Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Episode 20: The Sentry

Episode 20: The Sentry
Original Airdate: 3/21/75
Guest Starring: Kathie Brown, Tom Bosley
and Craig Baxley as The Sentry
Written by L. Ford Neale and John Huff
Directed by Seymour Robbie

After several mysterious rocks are found in an underground excavation, something starts killing off workers and scientists working in the underground tunnels. Kolchak determines the owners of said 'rocks' want them back, and will stop at nothing to get them.

JS: Kolchak versus the Lizard Men! How could it go wrong? In all fairness, the fault isn't the creature costume. I think it's just as endearing as the headless biker in Chopper, without looking quite as silly as that (Say What?!-PE). We get a few teasing glimpses of The Sentry early on. A foot here...

A body shot there...

The clearest look at the creature's face comes late in the episode, and shows that some time and money went into the creature design this time out.

Unfortunately, there's not enough of the Lizard Men to save this episode.

PE: Lizo looks like the kiddie ride we had down at the Happy Hollow amusement park. Stiff. Yeah, they must have blown, what, thirty bucks on that suit? I'm sorry, I can't see a silly costume like this and think anything but "silly costume," much like the outfits from flicks I grew up with, like Monster on the Campus (everytime Eddie Parker moves his face, the eye slits move) and Alligator People (every bit as silly as the lizard monster here). I still love those flicks but I do grimace. This is one of those instances where Lizo-Man should have been kept in the shadows throughout. Only young children (or those who don't want to admit the truth) would find frightening something that looks like a parade float.

JS: Overall this episode lacked the spark that the supporting cast normally brought to the table. I didn't note any particularly memorable lines from Vincenzo, Updyke, or any of the usual suspects, for that matter.

PE: Very odd to hear Tom Bosley, the man who was Mr. C. for sixty-three years on Happy Days use the words "family jewels" in conversation.

JS: Are there really people out there who don't know any better than to steal creatures eggs from the nest?

PE: There's a lot of padding in this one. The shot of Carl in the golf cart in the opening and Irene walking into Merrymount go on forever.

JS: It doesn't help that they make us endure that golf cart ride twice! If they had included Kolchak's voiceover on top of the initial ride, it might have been more bearable.

PE: I remember "the guys" in my 8th grade class hanging out in the schoolyard talking about how cool this one was, which floors me when I see it now and realize how gawdawfully slow it is.

JS: I was hoping that this episode might offer the same kind of fun that the "Tourist Attraction" episode of The Outer Limits did. Unfortunately, other than the creatures in these two episodes being separated at birth, there's no comparison.

JS: I had to laugh during the big showdown with the creature. Why shoot the creature with your gun if you can beat him with it instead. Next thing you know, Creature 5, Workers 0.

PE: Even McGavin looks bored in this episode. I assume he knew things were drawing to a close and just wanted to get this one done and get on with the next project.
JS: We get our first female police Lieutenant in this final episode. She manages to get everyone but Carl wrapped around her finger. Which is surprising, considering how touchy-feely she likes to get.

PE: The acting in this is uniformly bad. Kathie Brown's a good looking woman but she's not a top cop. I'm sure I'll catch hell for that one because, if you don't diss any aspect of McGavin, you can't diss his real-life wife. She's stiff as a board, friends. Frank Marth (Colonel Brody) is a walking cliche. If this episode was funny, I'd think it was designed as a parody but it's not funny. It's barely watchable, in fact, and a sad way for this show to go out.

JS: We've had good stories with good effects ("The Vampire"), good stories with bad effects ("Chopper"), bad stories with bad effects ("They have been..."), and now a bad story with what I'll go out on a limb and call good effects. And as episodes go, this one had one of the more satisfying conclusions. While not a strong finale to the series, it beats going out with "The Youth Killer."

PE: I'll drink to that, at least. Scoleri's always the half-full guy.

PE Rating:

JS Rating:  

Next up... our picks for the best of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.


  1. I'm gonna come out in favor of "The Sentry," admittedly not as a series highlight but, in my opinion, a satisfying series-ender.

    Item: The plot. Okay, not the most original concept in the world, but neither were a lot of Kolchak stories. To me it seemed like one of those Japanese kaiju eiga movies, only with the world's smallest giant monster, and--again, to me--that was a pleasant association. In fact, the story even resembled that of GAMERA VS. BARUGON (aka WAR OF THE MONSTERS), in which a guy discovers what he thinks is a huge opal in a cave, only it turns out to be Barugon's egg.

    Item: The monster. I've seen far worse monsters in my day, some of them on this very series. As John points out, they obviously put some time and money into it, and if you're not looking at screen grabs or using a freeze-frame, they really didn't show it too clearly, which is naturally for the better.

    Item: The cop. Like Peter, I was far less enamored of Browne than the offscreen McGavin or his onscreen colleagues; she reminded me way too much of the hellish Brett Somers Klugman. But the knowledge that these are real-life spouses sparring just gives the episode a little zing.

    Item: The guests. Speaking of THE ODD COUPLE, we have here both Albert Paulsen, the impresario who was so impressed with Wild Willie Boggs's fiddle playing (not to mention appearing in Matheson's single, pseudonymous COMBAT! episode, "Forgotten Front"), and Cliff Norton, the insurance mogul from Lloyd's of Lubbock. All that plus Tom Bosley, genre vet John Hoyt, and old reliable Frank Campanella? We're back to form here, people.

    Item: The setting. Always liked the "monster in the bowels of an industrial complex" idea, and for that reason sometimes mix this one up with "The Energy Eater." Regardless, it's an evocative milieu, especially for us claustrophobes in this case.

    Item: The atmosphere. I love that this one begins not with a weary Carl recalling his now-finished adventure, but terrified and uncertain whether he will survive. For me, that adds an urgency to those tunnel shots, even repeated though they were. And I love the way they handled the ending: for once, the monster wasn't defeated, and may be back, while the final shot of Carl receding down the tunnel and his voiceover were very effective. If, as we have been told, they already knew the show was toast, I think this was as good a sendoff as we might reasonably have expected.

    Okay, I rest my case. You may fire when ready.

  2. And so... we come to an end.

    I'm okay with this episode, though - something about golf carts in narrow, dimly lit corridors that seem endless just strikes me as rather eerie. And I loved as a kid - and still love now - the part where Kolchak thought he was driving AWAY from the monster - but instead was driving right TO him. Geeyaah!

    I also rather liked the missus as our last cop of the week. After a full season of antagonistic cops, you start wondering what kind of cop they hadn't yet showcased - tough cop? Yup. Slimy cop? Yep. Young, inexperienced cop? Yes, sir. Old, doddering cop? John Dehner, if you please. Yeah, female cop was yet another wrinkle on the concept, and I'm glad they finally got to it. Having McGavin's real-life actress wife play her was, IMHO, just a perfect way to go out. I thought she was quite effective.

  3. Well, I have to disagree with you guys. I think this is a great episode, I think the golf cart scenes are the stuff *great* nightmares are made of (especially when Carl goes down the wrong tunnel and drives directly into The Sentry!), I think the Sentry is an awesome monster and the costume gets a bad wrap, I think Kathie Brown is fantastic as Lieutenant Lamont (love her and Carl's interplay and dynamic), and I love the whole story, "Devil In The Dark" similarities and all. I just re-watched this one last night and I enjoyed the hell out of it! (:

  4. I should qualify that by "you guys" I was referring to Peter and John (even though John liked the episode more than Peter).

  5. In the immortal words of Edward G. Robinson playing the criminal, Rico, in LITTLE CAESAR, "Mother of Mercy is this the end of Kolchak?"

    Those were his last words and he was found in the gutter; sort of reminds me how I feel now.

  6. I hear ya, Walker. This BLOG went very fast for me and I really enjoyed it a lot. I miss it already!

  7. Well, Doug, don't go anywhere just yet. There are a lot of goodies coming your way. More on that tomorrow. And, though we disagree, MILDLY, on The Sentry, I've got a feeling we'd still have a lot to talk about vis a vis horror flicks around a pub table someday.

  8. Cheers, Pete. I'm thinking a Classic Horror Pub Crawl might be in order, mate!

  9. I know this one really gets a bad rap, but I rather like it. Actually, that's a bit of an understatement: it's my favorite episode. Being a Godzilla fan, I love reptilian monsters of all forms, and the one scene Carl has with Tony is a personal highlight for me. The line "I don't wanna hear anything more about that giant newt!" is a great Tony-ism. I know the suit is cheaper than dirt, but like a lot of the show's monsters (including the chintzy UFO from "They Have Been..."), it has a great mysterious charm to it that's too great to ignore. And, like "Chopper," let's face it: if you saw him coming down a darkly-lit tunnel for you, you'd be turning tail and running too.

  10. "The Sentry" has certain pleasures, as discussed above. It's funny... when the show was first announced, I kind of expected John Chambers' "Pickman's Model" head from NIGHT GALLERY to be called into service, given how late in the day this was. But the budget somehow allowed for a newly created head-to-toe monster suit, and I give the producers credit for trying something fairly ambitious and audacious. By the way, I wasn't too far off about the reusability of that "Pickman's Model" mask -- it turns up on little guy "Taz" in Kenneth Johnson's CLIFFHANGERS about five years later!).

    Since The Night Stalker ran for a single season of twenty episodes, the only way we can chart the inevitable decline (or not) is to split the season in half, and check out Peter and John's rankings. Here are the statistics for the second half of the season.

    For the second half of the season, Peter's average episode rating was 2.1 (down slightly from 2.3 for the first half of the season) and for John the average was 2.2 (up slightly from 2.15) which means both rated the second half of the season as well above average. Surprisingly, John ranked the second half of the season slightly higher than the first half.

    If we consider 3 typewriters or better the mark of a great show, then three shows were deemed worthy. Peter and John agreed on “Horror In The Heights” and “Chopper” while Peter included “The Knightly Murders.”

    We had agreement on one dud “Legacy Of Terror,” (1.5 ranking) and one stinker “The Youth Killer.” (Peter 0.5 John 1.0). Peter rated “The Sentry” lowly, (1.0) while John thought it was average (2.0).

    Again, there was little disagreement on the second half of the season. Of the ten episodes, they gave the same ranking to five shows, and were within half a typewriter for another four. The only bone of contention was the one typewriter difference of opinion for “The Sentry.”

    Of the ten shows in the second half of the season, collectively, they ranked two shows at 3 typewriters or higher, five shows at between 2 and 3, and three shows below 2 typewriters.

    So, what does it all mean?
    Peter and John rated 20% of the shows as great, (up from 10%) 50% were average to better than average (down from 60%) and 30% were deemed below par (no change). That makes The Night Stalker a very unique show, in that it didn't decline in quality as the season dragged on, although some of the lowest ranking shows were at the very end of the show's run.

    Of the twenty shows, 15% were rated as great, 55% as average to better than average, and 30% as below average. Very few shows have statistics as good as this.

    When I posted the half time report, John told me that he and Peter are considered by some to be Kolchack haters. The statistics prove otherwise. Peter and John aren't Kolchack haters, they're Kolchack fanboys.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  12. Great job on the series reviews, guys. I just wanted to throw my two cents in on The Sentry. I haven't rewatched the whole series like you guys, but certain moments have stuck in my mind. The opening to The Sentry is the one I recall the most, due to one shot. We watch Kolchak driving down the hallway, several shots of him from front and back. Then, we watch as he turns a corner. Then, down at the far end of the long hallway, we get just a glimpse of something coming around that corner. That, to me, is a terrifying prospect. And I used to work as a security guard (who often had to walk down long hallways), so I know what I'm talking about... :-)

    1. Greg, are you sure that's not from the END of the episode (when we see the Sentry's shadow on the wall coming around the corner)? I always looked for the creature during the opening, and I could never see it.

  13. It's definitely there at the beginning. After they do the constant switching of the camera from in front of (and behind) Carl, there's a shot when the camera is stationary. Carl's golf cart turns left out of the hall, and then, just for a second, there's movement down at the far end of the hall. It's very quick, but the movement is noticeable. On the DVD, it's at the 1:06-1:07 mark of Scene 2. It's also there in Scene 4 as well.

  14. #16 of 20, 2 1/2 tyewriters. I like how everyone is pining over the lady cop, a nice contrast to the other cops, she looks a bit like Joan Allen. Speaking of lookalikes, 1 reporter looks like William Windom, another like Neil deGrassi Tyson.

  15. I can remember abot all the episodes of Kolchak the Night Stalker including the one with Richard(Jaws)kiel as this evil indian spirit

  16. I remember this episode well, it scared the crap out of me at the end. I was just 7 back then. Just watched it again on MEtv after so long.

  17. It's great to have this series on Blu-ray now. Love having the commentaries and other extras. Thanks to Kino Lorber!