The Night Strangler (1973)

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The Night Strangler (1973)

Post  BoG on Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:22 pm

Air Date: 01/16/73  Arrow  written by Richard Matheson  Arrow  Directed by Dan Curtis

DARREN McGAVIN is back as Kolchak in THE NIGHT STRANGLER  affraid
also starring JO ANN PFLUG  What a Face  SIMON OAKLAND  What a Face  SCOTT BRADY  What a Face  WALLY COX  

This was the 2nd Kolchak TV film after THE NIGHT STALKER (1972). The first one appeared to be strictly horror material, involving a vampire. Though this 2nd one involves alchemy, it's derivative of the sci-fi/horror staple going back to Frankenstein: mad scientists, chemical potions, prolongation of life through biochemical means. The superhuman killer in this 2nd one, based in the city of Seattle, returns to kill for a period of 18 days every 21 years. He kills only women and extracts blood from them at the time of the kill with a hypodermic needle. The old school reporter Kolchak, re-hired by the long-suffering newspaper editor Vincenzo (Oakland) after popping up in Seattle, eventually deduces that the culprit is a physician from way back to the Civil War period.
The problem for Kolchak, a retread from the 1st film, is that he irritates the establishment - the police dept. (Brady) and his own newspaper publisher (Carradine) - acting counter to their status quo; they need to preserve the tourist trade and, besides, Kolchak's theory would smear the name of the presumed long-dead benefactor to the city. This is all too much of a redux of the first film; the most interesting scenes are Kolchak uncovering a trail going back a century with the help of the newspaper archivist (Cox) and a university professor (Hamilton). And, there's the added distinction of using the underground old Seattle for the spookiest scenes. The finale with Kolchak and the insane ancient doctor is suitably creepy, though it dips a bit too much into the macabre - the crazed doc has these corpses seated around his dinner table, for example; that's an old trope. And, the dark killer running around for most of the film doesn't look like Anderson (the eventual reveal), more like a stuntman. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10

Night Trivia: a very similar premise was used for the Star Trek TOS episode Wolf in the Fold in 1967 - a string of women killings going back decades. Stephen King also used a similar killer for his IT novel and mini-series, though women were not the target in that one. McGavin next appeared in the first Six Million Dollar Man telefilm, as the government man in charge of the bionic project. He was replaced in subsequent episodes by none other than Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman. There was a planned 3rd Kolchak TV movie, but instead there was next the famous Night Stalker TV series, which lasted only one season in 1974-1975.
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