Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

After all my talk of books, it's sad to say I've spent the last two nights watching dvds. My buying frenzy was confined not only to literature, you see, and a week or so back I found a rake of old, macabre shows online for cheap as chips prices. Sadly none arrived while I was off work (I had planned one long day of watching), but on Monday 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker' was finally delivered.
I have fond memories of the 1974 show from my childhood, when it was repeated on late night BBC2. Starring Darren McGavin as the eponymous journalist, each week it featured a new monster or supernatural threat that Kolchak would investigate and usually dispatch, before finding evidence for his story go up in smoke (quite literally, most of the time). The type of show that a growing kid likes to see and I haven't grown up that much since.
Of course, it's all very cheap and tacky, and the horror elements are probably not helped by the gentle comedy thrown into each episode. The only thing scary about the Werewolf episode, for instance, is that they actually allowed such shoddy make-up on to the screen (Jack Pierce this isn't). But there is still an appeal about the show. I splurged on eight of the twenty episodes already and though there is a standard formula - Kolchak sees a strange pattern in apparently mundane events, identifies (correctly) a malevolent supernatural force, tries to convince everyone, fails and has to kill the beast himself - there is enough originality in the 'Monster of the Week' to keep you entertained.
For instance, take the first episode concerning the original Jack the Ripper. Mysteriously he pops up (as a veritable Spring-heeled Jack) in Chicago and must eat the kidneys of five women to be reborn. Kolchak delving into the records, discovers several 'Ripper' copycats since the famous London murders and jumps to the 'logical' conclusion that they are all the one superhuman killer. Anyone remember the 'Tooms' episodes from 'The X-Files'? Very similar. This should be no surprise, as 'X-Files' creator, Chris Carter, has publically acknowledged the influence of the Kolchak series on his own.
Other clever twists on old standards populate the rest of the series; a werewolf on a singles cruise ship; an incredibly politically incorrect episode on an underworld zombie (featuring Antonio Fargas - Huggy Bear from 'Starsky and Hutch' - and Scatman Crothers - The Shining); a firestarting doppelganger. Tom Skerrit, of 'Alien' and 'The Dead Zone', pops up memorably as a Satanist politician (aren't they all?) headed for the Senate. Add in a treasure seeking Indian sorcerer and a vampire hooker and you have what 'The X-Files' might have been without all that 'Smoking Man and the Aliens' nonsense. Not that aliens don't figure too. In one authentically funny scene, a UFO nut proclaims the following before having his bone-marrow sucked out by a malign alien:
"You are on the third planet of our solar system. We are peaceful. I will now speak to you in the universal language of Mathematico. Arrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!"

Needless to say 'Mathematico' was his own invention.
American television recently tried to remake the series with Stuart Townsend in the Carl Kolchak role, but after six episodes broadcast the series was pulled (although another four episodes had been made). Critics complained that it was too much like 'The X-Files'.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home