Friday, February 12, 2016

Weekend TV Recommendations, or An Evening With Chicago’s Favorite Vampire Slayer Reporter

Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak
The eerily fantastic theme song and opening credits tell you all you need to know about Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975).  Darren McGavin, whistling a lonely tune and wearing his trademark seersucker suit strides into his empty office after hours, grabs a cup of coffee, puts down his tape recorder and camera, and throws his signature straw pork pie hat on the coat rack.  He misses.  Kolchak sits at his OG hipster analog manual typewriter and starts writing his story as the music starts.  The camera focuses on his page, as he types VICTIM, HE CAME AT ME and MONSTER.  There’s rapid close ups of the typewriter keys and his fingers typing as the music grows and becomes far more ominous.  Suddenly he looks up, he’s engulfed in shadows, freeze frame, the clock stops, the fan stops, he turns, violins screech, close up on his eye, fade to black and start the show.
Darren McGavin gave the world one year’s worth of work in his portrayal of Carl Kolchak in a career that spanned 50, and almost single-handedly inspired countless shows you know and love, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Fringe and even the modern reality ghost hunting shows.  Every week the intrepid reporter investigated a strange series of murders in Chicago that inevitably led to a paranormal explanation that he could never print.  And that was it, there was no larger story arc or conspiracy to uncover, just more monsters.
And what monsters!  Off the top of my head he chased zombies, regular vampires, youth stealing vampires, witches, lizard men, Cajun swamp monsters, Aztec mummies, werewolves (on a swinging singles cruise ship, one of my favorite episodes), haunted suits of armor, invisible aliens, killer robots, headless motorcyclists and devil worshipping politicians.  So really, not much has changed in 42some years.
The action, makeup and special effects are nothing special and range somewhere in the spectrum between The Six Million Dollar Man and Hawaii 5-O.  But The Night Stalker was significant in its affectionate portrayal of traditional monsters in the swinging 70’s and bringing those legends and myths up to date.  The series also featured Simon Oakland, who you already know as the psychologist from Psycho (1960) as Kolchak’s irascible and long-suffering editor, Tony Vincenzo.  
The 2005 remake starring Stuart Townsend was not great, and a more unkind blogger than myself may describe it as horrifyingly execrable.  And now there are rumors of a movie reboot with Edgar Wright starring Johnny Depp and so there's another movie I'm not looking forward to reviewing.  Still, you never know.  I did love Battlestar Galactica.

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback from these fine (amazon) bookstores.