Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kolchak is Coming Back—In Style!

Welcome, true believers, and Happy New Year!

Before we begin, we always feel it's appropriate to set the stage explaining our personal history with the show we're about to watch. So a few words on our relationship with Carl Kolchak.

John: While I was too young to catch the original TV movies when they aired, I do recall watching the series with my older siblings at the impressionable young age of 5. I recall very little about the show other than the back and forth between Darren McGavin and Simon Oakland. As a huge Richard Matheson fan, I have since seen both of the TV movies that he scripted numerous times, but this blog will be my first time exploring the series in its entirety. I'm looking forward to it!

Peter: I have a hazy memory of seeing the ad for the first film in the TV Guide. Of course, in those days, with no internet, TV movies (and movies in general) were a crapshoot. Sometimes you knew nothing at all about them. I watched a lot of TV when I was a teenager, a lot of TV horror films (A Cold Night' Death, the original Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Crowhaven Farm, Spielberg's double whammy of Something Evil and Duel, Killdozer, the list goes on and on), and a good percentage of these made-for-TV movies were better than the stuff we saw at the drive-in. Anyway, I saw the ad and excitedly tuned in that night to be blown away. I was. Everybody at school was talking about it the next day (TV-movie talk was uncommon in those days of Happy Days, Sanford and Son, and Flip Wilson). I was equally blown away by the sequel and was stoked by the news of the TV show. For a couple months there, Friday night was the best night of TV for genre fans, with Planet of the Apes on CBS at 8 and the more violent Night Stalker at 10. Paradise! I'm interested to see these again (for the first time since 1974) with older, if not more mature, eyes.

If you followed A Thriller A Day, We Are Controlling Transmission, or To The Batpoles, you're already familiar with how we'll be doing things with Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Once again we'll be running our episode reviews Monday through Friday. You can expect to see some familiar names dropping in to provide spotlight articles and regular commentary as we make our way through the series. Watch for our daily reviews to be posted each morning.

For each episode, our individual ratings will be listed separately (so it will be clear for you to direct your hate mail to Peter). Ratings will be in the form of 0-4 Typewriters:

Once again we've invited a respected authority on the show, Mark Dawidziak—author of The Night Stalker Companion, to offer his thoughts on each episode, as well as other interesting facts about the show and its cornucopia of special guest stars. Tomorrow we'll kick things off with an interview with Mark.

Thanks for joining us on this journey. We'll see you tomorrow!


  1. I was 30 in 1972 so I remember this series well. It made me a big fan of Darren McGavin and I'm always eager to see his films. Lately I've been watching his wise cracking and funny take on Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer character. He played the part in the late 1950's series for two seasons. It's been recently released on dvd.

    As a veteran of A THRILLER A DAY and The Outer Limits marathon, I'm gearing up for IT COULDN'T HAPPEN HERE. Happy New Year Peter and John!

  2. I just found this blog via links from Too Much Horror Fiction. I loved The Night Stalker as a kid. I'm looking forward to what you have to say.

  3. I saw The Night Strangler first run and was addicted to the series. At age 11, it was the first time I was allowed to watch a TV show that started at the late hour of 10PM. I watched the reruns on CBS late night years later and then again when the DVD set came out. I cannot see McGavin in A Christmas Story without wondering what Carl Kolchak is doing in a cardigan.

  4. I too was an early convert to NS as a 10 year old, loved the agitated, over-the-top Kolchak that set the tone; the chemistry between Oakland and McGavin helped keep the show on the rails. I've also since discovered DM's Mike Hammer and found that a great pleasant surprise... I'm betting NS will be just what the exorcist ordered for Peter and John after their gruelling run through the Batman gruel.

  5. Rock-

    I've just about exited the drunken stupor imperative to watch 120 episodes of Batman. I'm not even sure if I was sober when I agreed to Kolchak. I'll take your word for it that I'm gonna have a smoother ride.

  6. Peter -- at least this is a far more limited TV universe compared to "Batman" and "The Outer Limits." Looking forward to hearing what veteran and new Kolchak fans have to say about the two movies and 20 series episodes. In the meantime, warmest wishes all around for a great new year.

  7. I was too young to catch the series on original run but growing up watching the Universal classic monster movies Saturday afternoons on channel 44, it was inevitable that Kolchak the Night Stalker would become one of my favorite television series! I fondly remember catching my first episode in the late 70's via the RCA Select-a-Vision 400 VHS VCR my father had brought home the day before. Within an hour of unpacking the device, I had programmed to record the Kolchak episode "The Vampire" which was scheduled to air that evening way past my bedtime. In the months to follow I would archive most of the episodes on VHS tape costing upwards of $10 per blank but the ability to have Kolchak episodes 'on demand' was definitely worth it. I am looking forward to revisiting the series and two movies which held such a special place in my childhood.

  8. This is one of my very favorite TV series of all time. I vaguely remember seeing parts of one of the TV movies, but I was a regular viewer of the series. The succubus scared the holy crap out of me, but as a kid who didn't notice the special effects "Chopper" was my favorite episode. (It's still in my Top Twenty.) I saw some repeats on the CBS Late Night Double Feature on Fridays in the early 80's, and got a college pal to dub off a few eps he had taped from those late night reruns - cost me $10 when that really meant something! I joined the Columbia House club just to get the whole series on VHS - laying out around $300 when it was all said and done (and I only did it because I knew they couldn't drag it out forever). I have of course since bought the series on DVD, own both versions of the TV movie double features, and my wife just gave me the 2005 series for Christmas - which I'm happy to own, even if it has nothing to do with my beloved show other than a few names. I'm looking forward to working my way through this blog - and I'm pleased as punch that the author of some excellent Kolchak fiction and non-fiction - Mr. Dawidziak - is around here at times too! Item: this fan is ready to get his Kolchak on!

  9. Chris Honey. Manchester, England. U.K.October 30, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    Dear all. What a fabulous blog site you have here. "Kolchak" has been one of my all-time faves for years now. One thing that maybe of note to you guys is that the series of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, has only had one U.K. network screening, which was on BBC2 back in 1991/2. Not been seen or aired since. There was a few episodes shown on Central tv station (London based) in the early eighties. About 1983 if my memory serves me right. The two tv movies have been shown though a few times over the years. Anyway, I have marked this page in my faves list, and will certainly be coming back here.

    Peace to you all.