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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Night Stalker

June 6, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Night Stalker

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #465: The Night Stalker

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been chased around a big city by a vampire (or, well, anyone, really), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and sixty-five, Kolchak: The Night Stalker month begins with the TV movie that started it all, The Night Stalker, which first aired on the ABC television network on January 11th, 1972.

The Night Stalker


The Night Stalker, directed by John Llewellyn Moxie, is a badass, lean and mean TV movie about a newspaper reporter named Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) in Las Vegas investigating a series of strange murders. Young women are showing up all over town with puncture marks in their necks and the victims are completely drained of their blood. The cops, led by Sheriff Butcher (Claude Akins), have no real leads on who the killer might be or why the murders keep happening. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of evidence at the various crime scenes to provide any direction for the investigation. Kolchak, however, has a theory. It’s a weird theory, yes, but based on the evidence he’s seen and the leads he’s followed and the experts he’s talked with, Kolchak believes that the killer is a vampire.

A vampire? In the real world? How the hell is that possible? Aren’t vampires, well, bullshit?

Yes, vampires are bullshit, until it’s obvious, based on the evidence, that there’s a vampire running around Las Vegas murdering young women for their blood (or it could be a guy who thinks he’s a vampire. Even if he isn’t a “real” vampire, he’s engaging in vampire behavior, so it’s right to call him, real or not, a vampire). There are also ongoing thefts at hospitals and blood banks of blood, all types. Who else but a vampire would be doing that?

So Kolchak writes about what he’s discovered and put it out there for the world to see. His editor at the newspaper, Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) doesn’t want to publish Kolchak’s vampire musings, and the district attorney (Paine, as played by Kent Smith) wants Kolchak to back off on the vampire stuff because he doesn’t want to cause a citywide panic. A real deal vampire in Las Vegas? That can’t be true. It just can’t be.

Kolchak, a persistent reporter, keeps at the story. His girlfriend Gail Foster (Carol Lynley) believes in Kolchak’s nose for a story and tries to help him with background reading on vampire folklore. And one night, at a local hospital, a man breaks into the facility, takes out multiple security staff (he throws one guy out a window to his death), and engages in a street brawl with the cops. Now, this street brawl is essentially one man against twenty heavily armed police. The police shoot their suspect multiple times and the suspect keeps moving like nothing is happening to him. The man is unstoppable. The man eventually gets away. Kolchak witnesses the whole thing. Is this guy the vampire?

At a press conference featuring local authorities and a representative from the FBI, Bernie Jenks (Ralph Meeker), Kolchak and other assembled reporters find out that the FBI believes that the killer is an international fugitive named Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater). While incredibly dangerous, the authorities try to stress that Janos is a man, a human, and not a vampire, and that he will be brought down like any other criminal, with dogged police work. Kolchak calls bullshit on the “official” story. Janos is just a man? How can a man who is “just a man” withstand a full on police assault without a scratch? To Kolchak, there’s absolutely no question about what the city is dealing with. Janos Skorzeny is a goddamn vampire.

Once again, Kolchak’s boss and the local authorities want Kolchak to stop with the supernatural speculation. They also just can’t stand the persistent sonofabitch. Sheriff Butcher, in conjunction with D.A. Paine and Chief Masterson (Charles McGraw), come up with a plan to sort of get Kolchak under control. If they agree to look into his “vampire leads” and they turn out to be true, Kolchak will get the exclusive story about what the police actually know. And if Janos turns out not to be a vampire and the whole vampire angle turns out to be bullshit, Kolchak will have to leave Las Vegas and never return. Kolchak takes the deal. He knows that Janos is a vampire. Once Janos is found Kolchak will have the story. It’ll be a win-win for everyone.

So Kolchak, with the help of a local informant type (Mickey Crawford, as played by Elisha Cook, Jr.) figures out where Janos lives and goes there alone. The Janos house is old and spooky, exactly like you would expect it to be. It’s also filled with weird things, including a fridge filled with bottles of blood. There’s also a young woman in the house, tied to a bed and hooked up to a contraption that’s draining her blood. And it’s at that moment that Kolchak comes face to face with Janos and, oh, yeah, he’s a goddamn vampire. Will Kolchak get out of the house alive?

What I love most about The Night Stalker is how it doesn’t waste any time. It jumps right into the story, the plot is explained very quickly, and it never stops. We know who the hero is, what kind of guy he is, and what kind of bullshit he has to deal with in order to uncover the truth. Yes, the non-vampire villains are one note and spend most of their screen time yelling at Kolchak, but that’s who they are. They’re jerks who just don’t want to admit what’s really happening in Las Vegas. Vincenzo really isn’t a villain, though. He’s more of a guy stuck in the middle of the shit with no real good options. Can he support his man in the field, Kolchak, and keep his own bosses and the local authorities off his ass? You want him to make the right decision, Kolchak, but you know that he’s probably not going to be able to.

I also love how the movie, despite being a TV product that no doubt had to deal with standards and practices, still has a real sense of menace and dread. When Janos kills a dog you know that anything can happen in this movie. The Janos house is also pretty damn scary, both inside and out. The movie’s action scenes are also quite awesome. The street brawl with the cops is a brilliant piece of chaos. I also want to commend the big scene where Janos leaps from the stairs at Kolchak. It’s a quick scene that goes by in a blur, yes, but it’s also terrifying because it happens so fast. The camera doesn’t focus on it and the story doesn’t stop so we can watch the stair leap happen. It just happens. It’s just something that Janos does. Amazing, scary stuff.

I’m also a big fan of how Kolchak is allowed to “work” any crime scene he wants to, taking his own pictures and is allowed to question witnesses and just generally interfere with the police’s investigation. Yes, it was the 1970’s, but would the cops allow that kind of thing back then? And how does Kolchak have the kind of pull to just do whatever he wants to do? Did the cops just love the First Amendment back then?


The cast is phenomenal. Darren McGavin is terrific as Kolchak. He’s got the necessary charisma, swagger, intelligence, and smart ass attitude to make you root for him no matter what. He also makes the seersucker suit, hat, and tape recorder work. He looks completely out of place at times as no one else is wearing a similar suit, but then he’s allowed to hang out at the pool surrounded by hot babes in bikinis so he must be doing something right. I am curious, though, about what he wrote about in the cities he was kicked out of. When he was in New York City was he writing about the mob and government corruption, or was he writing about zombies and shit? Is this vampire story his first foray into the strange and paranormal?

Barry Atwater is terrifying as Janos the vampire. It’s mostly a physical performance, but he gives the character oodles of menace. His eyes are scary as hell, too. Does this character have an action figure yet? Simon Oakland as Kolchak’s boss Vincenzo screams and yells like any good, pissed off boss. I could listen to this guy flip out all day.

Claude Akins is a brilliant piece of crap as Sheriff Butcher. He despises Kolchak and it’s that hatred that likely clouds his judgement. Vampires are just stories and whatnot, sure, but he’s a cop and cops are all about the evidence, right? How can he not see what Kolchak sees? The same goes for Charles McGraw’s Chief Masterson. He’s disturbed by the murders and the subsequent investigation and yet he has no interest in stating the obvious. Why the hell doesn’t he see the vampire evidence as vampire evidence?

And then there’s Kent Smith’s D.A. Paine. He may actually be an even bigger douchebag than Sheriff Butcher, and that’s really saying something. He’s also clearly a politician, and politicians, in these circumstances, are just not to be trusted for any reason. This guy is just awful. Great job.

As for Ralph Meeker’s FBI guy Bernie Jenks, what’s his deal? Why couldn’t he pull some strings at the end of the movie to help out his buddy Kolchak?

The movie ends with Kolchak in another city, hanging out in a sleazy hotel dictating a book about the case and what happened once Janos is defeated. If there’s a government wide cover-up about who and what Janos Skorzeny really was, how many other vampires are there out there? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

The Night Stalker is a great movie from start to finish. A great cast, a great story, great direction, just great everything. If you’ve never seen it, you have to find a way to see The Night Stalker. You won’t regret it.

See The Night Stalker. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 7

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None. It’s a 1970’s TV movie.

Doobage: Talking into a tape recorder, people getting thrown around, a dead body found in a garbage can, an autopsy, multiple arguments, a hot woman in a bikini, multiple press conferences, picture taking, a switchboard, dog killing, a bunch of books, a hospital brawl, a guy is thrown out a window, a street brawl with cops, a woman knitting, police scanner hooey, an underwater brawl, a scary old house, a fridge full of glass bottles filled with blood, a dresser filled with disguise materials, walking in the dark, a coffin, a cross, a quick brawl, a stair leap, sunlight attack, wooden stake to the heart, a marriage proposal, a set-up, and the promise of an awesome book that will never get published.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Darren McGavin, Darren McGavin narrating the movie, an autopsy, Claude Akins, a total lack of footprints, 1970’s police investigating the scene, Darren McGavin driving down the street, Claude Akins losing his mind, tape recorder hooey, Darren McGavin being a smartass, Darren McGavin talking about how important freedom of the press, a woman ironing a shirt, a police scanner, a fridge full of glass bottles of blood, a cross used as a weapon, a set-up, and the promise of an awesome book that will never get published.

Best lines: “Peel back the chest flap, please,” “Good morning, slave,” “Hello, Carl,” “What took you so long, Kolchak? I got a flat tire,” “Look at her throat,” “I expect you to report, not come up with fairy tales!,” “You’re not supposed to know that,” “Do you believe in vampires, little boy?,” “Dog?,” “Kolchak, you can throw away that cassette,” “Kolchak, you’re becoming a real pest!,” “You’re a sadist!,” “What do you want, Vincenzo, a testimonial from Count Dracula?,” “Kolchak, you’re an idiot,” “I’m becoming extinct in my own lifetime,” “Oh, come on, you’re a big, tough reporter, you can take it,” “Kolchak! Now you keep it short!,” “Sit down!,” “Mickey, has the idea of winning ever occurred to you?,” “Now are you willing to listen to my insane idea?,” “Kolchak, just get on with it!,” “I hate to say it, gentlemen, but it looks like we have a real, live vampire on our hands,” “His own private blood bank?,” “Oh, baby, you’re going to love New York City!,” “Kolchak, you’re one hell of a reporter,” and “Carl, there is nothing I can do.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0




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Things to Watch Out For This Week


Death Wish: I managed to see this reboot when it was in movie theatres back in March and enjoyed it quite a bit. I had some issues with it (check out my review of the movie here) but, for the most part, it’s a solid action flick. It was also nice to see star Bruce Willis sort of motivated again (he doesn’t sleepwalk through the movie). I doubt this will be the start of a full on franchise like it was for the original Chuck Bronson series, but then, hey, if the home video release makes tons of money maybe we’ll see more of the Bruce Willis Paul Kersey. And kudos to Eli Roth for directing a watchable movie. How often does that happen?


The Debt Collector: This action flick has a top notch cast (Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor, Michael Pare, Vladimir Kulich, David William No, and Tony Todd), and a terrific director at the helm (Jesse V. Johnson). I will definitely have a review ready for this movie soon because, well, it’s a must see. Again, with the cast and the director this is going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to see it.


Astro: This is another flick I am absolutely going to see and review. The great Gary Daniels stars in this sci-fi action movie about a rich guy who creates his own space program and somehow brings an alien back to Earth. Or something like that. Anyway, Daniels is in it, as are Marshal Hilton, Louis Mandylor, and Michael Pare. With that cast how could you not want to see it? And, hey, if you pick up this and The Debt Collector you can have yourself an ass kicking Louis Mandylor/Michael Pare double feature. That sounds like a worthwhile evening if you ask me.


The Hurricane Heist: I wish I had seen this when it came out because I have a feeling that it won’t be as visually exciting on TV. The trailers and TV commercials were ridiculously impressive, and as someone who wants to support cinematic insanity as much as possible I’m annoyed with myself. Why the hell didn’t I make more of an effort to see this? Anyway, it looks like fun, and, again, while it probably won’t be as viscerally exciting on TV it’s still worth checking out. I mean, how often do you see movies about criminals who try to jack a U.S. mint facility in the middle of a massive hurricane? Exactly.


The Midnight Man: This horror flick had a small theatrical release (it played at the IFC Center in New York City) and is getting a home video release via IFC and Shout! Factory/Scream Factory, so you know that it has a certain quality about it. Robert Englund and Lin Shaye are in it, so it also has that going for it. The title is wicked cool, but at the same time, when you have a name like that you better be as awesome as your name suggests. Worth buying simply because of the Scream Factory connection, but, too, it might be wise to rent this ahead of time, just to see if it’s awesome. I’m hoping.


Dead List: This low budget horror flick comes to us from the fine folks at High Octane Pictures and is all about a struggling actor who decides to curse some of his fellow actors with a deadly book. It also looks like this movie is some sort of anthology, which is interesting. And check out that goddamn clown in the trailer. You freaked out yet? Definitely want to check this out.


Blindsided: The Game starring Eric Jacobus available now for free on YouTube!


Check it out! (And check out my review of the movie here)


B-Movie News


That The Crow reboot with Jason Momoa apparently isn’t happening now: It seems like we get a news item about this potential reboot every few months, and the news item that we have at the moment is the reboot with Jason Momoa isn’t happening anymore. It was apparently going to happen, as Sony had a release date set (October 11th, 2019), and Momoa was all ready to put on the white makeup and seek revenge or whatever. But then, according to Variety, the movie hit some kind of money snag. I’d like to know what that money issue is, exactly. Momoa is a big star, The Crow is a comic book people know, and the Brandon Lee original is considered a classic. How can this reboot fail again and again?

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the Brandon Lee movie. I love Lee, yes, but his signature role has always left me cold. It’s moody and well-made and looks great, but I’ve never been able to get into it. And the sequels I’ve seen are just awful ( I still need to see the one with Edward Furlong). If Momoa can’t get this movie to happen right now, perhaps it’s time to just let it go and move on to other projects.

Maybe, if Aquaman is a mega hit this December, Sony and the other money people involved will work their shit out and something will happen in 2020. I guess that could theoretically happen.


The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler set to hit Blu-ray this October: The fine folks at Kino Lorber are set to release Blu-rays of both The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler this October. It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any special features on these Blu-rays, but to have the movie readily available again is the most important thing. MGM released a DVD of both movies back in 2004, but that thing is pretty much out of print at the moment. I found my MGM DVD at a convention and I was shocked that it was there to begin with. So, outside of conventions and flea markets, this upcoming Kino Lorber release is going to be the best way to get these movies.

Be sure to keep any eye on the Kino Lorber Studio Classics Facebook page for updates and details on these releases and others.


Who is the Douchebag of the Week? Go here and find out!


Next Issue:The Night Strangler!




david j. moore
Jino Kang
Vladimir Kulich
Paul Mormando
Shahin Sean Solimon
Michael Matteo Rossi
Tyrone Magnus
Hector Barron
Jeffrey Orgill
Michael Baumgarten
R. Marcos Taylor
Don “The Dragon” Wilson
Paul Kyriazi
Eric Jacobus
Juju Chan
Luke LaFontaine
Marco Siedlemann
Sam Firstenberg
Amariah Olson
Alexander Nevsky
Mathias Hues
Kristanna Loken
Steve Mitchell
Albert Pyun
Brad Thornton
Mathieu Ratthe
Damien Power
Kelsey Carlisle
Mike Dwyer
Nicholas Bushman
Brahim Achabbakhe
Richard LeMay
Andrew David Barker
Cynthia Rothrock
Leslie Simpson
C. Courtney Joyner
Shahin Sean Solimon (2)
Eric Miller
Alexander Nevsky (2)
Christopher Lawrence Chapman
James Mark
Casper Van Dien
Chris Mark
James E. Wilson
Barry Hunt
Vincent J. Roth
Mathew Ziff
Brandon Tyler Russell
Barry Hunt (2)
Lobsang Tenzin
Dylan Reynolds
Paul Kyriazi(2)
Lincoln Bevers
Nassasin Nuri
Hannah Janssen
Harry Mok
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Sage Croft
Stephen van Vuuren
Cheryl Wheeler Sanders
Eric Jacobus (2)
David William No
Nicholas Verdi
Luke LaFontaine (2)
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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

The Night Stalker

Darren McGavin– Carl Kolchak
Barry Atwater– Janos Skorzeny
Carol Lynley– Gail Foster
Simon Oakland– Vincenzo
Ralph Meeker– Bernie Jenks
Claude Akins– Sheriff Butcher
Charles McGraw– Chief Masterson
Kent Smith– D.A. Paine
Elisha Cook Jr.– Mickey Crawford

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Screenplay by Richard Matheson, based on a story by Jeff Rice

Distributed by ABC, Magnetic Vide, CBS/Fox Video, Anchor Bay Entertainment 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, MGM Home Entertainment, and Kino Lorber

Not Rated
Runtime– 74 minutes

Buy it here