Starring: Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Charles McGraw, Kent Smith, Elisha Cook Jr., Stanley Adams, Larry Linville, Jordan Rhodes, Barry Atwater,
Review: When a no-nonsense reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) investigates a bizarre series of murders in "modern" 1970's Las Vegas, all of the evidence points to the work of a vampire. But when the authorities and his editor (Simon Oakland) shoot down his preposterous paranormal proclamations, Kolchak puts himself into harms way in an attempt to stop this supernatural blood-sucker. When it comes to dealing with The Night Stalker the news media motto, "If it bleeds, it leads," certainly goes without saying.
The Night Stalker first aired in 1972 as the ABC movie of the week. It was not only a top-rated made-for-TV movie, but it introduced us to the unforgettable newsman, Carl Kolchak. It also spawned a sequel The Night Strangler the following year, and the short-lived television series 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker'. This was my first time watching The Night Stalker, I finally tracked it down after years of searching, and let me tell you - it is a eerily entertainment movie that has plenty of chills, blood-spills, and more than enough bite for horror fans!
Darren McGavin is perfect as Kolchak. He's quick-minded, quirky, and can't keep himself out of trouble. He's much how I wish actual "journalists" were these days. Character actor's like Simon Oakland, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Charles McGraw, Elisha Cook Jr., and Larry Linville,round-out the cast and ground the rather unusual nature of the story. And what makes this fright-flick work, besides John Llewellyn Moxey direction, is legendary sci-fi/horror writer Richard Matheson brilliant teleplay. The story is scary and moody, plus it's very character based, helping to push the story filled fright-filled scenes, compelling dialogue, and a shocking conclusion that will have you on the edge of your seat!
I also really enjoy the villainous vampire (Barry Atwater). He's so creepy and intimidating as he silently stalks and feasts on his victims. And his backstory is not over explained. It's kept simple, so he's stays mysterious and remains a credible threat throughout the runtime. For quite a while you wonder if he's truly a vampire or just a crazy guy that believes he is, but the more Kolchak investigates the more ratchets up the tension of surrounding the truth of these cold-blooded crimes.
The only thing that was distracting was that the movie is noticeably dated. It's 1970s through and through; from the clothes, music, sets, and dialogue at times. This aspect only distracted me here and there, but I stayed glued to the screen thanks to a great story that was expertly told.
So if you're looking for a vampire movie that depicts vampires as scary, frightening fiends that are always on the hunt for a hot meal, or you like reporters determined to discover the truth, no matter how unbelievable it might be, this might just be the movie for you! Enjoy the moody atmosphere, macabre mystery, Carl Kolchak's journalistic integrity, and a villainous vampire all in the lavish backdrop of Las Vegas.
I loved the The Night Stalker and I can't recommend it enough. If you have seen it, it's time for a re-watch, and if you've never seen it before, be sure to track it down - you won't regret it! Now, I must see The Night Strangler and the television series 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker'. Be sure to cross your fingers that they are just a good as this unforgettable classic.
Fun Fact: One of the Vampire's old aliases was "Paul Belasco," which is a reference to the spectral antagonist of screenwriter Richard Matheson's "Hell House," a novel which had just been published in 1971.