Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Episode 19: The Youth Killer

Episode 19: The Youth Killer
Original Airdate: 3/14/75
Guest Starring: John Fiedler, Cathy Lee Crosby
Written by Rudolph Borchert
Directed by Don McDougall

Kolchak's assignment to write a swinging-singles article just happens to coincide with a series of mysterious deaths in Chicago, where bodies of young folks are not just turning up dead, they're turning up old.

JS: In this episode, we find out a little more about Carl when it becomes clear that the thought of marriage is more terrifying to him than any of the monsters he has faced.

PE: One wonders: if Carl had stayed on the Swingin' Singles Scene story like Tony Vincenzo had ordered him to do, would he have worked his way around to uncovering Helen of Troy anyway?

JS: Unfortunately things get off to a bad start with the jogger. Dissolves were not the best way to go to establish the instant aging. It just didn't work. I did like how the guys who came to collect the dead body the next morning basically picked it up like a bag of trash and threw it onto the gurney. No respect for old folks in this episode, that's for sure (with our apologies to Miss Emily).

PE: For an old-timer, Cynthia Tibbs does a fabulous half-gainer off her balcony. The three judges below rated Tibbs an average of 9. But, other than the fact that a future Olympic diver is no more, I'm mystified as to why the entire police force of Chicago had to show up to the scene.

JS: I thought her aging scene was handled brilliantly. As she dipped in and out of frame during her exercise routine,  she went through a number of interesting make-up transitions before going over the edge (Since this scene was obviously filmed without cuts, I thought it was brilliant that the make-up man was able to apply each prosthesis in a matter of seconds!-PE). Make note of this, because it's an indication that they weren't without the skills or budget to do decent old-age make-ups.

PE: Lance (Michael Richardson) comes to his computer dating interview dressed to the nines. I've never tried one of these dating services but I can tell I wouldn't go far. I don't own a Chuck Norris jacket or Elvis belt buckle and I've never worn lipstick. Well, not that shade at least. Later, when he's getting dressed (as Bobby Riggs, if I'm not mistaken), there's some queasy stuff going on with Lance's domineering mother. I'm not sure I'd want my mom checking out the fur on my legs and, if she was, I'd appreciate it if she'd keep it to herself.

JS: I have to imagine that for the computer nerds of 1975, there was nothing quite like seeing Cathy Lee Crosby fondle a punch card. My question is this: by giving Helen in toga gear curly hair, and Helen in the office Farrah-hair, were they trying to imply that these were two different women?

PE: The stretching of credibility this episode doesn't stem from a goddess with bad make-up who gets rid of the sandbags under her eyes by stealing the youth of men but the fact that Carl Kolchak was able to match that key to an apartment.

JS: While I guess we owe the writer our appreciation for not spinning another 'every 69 years Helen has to suck the life out of attractive young men and women' yarn, wouldn't it make sense that in her aged state, Helen look more like the aged state of her victims (and, is that Cathy's nose or a leftover prop from Twilight Zone's "Eye of the Beholder"?-PE)?

PE: Other than those monstrous potato sacks under Cathy Lee's eyes, she looks like she's doin' pretty good to me. Now, if the make-up man had rigged up some grey in that beautiful blonde hair, some wrinkles on those perfect hands, and some of those down-to-the-knees breasts I've seen in the clubs I frequent, I'd have found it a little easier to believe that this Helen was a few thousand years old.

JS: Perhaps Crosby had it in her contract that she could never look worse than could be hidden by a pair of sunglasses when she wasn't needed on set.

PE: Watching Lance's last few minutes as he staggers through the park, I sure called that Bobby Riggs resemblance on the nose, didn't I?

JS: It's a reasonable trick at some point during an age-transformation scene to replace your young actor with an older actor, but if you're going to do that, you should at least try and find actors who look remotely alike. I can only imagine how bad this would have looked if the only old timer central casting could come up with on that day had been black. One thing I'm curious about is where this episode fell in production order. Carl made a reference to Tony doing Yoga in "The Knightly Murders," however his weight-loss regimen appears to originate here.

PE: What's the story with the Greek cab driver? Carl run out of museum curators? That's Telly Savalas' brother, George (who used his middle name, Demosthenes, for his TV roles), moonlighting as the brilliant Greek scholar/cabbie.

JS: Not only did I think he was fine, I actually preferred him to a number of the 'museum curators' that can only serve the plot of the particular episode they appear in. I assumed he's just one of the many connections that Carl has made through the years (like last episode's pawn shop owner who Carl was collaborating with on his biography). Had the show continued, I like to think that Carl would have been back the next time Pandora's Box was opened.

PE: Not much to say about this one. Definitely the worst episode of the series in my book, with the only plus being its obvious message, that we've become too wrapped up in beauty for our own good.  Obviously, in the 35 years since this was first aired, that facet of our society has only gotten worse. Is Helen the stand-in for the average woman who'll do anything, including human sacrifice, to stay young and beautiful? I'd have sacrificed a few goats to get some laughs with Tony Vincenzo. The only "humor" we get here is a drunk who keeps butting in to Carl's conversation with the cabbie. It's an awful sequence, smelling like some of the worst Foster Brooks routines, and stands out from the humor in past episodes like a Star Trek fan at Helen of Troy's Mix and Match dating service. I doubt you'd have found a scene like this in a David Chase script. One half a typewriter for Crosby's wet toga.

JS: For me, a few interesting old-age make-ups and the lovely contemporary Crosby (you can have the toga version - wet or dry) raise this one above the near UF-Zero of "They Have Been..."

PE Rating:

JS Rating:

Next up... Kolchak faces The Lizard People!


  1. At the risk of kicking an episode when it's down, and pretty far down at that, this one also presents another instance of what Trevi aficionados call the "haute couture effect." When Carl finds the Max Match scroll in the first victim's apartment, he seems to know what that's all about, yet later on, when he finds one in the dead girl's digs, he acts as though he's never seen one before. Again, the scenes were probably swapped while assembling the final cut.

    In for a penny, in for a pound: the thing that has bothered me about this episode since it was first aired is, if the glass eye made that sacrifice unacceptable to Hecate, she should have turned Helen to stone right then and there, rather than waiting until Carl mentioned it. Gods know these things. That's why they're gods and we're not. (Well, I haven't made up my mind about Peter yet, but...)

    And thank you for solving the long-standing mystery of why our cabbie friend was billed as "George Savalas" when playing the hapless Mulligan ("I said three minutes!") in KELLY'S HEROES and as Demosthenes here and opposite brother Telly on KOJAK. Not to be confused with KODIAK. Or KOLCHAK.

  2. "I'd have sacrificed a few goats to get some laughs with Tony Vincenzo."

    ...No love for the scene where Tony gets stuck in the Lotus Pose? That's actually one of my favorite Tony moments in the series (and the whole thing about him going on health-conscious is highly amusing, too--and, to top it off, Carl actively sabotaging him with the doughnut...)... pity the episode wasn't particularly strong overall.

    Though I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing Kathleen Freeman's gust spot...

    --Crystal Rose

  3. The old age make-ups scared me as a kid. I think I associated the shriveled-up lady on the balcony (the young girl doing her work out who falls to her death after turning ancient) with THE DEMON IN LACE succubus. I remember the guy in the red track suit turning old disturbed me, the fact that a young guy could turn into an old man and die just creeped me out as a kid. But yeah, I have to say that these days this is now one of the more bland episodes to me (again, I love them all like children!). I do think Cathy Lee does some great bone-chilling screaming at the end. She really sells it, sounding like Hecate is indeed doing something terrible to her. I give the episode points for that ending scene and for Savalas making with the mayo on Carl's ring finger (!).

  4. Interesting--I always mixed up this and "Demon in Lace" in my mind, so I'm not the only one who linked them. And yes, the mayo thing was great.

  5. My personal complaint - the "statue" of Cathy Lee Crosby doesn't look all that much like CLC; in fact, it's not really very attractive - something you'd expect from a statue of Helen of Troy!

  6. Gee, since I'm getting older I was hoping to pick up some tips about how to avoid old age. But this episode just made me feel older, especially when I realized I had wasted another 50 minutes of my remaining few hours.

  7. ...and, yes, Cathy Lee Crosby was television's first Wonder Woman in a failed TV movie pilot that may or may not have influenced her casting as yet another magical female from antiquity. Crosby is indeed a beautiful woman, especially when she isn't being compared to Lynda Carter in a star-spangled bathing suit. As for "Youth Killer," I'm afraid I must agree that this is one of the weaker KOLCHAK episodes, if not the weakest.

    1. The WW TV movie/pilot was actually quite successful and directly led to the series. They just wanted a different WW, thus, Carter.

  8. Not a big Crosby fan, but was amused by this passage from her Wikipedia entry:

    "Crosby was a co-host of the TV series THAT'S INCREDIBLE! from 1980 to 1984 on ABC, which remains in world-wide syndication. When the show first aired, she was sent by the executives at ABC, what she's come to refer to as 'the nipple memo,' informing her that it would be 'acceptable' if she went braless during her appearances on the show. She declined, tossing off her own memo saying, 'I would prefer to choose my own underwear.'"

    How times changed--in an earlier era, she'd have been excoriated by the network if she DID have anything protruding.

  9. Wonder Woman typecasting aside, this story always makes me wish that she'd played OTHER "villainess" roles. Has she ever played one outside of this story?

  10. As Matthew pointed out, the imperfection of the first victim we meet should've ended Helen's "career."

    The other plotting problem is the time frame. Does she have to suck the life out of someone every day? If so, there would be a mountain of rapidly aged bodies, and even the most dimwitted police chief would figure out something strange was going on.

    On the plus side, I really liked Carl getting his info from a cab driver instead of some academic, and the aging process while the woman was touching her toes was clever.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  11. Despite the uniform panning this episode is getting,i just wanted to add a Vincenzo moment i like when he blurts out how nobody cares about old people as Ms Emily walks into his line of sight.
    What about Reb (CAPTAIN AMERICA/YOR) Brown's appearance as one of the applicants? You get the pilot Wonder Woman and the TV Captain America rubbing shoulders with Carl Kolchak. That's got to account for something!

  12. JS: In this episode, we find out a little more about Carl when it becomes clear that the thought of marriage is more terrifying to him than any of the monsters he has faced.

    It seems a far cry from The Night Stalker movie Kolchak, who offhandedly proposed marriage to Gail Foster. You've come a long way, Carl.

  13. Excellent point, Glenn (and I should mention in passing that you have made a lot of insightful observations over at Marvel University as well, especially regarding the unfolding Ditko situation). There should have been--and perhaps originally was in the script--some sort of explanation that, say, she had a NIGHT STRANGLER-like need to claim X number of victims every X years or the like.

  14. Although "Kolchak" is fairly open to all the points made of its goofs, to my mind it escapes guilt by dint of its tongue-in-cheek approach. The series gets all manner of passes from this quarter by winking at me and tacitly asking that I relax, laugh, and enjoy. PS: It's maddening to see a familiar face and to not have the performer's name show up even in IMDB. Who played Cynthia Tibbs, the young woman doing calisthenics on the balcony?

  15. I agree with grgstv that the statue was very crude work. Charmed and Beastmaster at least hired decent sculptors for their episodes where people were getting petrified.

  16. Yeah, I'm afraid that this episode failed to spark the imagination. There were some comic pieces in it as if the writers were making fun of themselves. As we all know, in the Kolchak story template, there is always a point where he consults with an expert before going into the monsters lair. However, couldn't they find someone a bit more knowledgeable than an old Greek taxi driver mwhahaha?

    Admittedly, the part with the mayonnaise was hilarious, and vincenzo's health kick was also quite a lark. They should have just turned the whole series into a sitcom with a laugh track.

    Seriously though, the key, in my mind, to making an episode successful is atmosphere. the best episodes had incredible atmosphere thanks to a unique idea or an incredible set. Just look at Spanish Moss and the Zombie. They both had great success at creating an atmosphere. finding the zombie in that old junkyard was inspiration. I also love the underground city in Seattle where he hunted down the ripper. o

    Once you take out the atmosphere, all you have is a dude in an ape suit, and it gets old fast. There is no money for special effects and the writers should have realized this, and instead of concentrating on the grand reveal of the monster at the end, it would be much better to build up atmosphere.