Somehow, over the years, I’ve managed to miss the television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I was quite young when the series first aired in the mid-1970s and I imagine the premise was a bit strange for my parents’ taste. However, friends have raved about series and highly recommended it. So I finally settled in and watched a few episodes this past week.
If you’re like me and haven’t been lucky enough to see this short-lived television series before, it tells the story of Carl Kolchak, a Chicago newspaper reporter whose specialty is investigating weird and unusual cases, which often turn out to be supernatural in nature. In the first four episodes, Kolchak encounters the immortal Jack the Ripper, space aliens, a Voodoo queen and her zombie, and a vampire. Kolchak is played by Darren McGavin who wears a rumpled white suit and Panama hat that could easily have inspired Sylvester McCoy’s costume years later when he assumed the title role in Doctor Who.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker plays like a lot of 1970’s mystery shows. There are irritated cops, and dark close-ups of shoes walking along, meant to hide the identity of the killer. The guest cast reads like a who’s who of 70’s television and includes such people as Larry Storch, Dick Van Patten, and John Fiedler, who in turn played Jack the Ripper in an episode of Star Trek about eight years earlier. What makes Kolchak: The Night Stalker unique was the fun it had exploring the supernatural. It works especially well because of its mix of humor and horror. I especially like that although Kolchak is ready to do what’s needed to dispatch supernatural threats, he often seems as scared of them as you or I would be in a similar situation.
I’ve still got more episodes to go, but I’m looking forward to them. If you haven’t discovered Kolchak: The Night Stalker, then consider yourself lucky. It’s readily available on home video. I’d love to hear what you think about the series whether you’re an old fan, or discovered it recently like me.