Tuesday, February 7, 2012

DJS Presents The Unfilmed Kolchak: The Executioners


Kolchak: The Night Stalker
“The Executioners”


KOLCHAK (VO)
I’m still having nightmares, even though I know it’s over.  Finis.  Kaput.  Luckily I managed to keep my head while all about me were losing theirs, if you’ll pardon my little touch of the poetic.  Losing their heads, or getting hung, or poisoned … one of the three.  If you were in Chicago this past August, you know what I mean …

Several small clues indicate “The Executioners” was an early story submission, by Max E. Hodge (1916-2007).  The Kolchak depicted seems much closer to the original Richard Matheson incarnation — in the opening shot, we see him putting down a slug of bourbon to settle his nerves; later he mentions a sexual relationship with a character named Beatrice Mae Jessee.  Also hinting at the early vintage of “The Executioners” is the return of Captain Warren of the Chicago police for what might have been his second series appearance after his debut in “The Ripper.”  The timestamp “August,” above, also slots the story close to the beginning of Kolchak’s series timeline.
            What survives of “The Executioners” is a writer’s work draft — something more than a treatment and less than a polished first draft teleplay.

INT. “PAUL’S PLACE” – NIGHT – CLOSE ON BOURBON BOTTLE


KOLCHAK
It was enough to drive every Chicagoan to drink … even a staunch WCTUer.*

NEWSCASTER (OS)
On the local front, again the big news is the parlay of murders committed last night, the second such triple killings this week.  All were within a two-block area in the Loop; all were identical to the murders two nights ago.  One victim was decapitated, the second hanged, the third poisoned, with no apparent motive for the senseless killings …

The TV plays inside the bar as a young couple chat each other up.  Unseen, a “gnarled hand” slips a chemical powder into the woman’s drink.  A “nondescript figure in a black raincoat” limps out of Paul’s Place.

In the alley, a black cat YOWLS at a corpse strung up from a fire escape.

Elsewhere, inside a ladies dress shop, a “peevish, swishy male window decorator” complains to an unseen co-worker:

MALE WINDOW DRESSER
You’re late, Harold, and I might add for the last time!  You’re fired!  In disgrace!  Cut off the buttons on your new cashmere plaid, and go forth into the night.  Don’t argue, just go …

He TURNS, sees the FIGURE approaching him.  He stumbles back against a mannequin in terror.  An enormous Henry VIII executioner’s axe swings INTO FRAME.  Two heads hits the floor.  The mannequin’s ROLLS INTO FRAME.

Kolchak shows up at Paul’s Place (“his neighborhood bar”) and witnesses the crowd around the now-DEAD Woman from the earlier scene.  He dogs Capt. Warren back to the police station:

KOLCHAK
Sir …?  Correct me if I’m wrong, but did you not also find a corpus delecti rendered thusly by his wearing a too-tight hemp necktie, one end of which got caught on the fire escape in a dark alley?

WARREN
Not funny, Kolchak.  What I assume you refer to is a possible suicide – very possible.  No connection between his death and the possible poisoning of a young girl in a cheap saloon … possibly from cheap booze.

KOLCHAK
Ah, come off it, Warren – wood alcohol poisoning went out with Prohibition.  Are you sure you didn’t find a headless body anywhere tonight?

WARREN
(to Kolchak and group of reporters in general)
Positively!  I guarantee you we have no reports of any …
(sarcastically)
headless bodies in the neighborhood, although I could think of one I’d like to see that way since it would obviously eliminate his mouth.

Right on time, Warren gets a call about the dead Male Window Dresser.

KOLCHAK (VO)
Three triple murders in three nights.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the Cubs lost three in a row to the Dodgers … and Vincenzo pitched me three strikes my first time at bat the next morning.

INT. INS – DAY


KOLCHAK
Repeat those categories, please.

VINCENZO
Obituaries, ballet … or the art show.

KOLCHAK
Choose one …?

VINCENZO
Or all three … you could squeeze them all in!

KOLCHAK
When does that leave me time for the murder story?

VINCENZO
It doesn’t -- that’s the idea!

As RON UPDYKE ENTERS the office:

KOLCHAK
Not Updyke?  You didn’t give Updyke the assignment?

VINCENZO
Updyke’s doing the pre-season football game at Soldier’s Field.

KOLCHAK
What the hell does he know about football -- ?!

UPDYKE
(miffed as usual)
I’ll have you know I had a gin fizz with Joe Namath once!  Well … he was only two seats away … at the Palmer House bar … three seats …

KOLCHAK
So who’s covering the murder story?

VINCENZO
Me.  I’ve got to keep my hand in.

KOLCHAK
You mean your nose, don’t you?
(sniffing)
I smell the faint aroma of a Pulitzer Prize … add another round or two of triple murders, and that aroma could get more overpowering than limburger cheese … right?

VINCENZO
(unmoved)
Obits … art … or the ballet?

KOLCHAK
(giving up for now)
Art.

UPDYKE
What does he know about art?

KOLCHAK
(imitating Updyke, from before)
I slept next to an art student once … well, I didn’t exactly sleep.  Neither did she …

Kolchak makes his way to the Pop Art Institute, where he finds said art student, BEATRICE MAE JESSEE, sketching a nude model (who sprawls with a rope around her neck for “relevance”).  In order to make at least a perfunctory stab at the art coverage for Vincenzo, Kolchak has Beatrice take him to the Becker Museum of Art – similar to the Harding Museum in Chicago – where an exhibition of “certified and uncertified” Renaissance works is in progress.

INT. BECKER MUSEUM – CLOSE ON PAINTING - DAY


KOLCHAK (VO)
The Becker Museum of Art was on a back street near the North Side.  It was one of the few buildings Mrs. O’Leary’s cow failed to kick over during the big fire.

PULL BACK as Kolchak and Beatrice examine a Rembrandt-like 1660s work.

BEATRICE
I don’t dig realism, Kolchak.  I say leave exact duplication to the camera and/or Norman Rockwell, in that order.  Not that I’m knocking it, but art – to me – should be impressionistic, not realistic.  Is that quotable?  How about mentioning the theory of dynamic symmetry?  It’s all based on mathematical equations and how good art stems from seven basic geometric roots … or something … I never quite understood it, but it sounds impressive, don’t you think?

Beatrice rattles on, drawing the occasional quizzical stare from Kolchak, until Carl spots a life-sized oil painting, in Rembrandt’s style, with deep shadows caused by the illumination from a painted lamp at the top of the frame.  Beneath the lamp stand three FULL-FIGURED MEN in a barren, cell-like cubicle, staring straight ahead:  A HANGMAN holding a noose, an EXECUTIONER in the middle, holding an axe, and a MONK-LIKE INDIVIDUAL with a large vial of poison.  A metal nameplate is engraved: “The Executioners.”  Kolchak and Beatrice have the same thought at the same time.  Kolchak begins snapping pictures.

BEATRICE
Coincidence …?

KOLCHAK
What else?

BEATRICE
How could some Dutch painter three hundred years ago do our scene today … and be so right on?  It is Dutch, isn’t it?  Seventeenth Century?  What does the brochure say under “The Executioners?”

KOLCHAK
It’s not listed in here.

CURATOR’S VOICE
(from behind them)
We acquired it too late for our brochure.

ANGLE BROADENS TO INCLUDE CURATOR, a Vincent Price type, all charm, with a smooth, syrupy voice.

CURATOR
Awesome, isn’t it?  With a certain charming mystique?  Oh – I’m Emile van der Beck, curator of the gallery.  I see you’re taking notes …?

KOLCHAK
Carl Kolchak, Independent News Service … art critic.  And this is Miz Beatrice Mae Jessee.  You’re familiar with her best-known work, I’m sure – “Nude, Descending on Noose?”

CURATOR
Jessee?  Jessee?  Well, frankly, I specialize in 16th and 17th Century art …

KOLCHAK
When did you hang this one?

CURATOR
It arrived only four days ago, strangely enough, with no return address.  We don’t know the donor, and we haven’t authenticated it.  Yet.  Many of the artists in this particular exhibit are – you might say – persona non grata, you know.  Forgers.  Copyists.

KOLCHAK
You mean this could have been painted recently?  Copying the style of the Renaissance?

BEATRICE
Don’t be silly, Kolchak – you can see it’s old!

CURATOR
Quite right, Ms. Jessee.  At least 300 years old.  We tested the paint pigment; examined the canvas.  What we can’t authenticate is the artist.  It’s not signed.

BEATRICE
Could it be a Rembrandt?

CURATOR
If we could be so lucky …

KOLCHAK
Possible?

CURATOR
Remotely.  Wouldn’t that be exciting?  An undiscovered painting by the great master himself, making its debut in Chicago?  Imagine …

CAMERA PUSHES IN closer and closer on the painting as the Curator speaks, until the Hangman’s hands, holding the noose, FILL THE FRAME.

Later that night, a WATCHMAN makes rounds in the closed gallery.  Gradually we notice, on the balcony overlooking the gallery near “The Executioners,” a pair of HANDS holding a noose.  The Night Watchman moves closer to the painting … examines it … and is LASSOED by the noose and jerked upward by powerful arms that secure the rope to the balcony railing.  He chokes, dies, swings still.

ACT TWO


INT. INS OFFICES – DAY


Vincenzo is predictably dissatisfied with Kolchak’s “art” piece, focusing as it does on the death of the night watchman.

UPDYKE
What happened, Carl?  Your ghost writer crawl out from under your sheet?

KOLCHAK
Stay out of this, Updyke!  Don’t fool with Fate!

VINCENZO
Fate …?

KOLCHAK
Fate!  Can’t you see what’s happening, Tony?  Fate took me to that museum yesterday where the watchman was hung!  Fate made me park my car in the front of the very motel where the salesman was decapitated less than three hours after I left!
(pushing a red pin into a Chicago street map on the wall)
… and this pinhead here … that poor waitress?  Do you realize it was just my fate she was poisoned in the very apartment house where my cousin Lucille’s boyfriend used to live, which makes me familiar with the territory?

UPDYKE
Fate.  Hah.

KOLCHAK
Ah, ah, ah, Updyke – don’t tempt Fate when she’s right there
(pointing skyward)
…looking down on me, saying, “Kolchak!  Get cracking on those murder stories, pronto!”

VINCENZO
(pointing up)
There …?

KOLCHAK
Right there.

Vincenzo reaches up into the air.  Grabs an imaginary object.  Holds “it” in his outstretched hand for Kolchak’s inspection.

VINCENZO
See that, Carl?  Now your fate is in my hand
(which he CLOSES, squeezing tightly)
… Get the picture?

KOLCHAK
(nodding slowly)
Worth a thousand words …

Kolchak dashes back to the museum before he can be stopped.  He corners the Curator in his office.  He leaves his draft of the article for “approval” and sneaks into the gallery (saying, “It makes me nervous to watch anyone read my copy”), where he notices bright red flecks on the edge of the Executioner’s axe in the painting.  He scrapes some onto a sheet of paper, which he folds into his pocket.  He then discovers a signature of sorts, in the lower right-hand corner of the canvas, concealed by fresh paint.  By shining his penlight through the canvas from behind, he perceives a capital B, a small o-e, and a scrawl.

A police lab buddy of Kolchak’s (a “bribe-ee” like Gordy the Ghoul) identifies the red flecks as human blood.  Kolchak hurries back to Beatrice’s art class, where she is sketching a nude dude clutching a baseball bat.  He cuts her loose for lunch – another bribe.

EXT. “PAUL’S PLACE” – DAY – ON ONLOOKERS AND TOURISTS


KOLCHAK (VO)
Whenever a murder takes place, there’s always the morbid out to see the scene of the crime.  They say the day after Valentine’s Day, 1929, you couldn’t get near the Clark Street Garage … which, incidentally, is just up the block from Paul’s Place.

INT. “PAUL’S PLACE” – DAY – ON TABLE PLACEMAT


AS Beatrice fills in the name HENRI BOETJE.

KOLCHAK
Henry Boach?

BEATRICE
On-ray Boe-chee.  A Belgian painter who may or may not have studied with Rembrandt.  He was a real weirdo – or in Dutch, “vierdo?” – whatever.  Know what he mixed into his pigment?

KOLCHAK
Don’t make me guess.

BEATRICE
Human ashes.

KOLCHAK
To add life to his paintings?

BEATRICE
No, now, seriously!  Henri Boetje was a convicted murderer who admitted killing a dozen people, then cremating them and mixing their ashes with his oils.  Before the cremations he drained their blood and used it –

KOLCHAK
Instead of turpentine, right?

BEATRICE
You peeked …

Kolchak phones CASEY, his police-lab connection, to tell him their “deal” for football tickets is off, since Carl already knows about the blood.  Casey tells him the blood from the painting is not three centuries old … but less than 24 hours old.  He hangs up.  Kolchak, panicked, calls him back.  Casey smoothly finagles three tickets on the fifty yard line and “no info over the phone.”  Kolchak dashes out of Paul’s place, leaving Beatrice to pay for lunch.

MAN AT NEXT TABLE
Forget that creep, lady.  A deadbeat if I ever saw one!

It is the same man Kolchak just elbowed aside to hog the payphone.

INT. INS OFFICES – DAY – ON UPDYKE


KOLCHAK (VO)
I’m not really a murderer at heart.  When I told Updyke I’d kill him if he didn’t give me three tickets to the Bears-Packers game, I didn’t really mean “kill,” like dead, know what I mean?  Even though he told Vincenzo later that I had threatened his life, he couldn’t have honestly believed me.  Otherwise, why would he have had the guts to make me settle for two?

INT. POLICE LAB – DAY – ON CASEY


CASEY
Two …?

KOLCHAK
And my personal IOU guaranteeing you another ticket before Saturday!  Trust me!  On my mother’s grave I swear!

CASEY
Some mother.  This the one you needed to buy a birthday present for, yesterday?

KOLCHAK
Flowers!  Next to her tombstone!  Casey?  I need that info.

CASEY
Okay… it’s fresh blood, as I said.  Very rare type: AB negative, the kind they ask for donors on radio and TV when someone needs a transfusion, you know?

KOLCHAK
Those three decapitation victims – you find out their blood types?

CASEY
Don’t have to.  I already know.

KOLCHAK
What’ll it cost me to know what you know?  My right arm?  Here!  Cut it off right here at the elbow!

CASEY
On the house – they were all plain “O.”

KOLCHAK
What about the fourth victim?

Casey needs a sample to tell, so Kolchak sets out to find one from ROGER (the window dresser) by breaking into the dress shop.  He is suddenly confronted by a bizarre apparition:  an ELDERLY ITALIAN GUARD brandishing a drum-fed Tommy gun!

GUARD
I’ll get you!  You no get outta here alive!

The Guard RAKES the upstairs storage area with bullets, and Kolchak is hit.

ACT THREE


INT. STOREROOM – DAY – CLOSE ON GUARD


PHOTOGRAPHER (OS)
Hold the machinegun higher, Joe!  Higher – like you’re ready to mow down a G-man!  Look tough!

CLOSE ON KOLCHAK – BEING BANDAGED

KOLCHAK (VO)
I was still alive, having survived one of those movie cowboy injuries – a bullet grazing my shoulder.  None of the reporters were bothering about me.  They’d found themselves a living legend:  Joe Costello, a gangster from the Prohibition era.

JOE
Sure, I knew Capone!  Old Al and me used to eat dinner at this little restaurant in Cicero called the Domino Club.  It ain’t there no more.  It got messed up one night when Moran’s gang come in and shot up the place …

KOLCHAK (VO)
Unfortunately, my wounded shoulder was one of my lesser problems at the moment.  There was this Lt. Frisbee … who hated my guts anyway …

Frisbee JAILS Kolchak.  Vincenzo bails him out.

INT. INS OFFICES – DAY – EXCU VINCENZO


VINCENZO
(through grit teeth)
Ballet, Carl!  B-A-L-L-lay!  You will cover ballet, and only ballet, even if it means wearing a tutu and toe shoes – you dig?

KOLCHAK
Luckily, my legs are nice.  I suppose I could shave them.

VINCENZO
Not funny.  Remember, you are out on bail for illegal entry, and if the owners of the dress shop should decide to press charges …

KOLCHAK
Ballet?

VINCENZO
Ballet.

INT. POLICE LAB – DAY


KOLCHAK (VO)
On my way to the ballet interview, I just happened to be passing by the police lab …

Casey verifies that the window dresser’s blood was also the elusive type AB.  Kolchak returns to the museum to try and gain some further clue from the painting, and confronts Emile van der Beck with the information concerning Henri Boetje.

INT. CURATOR’S OFFICE – DAY


KOLCHAK (VO)
Something told me that the curator knew all along that this was no long-lost Rembrandt.  I was right …

CURATOR
I knew Henri Boetje … only too well.  Henri Boetje was my great-great, ad infinitum grandfather, on my mother’s side.  The painting had been handed down through the generations to me, the last living direct descendant.  I’m not married; I have no children … frankly, all my life I’ve been curious to see the painting.

KOLCHAK
You mean you never saw it before --?

CURATOR
Not until four days ago.  It’s been crated up, in storage, ever since I inherited it.  Actually, no one has seen the painting since 1879, to be precise.  In Brussells.

CURATOR
Mr. Kolchak … I said I never married, never intended to have children … it’s these headaches, inherited, every fourth generation male.  No one should be forced to suffer like this.  No one!  They must stop!  With me!  Oh, my god – I can’t think

INT. PUBLIC LIBRARY – DAY


KOLCHAK (VO)
Actually, van der Beck never did answer my question, so I did a little research with the aid of a Belgian exchange student.  In the Chicago Main Library we found an obscure Belgian almanac, published in Brussells in 1880, listing notable events of the previous year.  It seems an unexplained series of triple murders took place in the city during that previous year … 1879.

Kolchak hands the student a $10 bill.

INT. INS OFFICES – DAY – (AS KOLCHAK TYPES)

KOLCHAK (VO)
The Becker Museum seemed to be the focal point for the current series of murders.  But who is the murderer – or murderers?  Just for a starter, how about Emile van der Beck?

Vincenzo, totally snowed, thinks Kolchak is finishing up his art and ballet pieces.  He tosses some photos for the articles on Kolchak’s desk.  Carl notices two slightly different shots of “The Executioners.”

INT. “PAUL’S PLACE” – DAY – CLOSE ON PHOTOS – KOLCHAK AND BEATRICE

KOLCHAK
One was taken the day you and I visited the Museum of Art.  The other was taken the next day, when I was alone – after the watchman was hanged.  You’re an artist; your eyes are trained to spot details.  If you can’t see it … maybe it’s not there.

BEATRICE
(squinting)
Well … it’s probably when they developed the pictures … yeah, it must be …

KOLCHAK
What?

BEATRICE
Don’t laugh, but it looks to me like the hangman’s hands are in a different position in this one …

KOLCHAK
And the noose is shorter?

BEATRICE
Yeah.

KOLCHAK
(leaping up and kissing her)
You’re terrific!  Pay the check; I’ll reimburse you later!

BEATRICE
Where’re you going?

KOLCHAK
To prevent three murders – if I can!

BEATRICE
(fumbling in her purse – again)
Least he could do under the circumstances … was go Dutch …

ACT FOUR


EXT. PHONE BOOTH – NIGHT


KOLCHAK (VO)
Personally, I hate people who call me on the phone and disguise their voices … but, sometimes …

Kolchak affects a very heavy, mock-German accent:

KOLCHAK
Herr van der Beck …?  You do not know me, Herr van der Beck, but I haff a painting vitch I am sure vill be of great interest to you.  Perhaps if I dropped a hint?
(very confidential)
Herr Goering’s private collection … interested, ja?

Van der Beck is holed up in his office, alone, one light showing.  Drinking.

CURATOR
I might be …

KOLCHAK
Goot.  Perhaps you are available to see me now …?

CURATOR
No, no … not tonight.  Ah – tomorrow.  Call me tomorrow.  I’ll be leaving here shortly tonight.

Kolchak hangs up and speeds away after completing the call.

KOLCHAK (VO)
I was only two minutes away from the Museum; certainly enough time to get there before van der Beck could leave.  But his idea of a “short time” and mine certainly differed.  I waited over an hour.  Then –

Kolchak spots a shadowy, indistinct figure sneaking out a side door.  He tracks it to a nearby apartment building.  The figure takes the elevator to the fifth floor.  Kolchak hustles up the stairs just in time to hear a WOMAN, screaming.  He rushes into an open apartment and barely avoids being split in two by the EXECUTIONER’S AXE.

KOLCHAK – FROM MURDER’S POV – MOVING

KOLCHAK
Van der Beck!  Take it easy!  I know it’s you – but it’s your headaches that are making you do this!

But the figure seems much more the Executioner from the painting than the frail van der Beck.  Kolchak heaves a chair; the axeman hacks it apart in mid-air.  As the killer bears in, Kolchak DUCKS – and the axeman goes flying out the apartment window from the force of his own swing.  When Kolchak hurries downstairs he finds nothing on the sidewalk below except a large, running, multicolored blob of PAINT … and an extremely upset ELDERLY LADY whose poodle has just tracked into the mess.  She saw no body fall.  Kolchak hurries back to the Museum … and the Lady, thinking him to be some sort of paint-balloon prankster, sends the oncoming police after him.

INT. BECKER MUSEUM OF ART – NIGHT – MOVING WITH KOLCHAK


KOLCHAK (VO)
What I’d just seen didn’t make a lick of sense; still, there had to be some kind of explanation, and somewhere inside the art museum I felt there was the answer.

He finds an answer he didn’t count on:  van der Beck’s DEAD BODY.

KOLCHAK (VO)
Dead – from poison!  Well, that kicked my theory into a cocked hat.  That Emile van der Beck was some kind of insane killer, murder being a habit he had inherited from his ancestor, the artist, Henri Boetje.  Well, if it wasn’t van der Beck, then who …?

Kolchak heads back to the painting, in much the way the nightwatchman had, earlier.  We SEE the waiting set of hangman’s hands, the ready noose.  EXCEPT …

“The Executioners” is now singular.  The only figure in the painting is the MONK-LIKE FIGURE holding the poison vial.  The HANGMAN is missing.  In the empty space where the AXEMAN once stood is a dripping puddle of paint, as though the figure had been reduced back to its basic pigments.

Suddenly a NOOSE drops around Kolchak’s head from above.  He is hauled off the floor by the HANGMAN.  Carl scrabbles for his penknife and is unable to slice through the thick hemp.  His feet leave the ground.  His hands struggle to keep the noose from drawing tighter.  He gives a final yank and the Hangman – who has been unable to secure the rope to the railing due to Kolchak’s struggles – FALLS over the edge to get SKEWERED on a lance protruding from a full set of knight’s armor.

The HANGMAN’s body immediately begins to dissolve into dripping paint, coating the armor thickly.  As a mystified Kolchak watches, a similar puddle of paint is forming beneath the spot where the Hangman stood in the painting.

Kolchak stares at the painting for a moment, then sticks his penknife into the Monk-Like Figure.  The paint again starts to flow.  Kolchak SLASHES the canvas.  Smashes the frame against the gallery floor.  The PAINTED LAMP on the canvas abruptly flares, starting a real fire.  The fire quickly engulfs the Museum.

KOLCHAK (VO)
What Mrs. O’Leary’s cow failed to do, the painted lamp in the painting did!  It was obvious the museum would be completely consumed by flames in minutes.  I couldn’t think of anything to save except myself … and?

Kolchak salvages Emile van der Beck’s body, dragging it from the office and lugging it out into the night on his shoulders.

KOLCHAK (VO)
Don’t ask me why I thought it was important to save a dead body.  Maybe because it was the only legitimate dead body in the place I could scoop up and save without stuffing it into an oil paint tube …

EXT. INS BUILDING – THE NEXT DAY


Beatrice Mae Jessee ENTERS the building, carrying a wrapped painting.

KOLCHAK (VO)
Things are back to normal now.  The woman who almost got hacked up by the axeman now thinks it might have been a nightmare … that it wasn’t real at all.  I didn’t dispute her theory.  How could I prove what actually happened?  Who’d believe a painting could come to life?

INT. INS OFFICES – DAY


As Beatrice holds up the painting for Kolchak.  It is her NUDE BASEBALL PLAYER.

BEATRICE
You can hang him over your bed!

KOLCHAK
I don’t want him over my bed!  Suppose in the middle of the night he decided to crack me with his bat?

BEATRICE
That is stupid, Carl Kolchak.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!

KOLCHAK
I know, but just to be on the safe side, how about I trade the ball player for your “Nude in the Noose” broad?  I wouldn’t mind if she climbed out of her frame …

Beatrice shakes her head and starts re-wrapping the painting as Kolchak mugs ferociously.  FADE OUT/END.

#

It seems like no accident that Beatrice’s last line of dialog echoes one of the most infamous lines from Plan 9 From Outer Space … because had “The Executioners” gone to production, it surely would have usurped the worst-of-series berth.
            In a way, “badness” in the sense of the schlock horror/science fiction films of the 1950s was what KTNS was all about.  The entertainment value of the series derives largely from a wealth of eccentric peripheral characters (the folks from whom Kolchak bribes, wheedles and cons his leads) and his weekly run-ins with the regulars, in particular his florid arguments with Anthony Albert Vincenzo.  That Kolchak will overcome the weekly menace is never in question.  The point of the show was that it was kind of a Rockford Files of the supernatural, demonstrating how blithely Kolchak copes with the day-to-day madness (and monsters) surrounding him in a contemporary urban environment.
            “The Executioners” seems spun off from two primary sources:  The hour-long Twilight Zone episode “The New Exhibit” (in which Jack the Ripper, Bluebeard and other members of a wax museum’s Murderer’s Row seem to come to life to dispatch people who threaten the existence of the exhibit) and Robert Bloch’s “The Grim Reaper,” a Thriller episode in which the eponymous painting apparently murders, with fresh blood appearing on the edge of its scythe each time a victim is reaped.
            The abundance of killings in “The Executioners” seems to be without any motivation whatsoever, and Kolchak is “saved by accident” too many times to count.  Business clearly depicted onscreen is nonetheless belabored by extraneous voice-overs from Kolchak and redundant dialog.  (In fact, this idea may hold the record for Most Kolchak Voice-Overs in a Single Show.)  Unlike other episodes, the en passant “conflicts” with Casey, Vincenzo, et al, are never really resolved.  Even a David Chase pass to spice up the antique dialog (all of which seems to have time-traveled to roost from a 1930s Warner Brothers gangster flick) probably would not have saved this one.
            Wax museum statues and paintings coming to life were both creaky horror tropes by the early 1970s anyway, although Night Gallery tried to freshen the latter up one more time in “The Cemetery” and “The Escape Route.”  (I’m sure there are other exceptions.)
            Discuss.

____________________________________________________

*            The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, founded 1874.

3 comments:

  1. Good points, DJS. And yes, this does seem like an early episode idea. The "living painting" concept appears logical enough for a KOLCHAK entry, but with NIGHT GALLERY's demise only three years old, I can see why Chase and the producers were hesitant. BTW, just as Ruth McDevitt re-appeared as Miss Emily after her initial "guest shot" in "The Ripper," the "Beatrice" from this tale might as well be Beatrice Colan again, this time using her own first name. "The Knightly Murders" seems to have inherited some of the notions here, although Kolchak was certainly no stranger to museums and their colorful curators in general. Yep, gotta agree: "The Executioners" was perhaps an episode best left unexecuted, at least in its current form.

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  2. Gee, I really like the idea behind this one. And Kolchak taking on three at once - sign me up. But it certainly would have needed some re-writing regardless.

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  3. This is the teleplay a rep from Moonstone Comics tried to tell me did not exist when I owned a copy. Hodge invented Mr. Freeze for the Batman franchise and dealing with three killers definitely had creepy possibilities for the show and this potential episode. Of course, the Beatrice Colen character Jane Plumm could not be here after her end in THE RIPPER, but producer switching on the show could have brought her back the way Miss Emily's name and role in the INS office kept changing for a while.

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