Monday, January 16, 2012

Episode 8: Bad Medicine

Episode 8: Bad Medicine aka The Diablero
Original Airdate: 11/29/74
Guest Starring: Victor Jory, Ramon Bieri
and Richard Kiel as The Diablero
Written by L. Ford Neale and John Huff
Directed by Alex Grasshoff

Someone is stealing jewels from Chicago's upper class, leaving feathers or footprints alongside the bodies of victims that by all appearances have committed suicide. A mysterious giant Indian is spotted at one of the crime scenes, leading Kolchak to research Native American folklore.

PE: Richard Kiel looks as comfortable in Native American gear as he did in his leprechaun uniform in the "Well of Doom" episode of Thriller. Just three years shy of superstardom as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me (and its sequel Moonraker). Here he doesn't do much but raise his arms threateningly and cringe from Carl's flash but I suppose that was his schtick before the Bond films. His only line is a verse from "Old MacDonald" (E-I-E-I-O).

JS: At first I thought I was just my imagination, but he kept singing it! I never knew that was a traditional Native American tune. Personally, I think Kiel's most memorable performance was as the monster in the "I Was A Teenage Monster" episode of The Monkees.

PE: One thing I find interesting is that whenever there's an argument over a story, Tony never brings up Carl's past accomplishments. In this episode, for instance, there's a face-off over Carl's assertion that there's a story behind the suicides of the two socialites. Carl says something along the lines of "Why won't you let me follow up on this story" and Tony says, after a beat "Well, just look at you, you don't have any tact, no rapport with society." If I was Tony, I'd tell him he can't do the story because Carl will dig deep enough to find the murders were perpetrated by a vampire or a werewolf. And Carl himself seems amnesiac about his brushes with monsters. A few times he's exclaimed that he found it hard to believe what he was seeing. The producers, just once, should have filmed a scene where Kolchak sits down, has a drink and (ala Die Hard's John McClain) shouts "Not again! Why does this keep happening to me?"

JS: The newsroom sequences throughout this episode utilize the full cast to great effectiveness. I hope Updyke and Miss Emily get similar opportunities to shine in future episodes. My favorite bit was when Kolchak, to the dismay of his peers, searches for a page in the phone book, only to find that it has previously been torn out of most of the copies (by him).

PE: Our laugh-out-loud sequence this episode belongs to Carl, Updyke, and Miss Emily, When Carl calls Miss Emily to get some information out of Updyke, he sets into motion all manner of slapstick. I've not seen Jack Grinnage used to good effect until this sequence and Ruth McDevitt (who, I've gone on record as saying, annoyed me more than Aunt Harriet) shows she's got comedic skills as well. It's a nicely choreographed scene ala the morgue sequence in "The Zombie."

JS: I enjoyed Kolchak's visit to ex-con/barber portrayed by Marvin Kaplan. Despite getting the info he needed on diamonds, it was clear he wasn't comfortable going under Delgado's razor. Kaplan is a memorable comedic character actor who had recurring roles in Alice and the post-Twin Peaks David Lynch/Mark Frost production On The Air. Of course once you've seen him as "Uncle Pooch" in Lynch's Wild At Heart, you'll never look at him the same again.

PE: I almost laughed out loud seeing character actor Victor Jory in a grey hippie wig until I checked out his c.v. Jory had played Indians several times before in projects as diverse as F Troop (as Chief Mean Buffalo) and John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn (as Tall Tree). I still think the wig looks funky on him.

JS: It was a darn shame that Kolchak forgot to bring the photo he took of the Diablero with him when he met with Dr. Temple. What a stroke of luck the museum happened to have their own 8' tall Diablero on display!

PE: Charlotte Elaine Van Piet's neighborhood sure looks familiar to those who followed our Thriller-a-Day blog.

JS: I thought this episode featured a nice integration of Kolchak and the cops. Sure, it's a stretch to believe that he can worm his way into a two-eleven in progress, but the way he pulls the Mustang right in line with the squad cars, you'd think he was just another one of the boys in blue.

PE: Captain Joe Baker (Bieri) gets the "Top Cop" badge from me. He's much more than the usual "Get out of here, Kolchak!"lawman (though there's a lot of that as well). Witness the scene in Baker's office where the cop listens to Carl rant about an Indian who can turn into a crow and a coyote, then asks, quizzically, "What does an Indian sorcerer need with expensive jewels?' Kolchak is speechless for once. Great interaction here between the two actors. Bieri's one of those faces I remember from sitting in front of a TV set three hours a night in the 1970s. He popped up on Ironside, Kung Fu, Mannix, Cannon and all the other staples of my childhood.

JS: The Diablero's weakness is a bit silly. Every time Kolchak takes his picture, Richard Kiel looks like he's going to cry. And then we find out that his reflection is what it will take to vanquish him? Sure, he's not the most handsome of the usual suspects in the line-up, but come on! They did give him a particularly nasty onscreen disintegration.

PE: I forgot that 1974 was the year of the Moog when it came to TV soundtracks. Especially grating is "Coyote''s Theme."

JS: Would you be happier with the return of Gil Mellé? I'll take Jerry Fielding, thanks.

PE: Have we ever or do we ever get to see Carl Kolchak's domicile?

JS: There's a lot to appreciate here—but oddly enough very little of it has to do with our monster of the week.

PE: A few good bits here and there but not one of the better shows. I've a feeling that Kiel's second appearance on Kolchak: The Night Stalker may be just the medicine the doctor ordered.

PE Rating:

JS Rating:

Next up... Kolchak faces Peremalfait!


  1. Thank god, I thought it was just me who picked up on that spooky "E-I-E-I-O....Ohhhhhhhh-E-I-E-I-O.......OHHHHHHHHHH-E-I-E-I-Oh...Eya OYE!!!!!!"

    I love the way that chant of The Diablero's starts out all synthesized. It's like his voice is being run through an Eventide Harmonizer or a Vocoder. The closer Carl gets to the source of the weird sound, the more distinct it gets, until it ends up unmistakably being that deep guttural Richard Kiel voice. "Oh, Eya Oh...". It's at once both silly sounding and strangely frightening, kind of like the giant in Jack & The Beanstalk's "Fee Fi Fo Fum".

    In any case, this is another of my favorite episodes. What can I say, Richard Kiel scared the health out of me as a kid.

    Great comments all around on this one, boys. You captured a lot of what I love about this episode. Oh, it should be mentioned that VICTOR JORY plays a very similar role in the TV movie, DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND FROM HELL, only he's more of an Aztec rainforest Indian guy in that...or something.

  2. Ruth McDevitt wa a very good comedy actress in general. In the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode The Cadaver," she played about the best comic relief character that show had.
    Ramon Bieri has always reminded me vaguely of Simon Oakland himself, so it's fitting that he was in this one. Did he and Oakland have any scenes together?

  3. "but the way he pulls the Mustang right in line with the squad cars, you'd think he was just another one of the boys in blue."

    I don't think one of the boys in blue would have hemmed in one of their own the way Kolchak did to that cop in the vehicle next to his. It was pretty darn funny to see that cop struggling to get out, while Kolchak bounds away, oblivious to what he's done. When the Diablero jumps off the roof, we get a nice overhead shot that shows how closely his Mustang is parked next to that squad car. Totally Kolchak.

  4. Allow me to lap myself (!) by re-quoting a bit of my writeup on the unfilmed KTNS episode “The Executioners,” yet-to-come here on the Blarg:

    “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.”

    Point being, the fact that a “monster” might be a huge guy in a bad suit or half-hearted streaks of greasepaint doesn’t necessarily increase the suspension of disbelief needed to accept said “monster” as a supernatural threat.

    One interesting facet of the series is that even when dealing with hoary ghost stories — “it’s back, it wants something, and we have to deactivate it” — THE NIGHT STALKER always found a new way into an old wrinkle, such as imposing the concert scene and pyromania onto “Firefall,” adding the classic 1950s biker angle to “Chopper,” or the whole discotheque subplot to “The Knightly Murders.” Again, I suspect David Chase was the guy who livened things up, as story editor. I’m willing to bet the original story proposals were much more dire and conventional before being “modernized” a la Kolchak.

  5. I can never see Bieri without remembering him as Major Manchek in one of my favorite films, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, scored by our own Gil Melle. And I agree that Bieri was an above-average police foil for Carl.

  6. The L. Ford Neale and John Huff writing output is interesting for me because they are responsible for my least favorite episode ("Mr. R.I.N.G."), my most favorite episode ("The Sentry") and this one, which I'm kind of halfway on. I believe Keil as the Diablero, but for most of the show, he doesn't look like the "incredible, horrific demon" everyone proclaims him to be.

  7. Underrated, #7 of 20, 3 1/2 typewriters. I really liked this one, only quibbles- the 'dead' dogs with red paint splashed on them are moving ( I don't blame the dogs), and at the end of the ep its stated the Diablero stole jewels from Napoleon, Tsar Nicholas, Queen Elizabeth, etc. so why didn't he kill them too?