Kolchak: The Night Stalker—The Complete Series

kolchak the night stalker dvd cover episode guide
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 5/10

Darren McGavin, goofy fun, influential

So-so stories, bad costumes and visuals

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Kolchak…always seeks out the truth

Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is a reporter for the Independent News Service.  Much to the dismay of his editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), Kolchak continues to dig deeper for his INS stories and finds the horror hiding in the shadows.  From vampires to werewolves to moss monsters and ancient Native American mythical beasts, Kolchak seems to find horror and mystery.  Kolchak is going to report the truth and expose what is being hidden…if he remembers to load his camera and start his recorder.

Kolchak:  The Night Stalker ran one season from September 13, 1974 to March 28, 1975.  The horror-science fiction series spun-off the two made-for-TV movies The Night Stalker (1972) and the The Night Strangler (1973).  Though cancelled, the series gained a cult following and was remade into another cancelled series in 2005 called Night Stalker with Stuart Townsend and Gabrielle Union.

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Everyone wants a piece of Kolchak

I first encountered Carl Kolchak in a book about sci-fi and horror monsters.  The book looked at different TV series and movies that investigated the strange and occult, and Kolchak was one of the shows…and I wanted to see it.  Pre-internet, you only got to see a show when it was on and occasionally The Night Strangler or The Night Stalker would air on late night TV, but cable and the internet revived Kolchak when The X-Files cited the series as one of its big foundations (a very Kolchak Darren McGavin even appeared in the series for a few episodes and there have been various nods to the characters over the years).  While the series might be dated and goofy, Kolchak hangs on for a good reason.

The series picks really interesting and obscure ideas to explore.  While Bigfoot, aliens, and the Loch Ness monster feel like the monsters you’ve heard of, Kolchak often went deeper with things like Greek gods, Native American myths, and modern horrors like artificial intelligence.  Kolchak did hit the basics like vampires and werewolves, but it was a smart mix that helped Kolchak be unique.

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Kolchak always finds a way!

The series owes a lot of its staying power to Darren McGavin.  He doesn’t take the series too serious with the goofy monster costumes, but he also doesn’t treat it like a joke.  He fumbles and mumbles his way through each episode and the wordplay of the character is part of the fun.  Most of the regular supporting character like those played by Simon Oakland and Jack Grinnage are cliché stock news characters, but the series also brought in a lot of fun early ’70s TV guest stars like Scatman Crothers, Joseph Sirola, Val Bisoglio, Dick Van Patten, William Daniels, Henry Jones, David Doyle, Tom Skerritt, Richard Kiel, Alice Ghostley, Keenan Wynn, Phil Silvers, John Marley, Pat Harrington Jr., Jamie Farr, Eric Braeden, Bernie Kopell, Larry Linville, Art Metrona, Jim Backus, Jackie Vernon, Carolyn Jones, Sorrell Booke, Erik Estrada, John Dehner, and Cathy Lee Crosby among others.

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So…Ponch. What’s new?

Kolchak:  The Night Stalker survived on the “less is more” approach to the monsters.  Inevitably Kolchak was running from a monster down a dimly lit tunnel or the monster took a more human form.  The effects are cheap and transparent and not really meant for today’s television with the ability to pause and rewind.  The X-Files took this approach with many of the episodes (especially the early ones), and it is a great way to get around a budget.  In fact when you do see creatures in Kolchak, it is rather disappointing (like the goofy lizards in the final episode).

Kolchak:  The Night Stalker is a TV classic.  It is dated, but it does have a style with the noir-detective story meeting a horror movie.  If you’ve only seen the movies, you check out the series, and if you haven’t seen either they are worth hunting down.  I hope through TV, books, comic books, and even movies that Carl Kolchak keeps looking for that elusive scoop.

Kolchak:  The Night Stalker—The Complete Series Episode Guide:

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“The Ripper”

Episode 1 The Ripper Airdate:  09/13/74

Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) finds himself stuck on “Dear Emily” duty from his editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) with Ron Updyke (Jack Grinnage) covering his beat.  When a series of grisly murders begin occurring in Chicago, Kolchak suspects that the Ripper is loose in Chicago.  With a few murders in his cycle of five left, Carl is out to stop the murderer (Mickey Gilbert) and a rival writer named Jane Plumm (Beatrice Colen) could be the next victim!

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“The Zombie”

Episode 2 The Zombie Airdate:  09/20/74

Kolchak finds himself forcibly teamed with the wealthy daughter of one of the paper’s backers named Monique Marmelstein (Carol Ann Susi) as he investigates the apparent resurrection of a man.  Investigating a zombie angle which pits him against the police, Kolchak finds the next victim could be himself unless he stops the zombie.

kolchak the night stalker episode 3 they have been they are they will be ufo darren mcgavin

“They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be…”

Episode 3 They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be… Airdate:  09/27/74

The disappearance of electronics and strange parts around Chicago have the police not talking and Kolchak investigating ties to animal mutilations at the Lincoln Park Zoo.  When Kolchak suspect the source of the thefts and animal slaughters are extraterrestrial, Kolchak finds himself facing alien invaders.

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“The Vampire”

Episode 4 The Vampire Airdate:  10/04/74

When he learns of mysterious deaths in Los Angeles, Kolchak uses an opportunity for a need for a reporter in Los Angeles as a means to investigate a potential vampire preying of people.  With Faye Kruger (Kathleen Nolan) acting as a ghost writer, Kolchak pursues the vampire…and unfortunately could find it!

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“The Werewolf”

Episode 5 The Werewolf Airdate:  11/01/74

With his boss unable to take a scheduled cruise, Kolchak finds himself on the boat and ordered to turn a story.  When passengers begin to seemingly be attacked by animals, Kolchak teams with a woman named Paula Griffin (Nita Talbot) and seeks to slay a werewolf (Eric Braeden).

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Episode 6 Firefall Airdate:  11/08/74

A series of spontaneous combustions surround a famed Chicago musical director named Ryder Bond (Fred Beir), and Kolchak sets out to get to the bottom of it.

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“The Devil’s Platform”

Episode 7 The Devil’s Platform Airdate:  11/15/74

Kolchak is sent to cover the sudden rise of Robert W. Palmer (Tom Skerritt) in the political world.  When he begins to be menaced by a strange dog, Kolchak questions if Palmer’s rise was good luck or something more.

kolchak the night stalker episode 8 bad medicine richard kiel

“Bad Medicine”

Episode 8 Bad Medicine Airdate:  11/29/74

Kolchak investigates a series of murders tied to the appearance of a strange medicine man (Richard Kiel) who is committing robberies.

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“The Spanish Moss Murders”

Episode 9 The Spanish Moss Murder Airdate:  12/06/74

The murder of a nurse leads Kolchak to investigate murders where the killer seems to possess superhuman strength and leads Spanish Moss behind.  Tied to a strange sleep study, Kolchak learns of the Creole legend of Pere Malfait.

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“The Energy Eater”

Episode 10 The Energy Eater Airdate:  12/13/74

A new hospital is plagued by electrical and construction problems.  When Kolchak finds something is feeding on the electricity, a Native American construction worker named Jim Elkhorn (William Smith) reveals that the real danger could be a bear god named Matchemonedo.

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“Horror in the Heights”

Episode 11 Horror in the Heights Airdate:  12/20/74

When people in a Jewish neighborhood begin being killed by something that resembles the person they most trust, Kolchak tracks a link to an Indian restaurant and a creature called the Rakshasa.

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“Mr. R.I.N.G.”

Episode 12 Mr. R.I.N.G. Airdate:  01/10/75

Bumped down to obituaries, Kolchak investigates the death of a scientist working on a secret project called Mr. R.I.N.G.  When Kolchak discovers a military involvement and a cover-up, the appearance of a superhuman being could reveal the future of humanity.

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“Primal Scream”

Episode 13 Primal Scream Airdate:  01/17/75

A broken freezer at a laboratory awakens an ancient creature.  Now hunting the streets, Kolchak must uncover the secret of the primate and faces opposition from the police led by Captain Maurice Molnar (John Marley).

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“The Trevi Collection”

Episode 14 The Trevi Collection Airdate:  01/24/75

A murder at a fashion show puts Kolchak in an awkward position when extortionists demand Kolchak turn over information they believe he possess.  As Kolchak investigates the fashion designer, he suspects witchcraft could be involved…but he could be the next target!

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Episode 15 Chopper Airdate:  01/31/75

Kolchak investigates the murders of a former biker gang called the Jokers when they become the target of a headless motorcycle rider.

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“Demon in Lace”

Episode 16 Demon in Lace Airdate:  02/07/75

Kolchak learns of deaths of healthy college students who are found the arms of dead women.  Tracking the source of the murders to a mysterious tablet, Kolchak learns the legend of the succubus could be true!

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“Legacy of Terror”

Episode 17 Legacy of Terror Airdate:  02/14/75

When a series of murders occur involving the removal of a heart, Kolchak learns that it could be part of an Incan sacrifice to raise a god…and he must stop the last sacrifice from occurring!

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“The Knightly Murders”

Episode 18 The Knightly Murders Airdate:  03/07/75

Kolchak investigates murders surrounding a museum that appear to be done by medieval weapons, and Kolchak might discover an ancient curse on a suit of armor could be to blame.

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“The Youth Killer”

Episode 19 The Youth Killer Airdate:  03/14/75

Assigned to investigate the singles scene in Chicago, Kolchak finds himself investigating a series of murders where people seemed to have aged instantly…leading to a woman (Cathy Lee Crosby) who could have the background of a goddess.

kolchak the night stalker episode 20 the sentry lizard man

“The Sentry”

Episode 20 The Sentry Airdate:  03/28/75

An underground project finds setbacks when deaths begin occurring.  Kolchak finds himself butting heads with a new female lieutenant named Irene Lamont (Kathie Browne) as he learns that the project might have unearth an inhuman creature.

Related Links:

The Night Stalker (1972)

The Night Strangler (1973)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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