Friday, January 27, 2012

Episode 17: Legacy of Terror

Episode 17: Legacy of Terror aka Lord of the Smoking Mirror
Original Airdate: 2/14/75
Guest Starring: Erik Estrada, Ramon Bieri and Mickey Gilbert as The Mummy
Written by Arthur Rowe
Directed by Don McDougall

Bodies are turning up around Chicago with their hearts cut out. It doesn't take Kolchak long to figure out that an ancient Aztec plot to revive a mummy is underway, and only he can stop it.

JS: It's important to point out, right off the bat, that this episode is not titled "The Mummy." If it were, it might be fair to criticize it for the lack of a traditional, linen-wrapped monster-of-the-week. I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I realized that I wasn't going to see Carl chased by a classic step-drag-step mummy. This is more of a Carl Kolchak versus the Aztec Mummy.

PE: Weird way to begin a show. Lenny Strahan, one of the best linebackers in the NFL and owner of a very big heart, has that prized organ cut right out with a dull kitchen knife. But never mind that... how about that sweaty Green Beret who got his shirt torn to shreds? Was the budget too small for one more extra to play Lennie's attack scene or did we run out of time for that?

JS: Our Green Beret is assaulted by men in giant bird costumes (at this point we're hoping they're costumes, and not a case where the monster-of-the-week is a flock of giant man-eating parrots). It doesn't exactly instill confidence in the episode.

PE: LOL dialogue that, I assume, is not meant to be funny when the two dopes disguised as detectives are investigating the de-hearted Green Beret:
Detective #1: Looks like the heart was cut out with a dull blade again. Pretty messy.
Detective #2: Yeah. You know, it's been seven days since the football player got it. You notice the heart is... (counts) seven steps below the body. That could mean something.
After that exchange, I had to check the credits again to make sure this wasn't written by Larry Buchanan. Later on, we find out the number seven does indeed mean something special to The Aztec Heart Association, but why would this cop make the connection? Laughably, Kolchak enters the scene, is discovered and then makes his way down the blood-spattered stairway. Nope, no evidence at that crime scene, I guess.

JS: It's a nice subtle touch when Carl lowers his cassette recorder into the stairwell to catch the conversation.

PE: The case of the giant Indian who recited Old MacDonald was such an embarrassment to Police Captain Joe Baker (Ramon Bieri) that he changed his name to Captain Webster (Ramon Bieri). He didn't move out of town though and Kolchak's nice enough not to rub in their previous meeting. But then, Kolchak has amnesia when it comes to his past stories, doesn't he?

JS: I liked it when Tille Jones calls Vincenzo and the Air Force major out on the carpet for not letting the young female Air Force captain (Udana Power) get a word in edgewise. There's nothing like introducing an empowered woman, putting her in a nightgown in the next scene, and then proceeding to cut her heart out.

PE: LOL-dialogue, when Carl goes to interview a taxidermist, the man goes nuts when Kolchak identifies himself as a reporter: 
Taxidermist: Get out! I know the attitude of the press towards taxidermy! Always ridiculing us. Always using the term "stuffed animals" as if we make toys for children to chew on!
Carl (flustered): No! You have exactly the wrong attitude! That's not what I think at all! 
Taxidermist: If you were a wild creature, Mr. Kolchak... would you rather end up like this (points at a stuffed vulture)... glorified, eternal... or dumped on some trash heap?
Carl: There's no question how I'd like to end up... uh, like this (points to the vulture)!
JS: I thought Erik Estrada was a perfectly reasonable choice for the aloof Pepe (but then I watched CHiPs religiously growing up). His intro was great—thinking the Air Force major was his airport shuttle driver. And I thought his performance makes sense once we fully understand Pepe's situation.

PE: I'm surprised that Estrada didn't hang up his acting career after watching the airing of "Legacy of Terror" on national TV. Cast as a flute-playing jerk named Pepe Torres and wearing a pink three piece suit couldn't have helped him win any plum roles (I doubt it advanced the cause of "Hispanic role models on television" either). The only consolation, I guess, is that by this time the Night Stalker ratings were so low, no one saw him. But what do I know? Two years after this aired, he was the Fonz-caliber star of CHimPs, which inexplicably lasted six seasons. His stand-out dialogue here, when Carl interrupts his flute playing: "Friend, you're bending my mind off my music!"

JS: You no like the Tony Montana collection? Are you telling me you didn't catch your share of fish on sharp collars like that in the 70s? Perhaps you weren't paying attention, but the lovely ladies couldn't seem to get enough of Pepe's charm in this episode. Let's meet our bachelorettes...

Dorrie Thomson as Lona - Pepe's 'Secretary'
Merrie Lynn Ross as Nina - Pepe's 'Art Department'
Sondra Currie as Vicky - Pepe's 'Executive Assistant'
PE: This doesn't sound like such a great life, even for a mummy. Every 52 years you wake up to make sure you've had five hearts cut out then you go back to sleep for another 52 years. Those Aztecs sure were nutty!

JS: Time out, Green Bay—did someone think we wouldn't notice that this is the same old story, same old song and dance struck from the original Night Stalker/Strangler/Ripper mold?

PE: Carl just wanders into the Chicago Sports Arena at midnight and it's fully lit! No one's aware this is going on in such a popular facility? And, I'm no expert in Chicago architecture but could the nose bleeds in a basketball arena really be the highest staircase in that city? They've got skyscrapers, don't they, or were those built after 1975?

JS: In preparation for the final sacrifice, Estrada dons an outfit that looked a hell of a lot better on Gina Gershon in Showgirls. Well, a little bit better, anyway.

PE: Deadly dull episode, with a snail's pace, gawdawful acting (whose idea was it to give Estrada a monologue about how he'd have ended up had he not taken the bargain?), and a criminally anticlimactic ending. The mummy, about to cleave Carl in two, simply falls on him, back to sleep. I know just how he felt. And what's with the opening of the mummy's eyes seconds before our end credits begin to roll?

JS: There's a bit of a Beneath the Planet of the Apes mutant-look to the mummy, which is more effective than some of the other monsters Carl has faced. And forgetting about the mummy's eyes opening... what's with Carl speaking right to the audience at the end?

PE Rating:

JS Rating:

Next up... Kolchak faces the Black Cross Knight!


  1. My least favorite episode,hands down. I missed this one as a kid,so my first exposure to it was as a rational adult and it was a rough ride. Free of nostalgia,its hard to see Estrada do anything outside of Ponch and not immediately picture him disco dancing across the stage to Kool and the Gang,in a vain attempt at destroying the scourge of punk rock.

    It's too bad KOLCHAK didn't use the "Rock,Devil,Rock" script from CHiPs. Carl mingling in the world of 70's KISS ripoff arena rock would have been a real keeper and a gold mine of witty banter.

  2. This one was prettttty awful but it weren't the worst as far as I'm concerned. We'll read about that one (SPOILER ALERT!) next Tuesday Gawd willin' and the Crick don't rise.

  3. Peter, I refuse to believe that there is an episode worse than this one. You are just trying to make sure that we don't give up and forget to tune in for the last couple of shows.

    Hey, the 3 bachelorettes all look alike to me; this is always a bad sign.

  4. Walker!

    Have I ever lied to you?
    Legacy of Terror is Pigeons from Hell compared to the one coming up!

  5. If you're going to bash THE SENTRY, I'm leaving! OK, I'll stay, but no jokes about the lizard suit. (;

    I love LEGACY OF TERROR. Screw everybody! hahaha

  6. Doug, I'm guessing Peter is talking about The Knightly Murders.

  7. Well, I'm still not going to give it away but you're both wrong! :>

  8. Suddenly we're all talking like dialogue from a KOLCHAK show! That's what a month of this has done to our brains...

  9. That last priceless witticism came from me. Must've hit the wrong damn button or something (in typical Carl Kolchak fashion)...

  10. What - you're going to give the smackdown to a Cathy Lee Crosby episode?! You'd think the Batbabe rating alone would have saved it.

  11. "The Youth Killer" is the nadir of the series in your view, Pete? Hmmm, I like that one a lot better than "THE ENERGY EATER", but we all have our favorites and least favorites. I've seen a lot of people dump on "The Werewolf" and "The Sentry", and those are two of my faves, so there ya go. I look forward to your comments!

  12. I don't have a single least favorite, but I would classify this one, a possible candidate, as "right down there."

  13. #8 of 20, 3 1/2 stars, very underrated. Even Erik Estrada isn't that bad, nice to see Thriller alum Pippa Scott, I enjoyed learned about the Aztec mythology, a human sacrifice at the top of a baseball stadium is a clever touch.

  14. When I saw Erik Estrada appear on screen in a pink sports jacket, I knew this would not end well. What is interesting though is how the show pivoted from high drama in the two movies to comedy in the TV series without losing a beat. The arguments between Kolchak and Vincenzo are now just a schtick they do and they milk it for humor. Interestingly enough, it works great! I love it! In general, they're not afraid to inject comedy into the series, which is a good thing. When Kolchak is knocked out, a medic asks him if he needs an X-ray; Kolchak shoots back, "no pictures! I don't want anyone to see what's in there". Lol

    This is definitely not one of the best villains. It's hard to develop a lot of tension and atmosphere in a 30 minute show. Nonetheless, they do succeed in episodes like Spanish Moss and the Zombie. This one is not an example, unfortunately.

    Maybe it all comes down to sets. The junkyard where he finds the zombie is a fantastic idea; the underground sewers where he fights the Cajun monster in Spanish Moss is also a great idea. The underground of Seattle in the Night Strangler movie is another example. Unfortunately, there's no set here to fire the imagination and the monster, if you can call it one, is shown in very quick cuts.