Movie Name: The Night Strangler
Studio: Dan Curtis Productions
Release Date(s): January 16, 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Carl Kolchak is trying to get his life back together and set himself up as a reporter in Seattle. Hooked up with his old editor Tony (Simon Oakland), Kolchak finds himself on hot on the heels of another supernatural story. Killings are occurring in Seattle, and they seem to fit a pattern stretching back for almost a hundred years. Kolchak with the help of a woman named Louise Harper (Jo Ann Pflug) must capture the killer before the cycle ends…and a murderer continues to live forever.
Written by Richard Matheson and directed by Dan Curtis, The Night Strangler was a made-for-TV movie. The film is a follow-up to the 1972 film The Night Stalker (which introduced the Carl Kolchak character) and premiered on ABC on January 16, 1973.
Whenever the Kolchak movies were going to be on TV (they ran late nights a lot on non-cable TV channels), I was excited. Though I preferred the first film, The Night Strangler was a solid follow-up.
The movie is good, but it is a bit too close to the original movie to feel completely original. Much of the basic set-up for the original film holds strong here. Kolchak riles feathers and chases a supernatural villain while his editor goes crazy…it is the basic same plot, but it still is fun due in large part to McGavin.
Just like the first film, Darren McGavin made Kolchak his own character. He is the primary motivator for the series and he is a strong enough character actor to be a lead at this level of TV. He’s charming but infuriating at the same time. The movie also features appearances by Margaret Hamilton (aka the Wicked Witch of the West), Richard Anderson (Oscar from The Six-Million Dollar Man), and Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster).
The movie banks on the fact that you barely see “the monster”. It is a very human enemy, but it is kept in the shadows to build suspense and fear. If the killer was shown a lot, the movie would lose its atmosphere.
The Night Strangler is a worthy follow-up to a great TV movie. The series intended to have another film called The Night Killers (set in Hawaii with aliens), but the character of Carl Kolchak was optioned as a series. Kolchak: The Night Stalker ran from September 13, 1974 to March 28, 1975 on ABC and later inspired Chris Carter in The X-Files and a second series starring Stuart Townsend in 2005 (which only ran ten episodes).