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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

DVD Review; Kolchak: The Night Stalker series



In 1974, I was about to enter junior high school --and being somewhat of an introverted geek at the time-- I was mortified!

When an older neighbor friend told me that gym class required changing into shorts in a locker room and showering (with others!?) I was considering moving to a remote area of the globe and changing my identity.

That fall season, the only thing that was reassuring in my shakey universe was that Kolchack:The Night Stalker would become a weekly series! (That and the Planet of the Apes TV series--both on Friday nights!)

When announced in TV Guide six months before, there were little or no details about "Kolchack", so I thought that the series would entail Carl chasing around the original vampire (Janos Skorzeny--from "The Night Stalker" TV Movie in 1972--that scared the hell out of me! ) around the USA--going from town to town, searching for him ala "The Fugitive" (or like the much- later on series "The Incredible Hulk"). This, thankfully, was not the case! Kolchack was to be hunting down a DIFFERENT MONSTER EACH WEEK! Not only that, I was CERTAIN that it would be a hit show and last for 5 or 6 seasons, too.

The night the show debuted, I was over a friend's house down the block watching the PREMIERE of the "Planet of the Apes" series at 8:00 on CBS. Afterwards I ran home and sat in front of the TV set for a full hour waiting for Kolchack (beginning at 10:00 PM on ABC). At the time, I thought it was great and never missed it--week after week. Kolchack:The Night Stalker lasted a full season but ratings dropped off in the Spring and it was cancelled shortly thereafter. Kolchack never went into syndication as for any series to do so, it must last for at least 3 full seasons.

Later on in life (high school, 1979) CBS Late Night AKA The CBS Late Movie, showed reruns of Kolchack:The Night Stalker. It was great seeing it again, although I do not think it ran long enough to view every episode that was produced. (Many of you reading this may only remember seeing the series during this after-the-fact run) .

Kolchack disappeared into the TV Land void until the Sci-Fi Channel showed reruns in the 1990's. (The episode prints were not so good and they seemed heavily edited to fit additional commercial time in--the Sci-Fi Channel SUCKS).

Well here it is, the future, and Kolchack:The Night Stalker- Season One is here on DVD!

The bad news is that the series has not aged well. I feel terrible saying so as Carl Kolchak was my childhood hero! Here are some reasons: 1) the shows writing (by multiple standard TV writers) plays like, say "The Incredible Hulk". The plots are standard in every way. 2) Universal Studios recycles every set in every TV series to death. I'm surprised that that Kolchack didn't stumble into the "Psycho" house, get bitten by "Jaws" or ride a bicycle with E.T. Shame on you, Universal.

One the upside: Darrin McGavin is a joy to watch. He's like Tony Randall--a great actor custom fitted into a charming character that we could watch even if he was just reading names out of a telephone book. ( Nods to Simon Oakland as Tony Venchenzo as well! )

There are some above-average episodes here; “The Spanish Moss Murders” , for one (monster attacks people in their dreams). “The Zombie”, “The Ripper” and I even liked the episode with the headless motorcycle rider. The DVD set has no Special Features. I got this for sentimental reasons, mainly.

SUMMERY: Great cast, good set-up , blah scripts, crappy Bionic Woman-quality production values.

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