Night Strangler [1973]

The Night Stalker Wisecracking Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is a rumpled news hound plucked from the fast-talking newspaper flicks of the 1940s and dropped into the swinging '70s. What makes the eccentric Kolchak even more unique, however, is his nose for the supernatural, a trait that leaves his editor (Simon Oakland) exasperated and the police less than amused. When he insists that a late-night Las Vegas serial killer (who leaves his victims drained of blood and sporting twin holes in the neck) is a modern-day vampire, he's practically run out of town by the local authorities. Naturally, he stalks the vampire himself, an unlikely Van Helsing armed with a silver cross, a wooden stake, and his ever-present tape recorder and flashbulb camera. Carol Lynley is his understanding girlfriend, and Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Kent Smith, and Charles McGraw costar as the Vegas cops and politicians Kolchak systematically alienates with his abrasive charm and smart mouth. Directed by Dan Curtis from a witty script by Richard Matheson, the quirky mix of horror and humor turned The Night Stalker into a ratings sensation that inspired a sequel (The Night Strangler) and a short-lived TV series (Kolchak: The Night Stalker). The X-Files creator Chris Carter acknowledges the show as a major inspiration, and has cast McGavin in a recurring role as a retired X-Files veteran with an acerbic personality and a familiar rumpled wardrobe. Kolchak lives! --Sean Axmaker The Night Strangler The Night Strangler finds down-on-his-luck investigator Carl Kolchak in Seattle, hot on the trail of a serial killer hiding in the underground city beneath the streets, a gas-lit fantasy world frozen in time (L.A.'s famous Bradbury Building--which has also appeared in Blade Runner and DOA--becomes the spooky city's architectural centerpiece). Exotic dancer and medical student Jo Ann Pflug tags along as partner and bait, and the exasperated Simon Oakland returns as Kolchak's harried editor. Genre fans will enjoy the appearances of popular character actors John Carradine, Margaret Hamilton, Wally Cox, and Al Lewis. Noted horror and science fiction author Richard Matheson scripted this meandering, low-key thriller with plenty of humor, which McGavin delivers with deadpan delight. --Sean Axmaker

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