Monday, October 4, 2010

The Complete Night Stalker, Part Two

With episodes Five through Eight, the "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" televisions series looked like it's finally hit its stride. After a wobbly start--with episodes that ranged from good to downright awful, the series presented a string of decent episodes. I know continue the trip through the 1974 television series, as I review every episode in anticipation of Halloween.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker
(The Complete Television Series Reviewed, Part Two)

Episode Five: The Werewolf
Director: Allen Barron
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

When Kolchak is sent on assignment to cover a swingin' singles cruise, he becomes the Reporter Who Cried Werewolf when a murderous beast starts tearing its way through crew and passengers when the full moon rises. Will Kolchak find a priest onboard the ship of sin, so he can get some silver bullets blessed before everyone becomes werewolf chow?

With this episode, the supporting cast at the INS office becomes a major part of the series, and I think the episodes benefit from it--even if Kolchak looks like a total heel with the way he's constantly manipulating and using them. These additional characters coming to the fore heightens the humor of the series, and it gives McGavin recurring actors to play off.

As for this specific story, it's a tense, funny, and fast-paced episode, although the Seventies fashions and "hip" swinger stereotypes can be quite painful to watch. (The couple whose marriage got stronger because they got divorced was pretty funny, though.) The only negative is some of the tall tales Kolchak tells the ship's crew. It's a bit out of character for him to tell such flimsy lies when he knows there's no escape once they're found out.

Episode Six: Firefall
Director: Don Weis
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When the friends and associates of a celebrated symphony conductor start dying in mysterious fires, Kolchak smells not only the odor of burning flesh, but also a story. However, what he hadn't counted on was that he would become the target of a restless spirit with a love of fires.

This is another excellent episode that balances drama and humor quite nicely. The threat to Kolchak is once again clear and immediate--if he falls asleep, he's likely to spontaneously combust--and he has to put real thought and legwork into saving himself and the main target of the monster in this episode.

"Firefall" would rate Eight Stars if several early scenes weren't marred by reall bad, really cheap special effects. The episode would have been far better served if the crew had gone with even cheaper effects--simply jump cuts of an actor to it seem as though he was appearing and dissapearing.

Episode Seven: The Devil's Platform
Director: Allen Baron
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Kolchak is assigned to cover an Illinois State Sentate race where one of the candidates is receiving more than just finiancial contributions from infernal powers. When Kolchak gets too close to the truth, he is faced with a choice between becoming a servant or sacrifice of Satan.

This is one of the episodes I saw a long time ago, and it's every bit as good as I remember it. The strange dog stalking Kolchak after he accidentically takes possession of the evil politician's (played excellently by Tom Skerritt) amulet that is the focus of his demonic power is a particularly effective part of this episode. Another highpoint is the larger part played by the supporting characters in the newsroom. The ending is a bit too easy and pat, though.

Episode Eight: Bad Medicine
Director: Alex Grasshoff
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

While investigating a series of violent gem heists, Kolchak finds himself on the trail of a shapeshifting, dreamwalking Native American sorcerer who has been cursed with immortality and a never-ending quest for precious stones. Will Kolchak find a way to kill someone who can't be killed... or will he end up in that great newsroom in the sky?

This is another episode that balances comedy and suspense nicely, although I'm sure Richard Keil's Indian sorcerer character looks goofier to modern viewers than he did to those watching in the mid-70s. (And his appearance wasn't supposed to be one of the funny bits, I am certain.)

Kolchak has to use his brains to defeat the threat in this one, and that always makes for a more interesting episode than him just blundering around and getting lucky. The ending  is also pretty strong. All in all, one of the better installments in the series.


  1. I agree as far as the special effects in FIREFALL, but I also liked that episode. I thought the ending was great. Wasn't a fan of DEVILS PLATFORM, thought it had the potential to be much better. Wasn't a fan of BAD MEDICINE either, although that Indian dude was pretty scary. We're pretty much on the same page with this batch of KOLAHCK reviews. Looking forward to the others.

  2. While watching "Bad Medicine", I did try to think of how a ten-year-old version of myself would react to Richard Keil's hulking, evil shaman. I think he probably would have scared the beejesus out of me... so this might be an instance where I've just grown too jaded to fully appreciate the episode for what it has to offer.

    I'm glad that there's another Kolchack fan out there, though!