Kolchak: The Night Stalker [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (12th October 2021).
The Show

"Kolchak: The Night Stalker" (1974-1975)

Let’s turn back the hands of time, shall we. The date is a Friday evening during the 1974-1975 television season. Bored, I can recall turning the dial, switching between all 12 channels available and finally settling upon a show that seemed to definitely be lurking up my alley. It was entitled Kolchak: The Night Stalker and it featured the irascible Darren McGavin as the lead character, a cranky reporter in Chicago, clad in his weekly uniform of seersucker suit, straw pork pie hat, and armed with his ever-handy portable tape recorder and a camera of dubious origins. Enter Carl Kolchak into my world view and nothing would be the same again. Previous to this entry, there were two television movies that had introduced the character to viewers: The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973) both directed by now familiar name Dan Curtis, he of Dark Shadows (1966-1971) fame. Perhaps some back story would be helpful; journalist Jeff Rice was a reporter working in Las Vegas and he had penned an unpublished novel entitled The Kolchak Papers. In the novel, a Las Vegas reporter named Cark Kolchak tracks down and defeats a serial killer who in reality is a vampire named Janos Skorzeny. After the novel was picked up for publication in 1973 by Pocket Books, the tie in cover included a picture of Darren McGavin to help sell the book. It was re-titled The Night Stalker. In 1972 ABC approached the author Rice with an offer to option the novel into a television production. Adapted by Richard Matheson, The Night Stalker was a resounding success. Airing originally on January 11, 1972, the program garnered the highest of any television program shown at that time: 33.2 ratings, 54 share. Matheson was awarded a 1973 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV feature or Miniseries Teleplay. Following on the success of the first feature, a sequel was ordered, and Matheson was requested to pen a second movie, The Night Strangler (1973). This time around the murderer was a killer who stalked Seattle and strangled his victims and used their blood to keep him alive for over a century. Kino Lorber issued these TV films on Blu-ray in 2018. Matheson had started on another novel, but by this time, ABC had decided that it wanted a television series.

The series is being cited as being sourced from "Brand New 2K Masters for All 20 Episodes". The episodes are housed on four dual-layered  Blu-rays and have about 4x the bitrate of the DVDs. The  Blu-rays have five 50-minute episodes per disc. The earlier released DVD set from Universal was criticized for poor transfers and featuring missing information in the credits. Hopefully all those issues have been fixed with this release from Kino.

One of the notable characteristics of the show was its understated use of humor and its superb cast of supporting characters, many often second-rate comedians with familiar faces. Much of the humor can be attributed to the now well-known screenplay writer David Chase (The Sopranos 1999-2007) who was simply starting way out back then. We also have to mention the monsters: even though Darren McGavin objected to the monster of the week concept, many fans still recall the creepy and effective use of various horror icons throughout the series. Various ghouls, vampires and other supernatural deities all showed up to spice up Kolchak’s never-ending search for the truth. The writers often found themselves vexed with coming up with original or not so familiar villains for Kolchak to battle; they include some variations on characters from folklore, slightly unusual for a television show that appeared during the 70’s.

First, we shall introduce the main characters of the show and then we will note some reoccurring characters that appeared in later episodes. Darren McGavin, was of course, the star. It would not be until later on, 1983, that McGavin went on to eternal syndication fane with his portrayal of Mr. Parker, Ralphie’s dad in Bob Clark’s holiday film, A Christmas Story. His character was well established prior to the series due to the previous two television films. Playing a down on his luck but yet insufferable reporter for INS, Kolchak is the voice of the everyman that is seeking the truth, be it ranging from government conspiracies to various bizarre incidents mentioned in the news. He is paired with a harangued editor who suffers from constant ulcers, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland). Vincenzo has a grudging respect for Kolchak even though they are constantly bickering like a long-married couple. The overwrought editor is often overheard lamenting the fact that he did not elect to pursue a career with his family’s vocation: Venetian blind sales, Operating out of a extremely small office located in Chicago, there are others that appear in the series as well: Ron Updyke (Jack Grinnage) is a fellow reporter that Kolchak has no time for. Often scrabbling for an easy scoop, Updyke is often seen toadying and kowtowing around Chicago’s elite. Emily Cowles (Ruth McDevitt) is an elderly columnist known as Miss Emily. Kolchak shares an affinity with the older woman for uncovering the truth that is often disregarded. Monique Marmelstein (Carol Ann Susi) is another office worker; she claims to be a graduate from the Columbia School of Journalism but in reality, was hired because of her Uncle Abe’s pull. Other characters include Gordon “Gordy The Ghoul” Spangler (John Fielder), a city morgue attendant that runs an unofficial lottery betting on who will be most likely to die. He is a source of off the record information for Kolchak. Rounding out the cast is Captain “Mad Dog” Siska (Keenan Wynn); a gruff Chicago police officer that is often found at loggerheads with Kolchak.


“The Ripper”
directed by Allen Baron, written by Rudolph Borchert, aired September 13, 1974, 51:29 Minutes.
Kolchak is convinced that a serial killer is in reality Jack the Ripper. A mysterious figure is stalking the women of Chicago and it is revealed that he is the Ripper incarnate, travelling through time and killing five victims.

“The Zombie” directed by Alex Grasshoff, written by David Chase and Zekial Marko, aired September 20, 1974, 51:10 Minutes.
An elderly voodoo practitioner uses her dead grandson as a zombie to extract vengeance on the mob. Guest stars include John Fielder, Antonio Fargas and Scatman Crothers.

“They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be….” directed by Allen Baron, written by Dennis Clark and Rudolph Borchert, aired September 27, 1974, 51:30 Minutes.
Also known as U.F.O. An invisible alien attacks and sucks the bone marrow from its victims while making repairs to its space craft. Guest star sportscaster Dick Enberg can be heard broadcasting a fictitious World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox on Kolchak’s car radio.

“The Vampire” directed by Don Weis, written by Bill Stratton and David Chase, aired October 4, 1974, 51:31 Minutes.
In this, a sequel to the first television movie The Night Stalker, an overlooked victim of Janos Skorzeny, the Las Vegas vampire, makes her way to Los Angeles and starts a killing spree of her own. Guest stars include William Daniels, Larry Storch and Jan Murray.

“The Werewolf” directed by Allen Baron, written by David Chase and Paul Playdon, aired November 1, 1974, 50:32 minutes.
Kolchak finds himself trapped on an ocean liner along with a man that has been bitten by a werewolf and the moon is full. Guest stars include Dick Gautier and Bob Hastings.


directed by Don Weis, written by Bill S. Ballinger, aired November 8, 1974, 51:12 Minutes.
A ghost of a deceased arsonist takes over the body of a railway conductor when he sleeps and kills his victims by use of spontaneous human combustion. Guest stars include Fred Beir, Philip Carey, Virginia Vincent, Alice Backes, and David Doyle.

“The Devil’s Platform” directed by Allen Barron, written by Tim Maschler and Donn Mullally, aired November 15, 1974, 51:12 Minutes.
A swiftly rising politician murders his opposition through an unholy pact with Lucifer which enables him to transform into an unstoppable dog. Guest stars Tom Skerritt.

“Bad Medicine” directed by Alex Grasshoff, written by L. Ford Neale & John Huff, aired November 29, 1974, 51:32 minutes.
The first episode based on Native American folklore; a shaman spirit called the Diablero (Richard Kiel) murders in order to acquire jewels to repay his earthly debt. Guest stars include Ramon Bieri, Victor Jory, and Alice Ghostley.

“The Spanish Moss Murders” directed by Gordon Hessler, written by David Chase and Al Friedman, aired December 6, 1974, 51:22 minutes.
A dreaming host who is a participant in a sleep study conjures up the Creole legend Père Malfait (Richard Kiel) who is willing to slay anyone that threatens its survival. Guest stars include Severn Darden and Keenan Wynn.

“The Energy Eater” directed by Alex Grasshoff, written by Rudolph Bochert and Arthur Rowe, aired December 13, 1974, 51:32 Minutes.
A hospital is built on reclaimed Native American land, but the Native American spirit of the bear Matchi Manitou is guarding the grounds. Guest stars include William Smith, Tom Drake, Michael Fox, Elaine Giftos.


“Horror in the Heights”
directed by Michael T. Caffey, written by Jimmy Sangster, aired December 20, 1974, 51:05 minutes.
A Hindu demon called Rakshasa, which can assume the earthly form of someone the victim trusts, invades a Jewish neighborhood. Guest stars include Phil Silvers, Benny Rubin, and Barry Gordon.

“Mr. R.I.N.G.” directed by Gene Levitt, written by L. Ford Neale & John Huff, aired January 10, 1975, 51:01 Minutes.
An escaped android (Craig R. Baxley) kills anyone that threatens its survival. Guest stars include Julie Adams, Corinne Camacho, Bert Freed, Henry Beckman, and Don “Red" Barry.

“Primal Scream” directed by Robert Scheerer, written by Bill S. Ballinger and David Chase, aired January 17, 1975, 50:09 Minutes.
Defrosted ancient cells that were discovered in the Artic grows into a savage prehistoric primate which goes on a rampage. Guest stars include John Marley, Jamie Farr, Katherine Woodville, Pat Harrington Jr., and Barbara Rhoades.

“The Trevi Collection” directed by Don Weis, written by Rudolph Borchert, aired January 24, 1975, 50:11 Minutes.
A witch (Lara Parker) desires to control the world of high fashion. Guest stars include  Nina Foch, Marvin Miller, and Bernie Kopell.

“Chopper” directed by Bruce Kessler, written by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale and Steve Fisher & David Chase, aired January 31, 1975, 50:14 Minutes.
A headless motorcycle rider kills those responsible for his death. Guest stars include Larry Linville, Art Metrano, Jim Backus, Frank Aletter, Sharon Farrell, Jay Robinson, and  Steve Franken.


“Demon in Lace”
directed by Don Weis, written by Michael Kozoll & David Chase & Stephen Lord, aired February 7, 1975, 50:28 minutes. Audio Commentary supplied by Novelist/Critic Kim Newman and Writer/Journalist Barry Forshaw.
An ancient Mesopotamian clay tablet is haunted by a succubus; the specter possesses the corpses pf recently dead women to murder young men in order to maintain her immortality. Guest stars include Andrew Prine and Jackie Vernon.

“Legacy of Terror” directed by Don McDougall, written by Arthur Rowe, aired February 14, 1975, 50:11 minutes.
An Aztec cult seeks to resurrect a mummy of their god by murdering healthy people. Guest stars include Erik Estrada.

“The Knightly Murders” directed by Vincent McEveety, written by Paul Magistretti and Michael Kozoll and David Chase, aired March 7, 1975, 50:12 Minutes.
In order to prevent the destruction of its home, the spirit of a knight reanimates a suit of armor to kill those responsible. Guest stars include John Dehner, Hans Conried, Robert Emhardt, Jeff Donnell, Sidney Clute, Shug Fisher, Lieux Dressler, Gregg Palmer and Bryan O'Byrne.

“The Youth Killer” directed by Don McDougall, written by Rudolph Borchert, aired March 14, 1975, 50:15 Minutes.
Helen of Troy returns from the grave to kill unsuspecting youth in order to retain her immortality. Guest stars include Cathy Lee Crosby and Dwayne Hickman.

“The Sentry” directed by Seymour Robbie, written by L. Ford Neale & John Huff, aired March 28, 1975, 50:12 Minutes.
A humanoid lizard like creature kills the workers that have stolen its eggs. In the final scene Kolchak is heard stating that these events occurred on April 20 and 21st, 1975.

As you can see these episodes present somewhat of a time capsule of entertainment in the mid 1970’s with a who’s who list of various guest stars that have had their prime-time usage used up. The series provides a nostalgic look back at a series that was fairly influential at the time. Chris Carter, creator of The X Files is often cited as a huge fan of the series, and he has publicly acknowledged the effect of the show on him. Nostalgia fans should be delighted with this boxed set. I must say that the series came off a bit dated with the Universal sets giving it that predictable look and feel. It must be noted that there was no make up artist on the staff due to added expense, but nonetheless the creatures aren’t that bad.


The series has never looked better, and the colors are bright and clear. The presentation of an older television series is a marvel and collectors will be thrilled to have this set in their collections.


Kino uses DTS-HD Master Audio dual-mono tracks (16-bit) in the original English language. At times the soundtrack gets subdued by other sound effects, but the catchy soundtracks are still pleasing to the ear.



Audio Commentaries
- "The Ripper" by Mark Dawidziak, author of The Night Stalker Companion and Kolchak Novel, Grave Secrets
- "The Zombie" by author/historian David J. Schow
- "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be..." by novelist/critic Kim Newman and writer/journalist Barry Forshaw
- "The Vampire" by film historian Tim Lucas
- "The Werewolf" by film historian Constantine Nasr

Interview with David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos and co-writer of eight Kolchak: The Night Stalker Episodes (9:03)


Audio Commentaries
- "Firefall" by author/historian David J. Schow
- "The Devil's Platform" by film historian Constantine Nasr and screenwriter/producer Rodney Barnes
- "Bad Medicine" by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani
- "The Spanish Moss Murders" by film historian/screenwriter Steve Haberman
- "The Spanish Moss Murders" by filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and screenwriter/producer Cyrus Voris
- "The Energy Eater" by Mike White and Chris Stachiw of The Kolchak Tapes Podcast

Interview with Dana Gould, the Creator of Stan Against Evil (11:13)


Audio Commentaries
- "Horror in the Heights" by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani
- "Mr. R.I.N.G." by filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and screenwriter/producer Cyrus Voris
- "Primal Scream" by filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and screenwriter/producer Cyrus Voris
- "The Trevi Collection" by film historian/author Amanda Reyes
- "Chopper" by novelist/critic Kim Newman and writer/journalist Barry Forshaw

Original TV Spots:
(Newly Remastered in 2K)
- "Horror in the Heights" (0:31)
- "Mr. R.I.N.G." (0:31)
- "Primal Scream" (0:32)
- "The Trevi Collection" (0:31)
- "Chopper" (0:31)


Audio Commentaries
- "Demon in Lace" by novelist/critic Kim Newman and writer/journalist Barry Forshaw
- "Legacy of Terror" by film historian/author Amanda Reyes
- "The Knightly Murders" by filmmaker/historian Michael Schlesinger
- "The Youth Killer" by novelist critic Kim Newman and writer/journalist Barry Forshaw
- "The Sentry" by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani

Original TV Spots:
(Newly Remastered in 2K)
- "Demon in Lace" (0:31)
- "Legacy of Terror" (0:33)
- "The Knightly Murders" (0:32)
- "The Youth Killer" (0:32)
- "The Sentry" (0:33)

Booklet Essay by Mark Dawidziak, the Author of The Night Stalker Companion and Kolchak Novel, Grave Secrets

The newly recorded commentary tracks offer up a wealth of additional insights and arcane knowledge by folks that really enjoyed the series and should provide hours of entertainment.


This is the perfect gift for the older boomer that still recalls the show when it originally aired in the 70’s. Congratulations to Kino Lorber for doing a commendable job on this set.

Video: A Audio: A Overall: A


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