First let me begin by admitting a bias. I have always loved this show dearly. Carl Kolchak is partly responsible for you reading these very words. When I was young and The Night Stalker first appeared I was enthralled with it. My father had already introduced me to the Universal Monsters so this was great fodder for my young and developing brain. I immediately knew I wanted to BE Kolchak. I decided I wanted to be a journalist and so began to write. Not only has that passion lasted through the decades since, but thanks to this job I often get to write about monsters and things that go bump in the night. Come to think of it, I am Kolchak, or at least I’m closer than the one ABC has put on Thursday nights this season. Enough about me and Carl.
The Night Stalker began as a TV Movie of the Week. Kolchak was a down on his luck reporter in Vegas looking for that one big story that would put him back in the game. Instead he discovered a real vampire killing women and demolishing police cars. Of course, no one believes him, and Kolchak must stalk the beast himself. The film’s success quickly led to another film, The Night Strangler. Now Kolchak’s in Seattle and this time the Boston Strangler is still alive and killing young girls to keep himself young. Once again Kolchak must take matters into his own hands, and once again he’s run out of town for his troubles.
Now Kolchak’s in Chicago working for the Independent News Service (INS). For 20 episodes Kolchak protected the unsuspecting denizens of the Windy City from such terrors as zombies, mummies, ghosts, and even a large lizard in an obvious retelling of the Star Trek episode “Devil In The Dark”. Sure, the monsters were low budget, but Kolchak was the perfect everyman hero up against the establishment. Darrin McGavin was simply perfectly cast in the role once written for James Garner. Chris Carter, the creator of the X-Files, has constantly credited this imaginative series for inspiring his more successful show. McGavin appeared in a few episodes as one of the original X-Files investigators. His health made it impossible to do the number of shows planned for him. Still, watching him guide Mulder as Kolchak did Mulder’s creator was one of the best homage moments in television.
Simon Oakland, better known for his portrayal of the pursuing detective in the classic Psycho, plays the modern Perry White, a frustrated editor who obviously knows how talented Kolchak really is. Look for some great guest stars like Vincent Price, Tom Skerritt, Richard Kiel, and Dick Van Patten.
This was a 1970’s series so don’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. There is some occasional high end distortion, and the music cues often tend to become blaring. The dialogue is fine, and that’s really what counts here.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast 1.33:1 full frame format. Again, one can’t escape the fact that this is a 30 year old show that didn’t even last a full season. Still. The print bears evidence of attempts to restore the image. There are a few specks and score marks, but they are held to a remarkable minimum. The colors are soft and the image often grainy. The dominant blacks are nicely rich and detailed, again for a product of this age and budget. It looks as good as it did 30 years ago at least.
Here my great joy over this release is finally brought back to Earth. I have to imagine there are some deleted items out there somewhere. There most certainly are interviews with the cast and crew. Nothing is offered on these three double-sided discs.
Item: ABC has released a new version of Kolchak with former X-Files alum Frank Spotnitz at the helm.
Item: The intent here is to create some buzz for the new show
Item: The release is long overdue and deserves far more due than it received.
Conclusion: Kolchak: The Night Stalker was at the top of my want list on DVD. It’s finally here. Even without any extras, this is a must-have collection. As for the new version of Kolchak: “Run don’t walk to the nearest exit.”