty quickly. After the fifth show aired - not in sequence of filming.

This Kolchak is youthful and less cynical than McGavin's portrayal. But McGavin's portrayal was a product of the Nixon administration reporter style. Woodward and Bernstein. Cynicism was "in". I remember that year, and that summer very well.

Kolchak is one of the most original characters to come along in the history of horror. Jeff Rice seemed to have captured lightning in a bottle, and Matheson's powerful touch sure elevated Kolchak to iconic status.

I'm not sure how future incarnations will hold up.

_____

P.S. A few folks have contacted me by email and on Facebook. Comments are active only if you are a member of the group. Sadly, I can't even activate that function as spammers are merciless. I've had to cut almost everything out. But email me. chrisperridas@yahoo.com. The email is plastered all over the blog. Yes, I get a ton of email spam, but I can live with that. Or see me at facebook.

I really am trying to figure out the next incarnation of HPL & His Legacy 2.0. It isn't going to be easy, though. I'm talking with some folks, and something will come up later this year.

1 comment:

bradleyonfilm said...

As you may know, THE NIGHT STALKER was the highest-rated TV-movie of its day, and a profound influence on the creators of THE X-FILES and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. You're right about that unproduced third teleplay; it was called THE NIGHT KILLERS, written with William F. Nolan, and it was published in RICHARD MATHESON'S KOLCHAK SCRIPTS. The original also inaugurated a fruitful collaboration with Curtis that included TRILOGY OF TERROR and the Jack Palance version of DRACULA, among others. For further information, see my book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN (http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-4216-4).

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