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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Night Strangler

June 13, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Night Strangler

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #466: The Night Strangler

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been fired from a job in one city and gotten the same exact job in a different city, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and sixty-six, Kolchak: The Night Stalker month continues with the sequel to The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler, which first aired on the ABC television network on January 16th, 1973.

The Night Strangler

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The Night Strangler, directed by Dan Curtis, picks up about a year after the events of The Night Stalker, with intrepid investigative reporter Carl Kolchak (the returning Darren McGavin) working in Seattle, Washington. Kolchak’s boss in Seattle is the same boss he had in Las Vegas, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland). I’m guessing that in the aftermath of the events of The Night Stalker, Vincenzo was fired from the newspaper and run out of town, too, and he landed in Seattle, where he then hired Kolchak to work for him again, with the approval of the publisher Llewellyn Crossbinder (the legendary John Carradine). Because, let’s face it, while Vincenzo may yell at Kolchak all of the time, he deep down respects him and his work ethic and knows that he’s a good reporter. Why wouldn’t you want a guy like Kolchak working for you?

So Kolchak’s first big assignment in Seattle involves reporting on a series of murders featuring female strippers and exotic dancers. As Kolchak tends to do, he dives right into the story, talking with various people all the while annoying the authorities. The cops don’t want to reveal all that much about the victims and what actually happened to them. Kolchak worms his way into the coroner’s office and finds out that the victims were all strangled, their necks were crushed, and a small amount of blood was removed from their bodies. There are also traces of rotting human flesh on the necks of the victims, a detail that makes absolutely no sense. There’s a dead guy running around Seattle strangling women? How the hell is that possible? Kolchak keeps digging.

After talking with various exotic dancers, including Charisma Beauty (Nina Wayne) and her lesbian handler Wilma (Virginia Peters) and a woman named Louise (Jo Ann Pflug) about the ins and outs of the local dancing scene, Kolchak talks with his newspaper’s resident researcher Mr. Berry (the immortal Wally Cox), just to get more background on the city, etc. Kolchak, through Berry, finds out that Seattle had similar murders twenty one years ago. And on top of that, there were similar murders twenty one years before those murders. That can’t be a coincidence, can it?

Kolchak talks with Vincenzo about what he’s found out and Vincenzo doesn’t believe a word of it. It’s Las Vegas all over again. Police captain Schubert (Scott Brady) gets wind of what Kolchak has uncovered and wants the story censored. A newspaper story about very similar murders every twenty-one years will cause public panic, or, at least, that’s what Captain Schubert wants everyone to believe. Vincenzo is willing to go along with the captain’s request, at least for now. Kolchak wants to keep digging. The whole twenty-one year thing can’t possibly be a coincidence. There’s something sinister going on, and Kolchak vows to get to the bottom of it.

While all of that is going on, more women are murdered. A witness claims that the killer looked like a dead man. A serial killer zombie? What?

Kolchak keeps digging. He goes on a tour of the Seattle Underground with Louise and finds out that, just beneath the city, there’s another city, “old” Seattle, the remnants of a massive fire that the city built over. It’s here that Kolchak meets a homeless man (Grandpa Al Lewis) who may know who the killer is. Apparently, the killer lives in the old Seattle and has lived there for decades. It’s clearly possible to live in the old Seattle, but how can one man do it for decades on end? How is that possible?

It’s here that Kolchak starts to come up with a possible reason for the every 21 years killing spree. He talks with a university professor (Professor Crabwell, as played by the Wicked Witch of the West herself Margaret Hamilton) about alchemy. Is there such a thing as a person concocting an elixir with human blood that will then allow someone to be immortal? Crabwell suggests that there is such a thing. At the same time, Berry does a little more research for Kolchak and finds out that the potential killer is someone who looks exactly like an old Civil War doctor from 1868. And suddenly Kolchak believes he’s figured it out.

There’s a man named Malcolm Richards, who, back in 1868 when he was known as Richard Malcolm, experimented with the elixir and figured out that it would keep him alive and “young” for twenty-one years. However, when those twenty-one years are up, Richards has eighteen days to take six doses of the elixir for the twenty-one year cycle to start over again.

Of course, no one believes a word of this. How could it even be possible? The cops think Kolchak is a liar and a fraud and a menace to the city. Vincenzo doesn’t want to run the story because it’s so out there and weird, and it also antagonizes the local authorities. There must be some other explanation, something more plausible.

So Kolchak, along with Louise, heads back into the Old Seattle to see if he can find Richards and stop the cycle from starting again. If Richards manages to take all six doses he will no doubt disappear again. Kolchak doesn’t want that to happen again. I mean, who the hell is going to stop him in 1994, when Richards would have to go hunting again? Why would anyone believe the story then? After exploring the bowels of old Seattle, Kolchak eventually finds Richards (Richard Anderson) and confronts him about what he’s done. Will Kolchak be able to stop the cycle of violence?

Now, there are two versions of the movie. There’s the original 74 minute version, which aired on ABC back in 1973. There’s also a 90 minute version, a version that was used to air in cinemas in Europe. I watched the 90 minute version, as it was the version made available on the MGM DVD. I’m sure there’s a website or something out there that explains what was added to the 74 minute version to make it 90 minutes, but I didn’t go look for it and, ultimately, I have no idea what was added. I can’t even venture a guess. The only thing I am certain of is that the 74 minute version was faster paced. It had to be. The 90 minute version, while engrossing and entertaining and a terrific sequel, drags a bit here and there. Unlike The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler moves along at a somewhat leisurely pace and tries to generate a more sinister mood than Stalker. That strategy might have paid off more if more of the story took place in the old Seattle. That set is truly creepy and God only knows what else lives down there. But Strangler enjoys having little character moments for its supporting cast, which is great for the assembled actors and sort of interesting, but it makes the story drag.

I would love to know how Kolchak managed to keep being a journalist of any sort, especially after the events of the first movie. You’d think that the Las Vegas authorities would have ganged up with Vincenzo’s bosses and, through word of mouth, blackballed Kolchak from ever working for a big city paper again, at least on the west coast. How many jobs did Kolchak have in between Las Vegas and Seattle? Did he try to get his book published, the one we saw him writing throughout The Night Stalker? How big of a disaster was that?

I’m sort of surprised that director Curtis and screenwriter Richard Matheson didn’t come up with a completely different weird as hell story. The vampire villain of The Night Stalker and the immortal man of The Night Strangler both kill in the shadows, both tend to predominantly kill women, they both have super human strength, and no one outside of a few select people believe they exist. I know that Curtis says, in an interview special feature on the DVD, that when they thought about doing a sequel they all wanted to do something similar because, I guess, if it worked one time it will probably work again. I don’t know if that was the best strategy, in the big scheme of things. The legendary third Kolchak script, one that was set to take place in Hawaii and had aliens replacing important people with androids, really does sound amazing. Why the heck didn’t Curtis and company shoot for the fences with a sequel, especially when you consider how successful The Night Strangler was ratings wise. Maybe it was all about the budget? Stalker and Strangler are both low budget TV movies. Maybe ABC wouldn’t foot the budget for something more ambitious? The android story sounds like it would need a full on feature film budget to do properly?

Well, at least the success of The Night Strangler led to ABC doing a full on TV show of the Kolchak character. It didn’t last long, but at least it happened.

The ending of the movie has Kolchak, Louise, and the once again fired because of his relationship with Kolchak, Vincenzo, driving to New York City, Kolchak’s old stomping grounds from back in the day. Why didn’t the eventual TV show take place there instead of Chicago?

McGavin is once again terrific as Kolchak. His suit is a little different (it looks blue this time), and he also has a different tape recorder, but he’s still the same badass reporter, tracking down leads, getting on people’s nerves, and trying to uncover the truth. His office arguments with Vincenzo are hilarious and a fine example of what McGavin could do when he was in full on smart ass mode. I do like how he isn’t as smooth, personality wise, in this movie. He doesn’t have a wife or a girlfriend, and while he does have some chemistry with Jo Ann Pflug’s Louise, they’re really not engaged in a romantic relationship. They’re almost colleagues, in a way.

Simon Oakland is funny as Vincenzo. You really do feel for the guy due to all of the stress Kolchak creates for him. At the same time, he does keep hiring him/putting in a good word for him, so can you really feel that bad for him? Vincenzo knows what he’s getting into. Right? I mean, how else are we supposed to look at him? And, hell, he keeps getting fired because of his relationship with Kolchak. What is it going to take for Vincenzo to figure it out?

Jo Ann Pflug plays Louise as a kind of smart ditz at first, ignoring Kolchak’s questions because she’s just too busy living her life. When she becomes a bigger part of the story she acts as a worthwhile partner for Kolchak’s investigation. Nina Wayne is quite the presence as dancer Charisma Beauty, a terrific stripper name. She’s absolutely gorgeous and funny for the screen time she manages to get. Virginia Peters does a great job as Wilma Krankheimer, the dour lesbian business manager of Charisma Beauty. It’s the kind of part you probably wouldn’t see in today’s culture, a situation that helps date the movie considerably. Still a great performance.

Scott Brady is an absolute asshole as Captain Schubert. He clearly doesn’t like Kolchak but, really, does he like anyone?

And then there are the sort of “star” cameos. The great Wally Cox isn’t as nerdy as you’d expect him to be as the newspaper researcher Mr. Berry. I expected a truly nasal voice and some cowardly laughter from him, but we get instead a truly enthusiastic historian. Why the heck didn’t he join Kolchak on the strangler case? Margaret Hamilton is so over the top as Professor Crabwell that she makes you cringe with joy. Her scene is freaking brilliant. I do wonder, though, if anyone would ever want to take her class. I know I wouldn’t. The great John Carradine shows up as the newspaper publisher Llewellyn Crossbinder. He doesn’t do much beyond approve of Kolchak’s hiring, but I can say that he truly embodies the name Llewellyn Crossbinder. And Grandpa Al Lewis is completely unrecognizable as the homeless man. I had to check imdb to see if that really was Al Lewis. He’s wonderful, as usual, but I do wonder how many people didn’t recognize him the first time they saw the movie. He doesn’t have the old vampire outfit on, so I bet plenty of people back in the day had to do a double take. Of course, ABC may have mentioned Grandpa’s participation in the movie in TV commercials, so maybe everyone knew back in the day. I don’t know.

The Night Strangler isn’t as good as The Night Stalker. It drags a bit too much. It’s still very entertaining, though, and is a must see if you’re a Kolchak fan.

See The Night Strangler. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 6

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None. TV movies in the 1970’s didn’t do that kind of thing. They just didn’t. Standards and practices and whatnot.

Doobage: Belly dancing, cigarette smoking, street crime, milk drinking, mega lesbian, strangulation, a press conference, old Seattle, a screaming woman, a hilarious lunch argument, walking at night, police harassment, an alley brawl, camera theft, an old homeless guy, talk of alchemy, a brazen attack, a big argument about the facts, pay phone stealing, portrait defacement, stalking, a broken pen, a dead body in a cabinet, spider webs, a table surrounded by rotting skeletons, finger dipping, elixir destruction, an ass kicking, rapid aging, window jumping, glass breaking, and driving to New York City.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Darren McGavin, Darren McGavin narrating, mild homophobia (sort of), John Carradine, a deep thought about how eating wastes time, Wally Cox, old people singing, Seattle, old Seattle, an old bottle of booze, Grandpa Al Lewis, space needle, an elevated train ride, an old article about Mark Twain, vituperation, insulting the police, Richard Anderson, and driving to New York City.

Best lines: “Where you been living, in a cave?,” “There’s nothing wrong with me?,” “So that’s what happened to Cotton Mather, huh?,” “Charisma Beauty?,” “You know there’s been a murder, don’t you?,” “Who are you, anyway?,” “Knock’em dead, Charisma. Why would I do that? I like them,” “Meat? Yes,” “Another one,” “He looked like a dead man?,” “He may be sick but he’s not crazy,” “Is that what he looked like? That’s what I saw?,” “Fabricated speculation? Have you been sitting on your head?,” “Are you all right? Yeah, of course I’m all right,” “I can live for three months on that five bucks,” “Well, what do you think? What do I think? I think these people will remember this elevator ride for the rest of their lives,” “What I’d like to do is raise tulips for a living but there isn’t much demand,” “Facts!,” “And get your arm off my clock!,” “Kolchak! Coming, mother,” “Who is this… man?,” “How can a man who is 90 look like a man who is 40?,” “That will be enough, Kolchak,” “I’ll kill ‘em!,” “Carl, are you all right?,” “But you are Dr. Richard Malcolm,” “No one is ever going to hear from you again,” “Are you going to listen or are you going to interrupt?,” “All right, Carl, I’ve had enough!,” and “Can anyone shut you up?”

Rating: 8.5/10.0

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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!

Please check out and “like” The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which is here. There’s stuff there now! Midnight trailers! 3 AM Joe Bob! And more!

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Things to Watch Out For This Week

ApocalypseRising

Apocalypse Rising: I don’t really know what to make of this low budget post-apocalypse movie. On one hand, it looks pretty awesome. On the other hand, it also looks pretty bad. Can a movie like this actually exist in both realms at the same time? I don’t know, but I want to find out. How often do people come to Earth in order to save it and they’re the good guys? Aren’t they usually asshole aliens who say “we want to save you” euphemistically? Definitely want to check this out.

BusPartyToHell

Bus Party to Hell: Tara Reid is apparently in this low budget horror flick about a group of young people going to a big hooha concert via bus and end up getting chased/hunted down by Satanists for some reason. Yes, this story has been done a few times in the past, but has it been done recently? I don’t think it has. Rentable. This movie is also known as Party Bus to Hell. I wonder why the title changed.

TheJurassicDead

The Jurassic Dead: Okay, so this low budget flick takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, stars a couple of legit fighters (Raquel Pennington and Andy Haman), a mad scientist, and a goddamn zombie T-rex. It doesn’t even matter if the movie is any good or not. I think we all need to see it based on its premise alone. I mean, how often do we see movies about zombie dinosaurs? Has that ever happened before? If it has I don’t remember it. Rent it, buy it, whatever, but I think we all need to see this. A zombie dinosaur! Holy crap!

Ninja3TheDominationBRD

Ninja III: The Domination Collector’s Edition: The fine folks at Shout! Factory released a Blu-ray/DVD combo of this classic ninja flick back in 2013. That release had a Sam Firstenberg commentary track on it. This new release, under Shout’s Scream Factory label, is Blu-ray only and has new special features, including interviews with Lucina Dickey, Jordan Bennett, Alan Amiel, and Elliott Ellentuck and Misha Segal. There’s also a new transfer of the movie from the original film elements, which means that this release will be the best this movie has ever looked. What the hell is that going to look like? A definite must have. It’s Ninja III: The Domination, man! Only a ninja can destroy a ninja! Sho Kosugi with an eyepatch! How do you not want to own this?

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

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

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B-Movie News

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The new Halloween trailer has been released: And it’s not bad. It’s a little too Halloween H20 at the moment (I’m also getting a Wes Craven’s New Nightmare vibe, too) but I’d imagine that will change as we learn more about the movie before its October 19th release. I do like how Jamie Lee Curtis/Laurie Strode is kind of paranoid and proactive about taking the fight to the boogeyman. She looks incredibly badass with that Winchester pump. The Myers mask also looks decent.

Now, obviously, there are oodles of questions floating out there right now. So Myers was captured after Dr. Loomis shot him six times. How long did it take the authorities to catch him? Did the cops show up a few seconds after he fell out the window, or did Myers stumble around a bit before he was taken into custody? Was there a trial? How long did that shit last? When, exactly, did Laurie become paranoid and whatnot? Why did the prison/asylum allow the documentary crew into the building in the first place? Those are just the questions I have right now.

And, of course, there’s the question of whether or not this is really the last Halloween with Michael Myers as the killer. H20 was the last one until they decided it wasn’t, so, even with John Carpenter involved on the producing side, I still have my doubts on this one actually being the very last Michael Myers movie. I mean, if it makes a fortune at the box office, wouldn’t it be financially insane to not make another one? Isn’t that, ultimately, the “problem” with this kind of franchise?

Well, in the end, no matter what, I’ll be seeing it when it comes out. It’s a new Halloween movie. Why wouldn’t I want to see it?

ThePredatorPredator

There’s also a new The Predator trailer and… wtf?: The first trailer for The Predator was a tad confusing as it was difficult to tell what, exactly, was going on with it. Why were the Predators back on Earth? Did it have something to do with a kid accidentally turning on some sort of homing beacon on Predator armor that was taken/stolen/left behind? What was the military angle? Who the heck were these mercenaries? Well, now there’s a second trailer for the movie and I’m more confused than before. It’s a good kind of confused, but, still, what the hell is going on with this movie? What the hell is going on with that gigantic “super Predator” that we see at the very end? Is that something the military created or is that a Predator race that the regular Predators don’t like and are honor bound to take on and defeat?

And think about this. When we eventually get a third trailer, will we get some other Predator surprise? Is there an even bigger Predator out there?

Man, the fall is going to be pretty badass, isn’t it? Halloween and The Predator basically within one month of each other? Awesome shit, man. Awesome shit.

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

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Next Issue: When we come back on July 4th, it’s Code of Silence with Chuck Norris!

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Next week: Cult TV begins with Kolchak: The Night Stalker!

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Interviews

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
Etcetera
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
Daniel Roebuck
Sage Croft
Stephen van Vuuren
Cheryl Wheeler Sanders
Eric Jacobus (2)
David William No
Nicholas Verdi
Luke LaFontaine (2)
Roger Yuan
Dominik Starck
Tamas Nadas

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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 Strangler

Darren McGavin– Carl Kolchak
Jo Ann Pflug– Louise Harper
Simon Oakland– Tony Vincenzo
Scott Brady– Captain Schubert
Wally Cox– Mr. Berry
Margaret Hamilton– Professor Crabwell
John Carradine– Llewellyn Crossbinder
Grandpa Al Lewis– Tramp
Nina Wayne– Charisma Beauty
Virginia Peters– Wilma Krankenheimer
Kate Murtaugh– Janie Watkins
Ivor Francis– Dr. Webb
Richard Anderson– Malcolm Richards

Directed by Dan Curtis
Screenplay by Richard Matheson

Distributed by ABC, Anchor Bay Entertainment, MGM Home Entertainment, and Kino Lorber

Not Rated
Runtime– 90 minutes

Buy it here

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