Monday, January 26, 2009
"Kolchak: The Night Stalker" is an American television series that aired on ABC in 1974. It featured a newspaper reporter — Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin — who investigates crimes with mysterious and unlikely causes that the proper authorities won't accept or pursue. Crimes which seem to point to a Jack the Ripper copycat, voodoo priestesses and the walking dead ("Zombies"), a coven of warlocks ("Vampire"), and an extra-hairy luxury liner passenger with a taste for his shipmates ("Werewolf").
Though the show only lasted 20 episodes, it is often credited as the inspiration for "The X Files" and was succeeded by a second television series with a new cast and characters in 2005, as well as several novels and comic books.
The Kolchak character originated in an unpublished novel, The Kolchak Papers, written by Jeffrey Grant Rice. In the novel, Las Vegas newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak tracks down and defeats a serial killer who is really a vampire named Janos Skorzeny.
The novel was finally published by Pocket Books as a mass-market paperback original under the title The Night Stalker with a Darren McGavin photo cover to tie in with the movie. The novelizations of the first two movies were republished by Moonstone in 2007 as an omnibus edition called The Kolchak Papers.
The series was preceded by two television movies:
The Night Stalker (1972)
Rice was approached by ABC who optioned the property, which was then adapted by Richard Matheson into a TV movie produced by Dan Curtis and directed by John Llewellyn Moxey. Darren McGavin played the role of Carl .
The Night Stalker aired on the ABC network on January 11, 1972 and garnered the highest ratings of any TV movie at that time (33.2 rating - 54 share). Matheson received a 1973 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Feature or Miniseries Teleplay.
The Night Strangler (1973)
Impressed by its success, ABC commissioned Richard Matheson to write a second movie, The Night Strangler, which featured another serial killer in Seattle who strangled his victims and used their blood to keep himself alive for over a century through the use of alchemy. The Seattle Underground City was used as a setting for much of the action, and provided the killer with his hiding place. Dan Curtis both produced and directed the second movie, which also did well in the ratings. Rice then wrote a novelization based on Matheson's screenplay, a reverse of the situation for the first movie. The novel was published by Pocket Books as a mass-market paperback original under the title The Night Strangler with a close-up of the monster's eye to tie in with the movie.
Here's episode 9: "The Spanish Moss Murders", from a playlist:
Sources include this Wikipedia article.