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DVD Review: Kolchak – The Night Stalker

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It’s been over 30 years since I last saw Kolchak the Nightstalker. Memories of the series have stayed with me since I watched it with my dad as a child. The shows were terrifying and I loved them. Although I have forgotten most of the episodes, I could still vividly remember the headless motorcycle man and the Cajun swamp monster chasing Kolchak through the Chicago sewer system. I knew that re-watching the series would bring back great memories, but was also ready to accept the fact that a 30-year old series cannot compare to the technology-driven television of today. I was right on both counts. After viewing this collection I can honestly say the series is still extremely entertaining, but the monsters made me laugh more than they scared me.

The release on DVD of the original series is most likely an attempt to capitalize on the “reimagining” of The Night Stalker. A new version of the series is now showing at 9 pm/EST on ABC and stars Stuart Townsend as Kolchak.
The new show is getting good reviews, but the original Kolchak: The Night Stalker was also fingered as an influence by Chris Carter who is the creator of the most successful science fiction series in television history, The X Files.

This new DVD set includes all 20 episodes from the original series, which ran from September 13, 1974 until August 30, 1975. They appear in order and uncut over 3 doubled-sided DVDs for a whopping 17+ hours of entertainment. It follows newspaper man Carl Kolchak as he sticks his nose into police investigations that always happen to feature supernatural elements. In fact, Kolchak The Nightstalker could have been named “Monster of the Week”. As a young boy these monsters were something you looked forward to with baited breath. The make-up is poor by today’s standards, but to a young mind these creatures were absolutely terrifying.

Darren Mcgavin does an excellent job with the Kolchak character who is far from the brave leading man you see in most TV series’ today. Kolchak is a talented con-man who relies on fast talk to get the information he needs or to avoid danger. He has no qualms about lying to get his story and is more in the mold of a black & white era detective than one from the 1970s. Mcgavin is also known for his role as Murphy Brown’s father in the series “Murphy Brown” and for his appearances as Agent Arthur Dales on the X Files.

The quality of the video is hard to determine against the original, as I was only 7 years old when I last saw Kolchak, but I must say, some of the episodes look extremely dark. This may have been to hide some of the low budget monster costumes or to just create a darker atmosphere, but I found it a bit distracting at times. The biggest downside to this compilation is the total lack of any bonus features. When you spend money on a box set like this you expect to have some bonus features, especially since the main market for this will be fans of the show. I find it inexcusable that they could not put together some interviews, or outtakes, or commentary, or anything for that matter. This set is a complete disappointment in regards to giving fans the kind of special features they deserve. I have also heard that the dual-sided DVD format has had quality problems, but I did not encounter any with the set I received.

Even with the disappointment in the nonexistence of special features, Kolchak is worth 10 times the price if only because I can now have “Kolchak” night with my kids each week.

Episodes:

#1 – The Ripper
#2 – The Zombie
#3 – They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be
#4 – The Vampire
#5 – The Werewolf
#6 – Firefall
#7 – The Devil’s Platform
#8 – Bad Medicine
#9 – The Spanish Moss Murders
#10 – The Energy Eater

#11 – Horror in the Heights
#12 – Mr. R.I.N.G.
#13 – Primal Scream
#14 – The Trevi Collection
#15 – Chopper
#16 – Demon in Lace
#17 – Legacy of Terror
#18 – The Knightly Murders
#19 – The Youth Killer
#20 – The Sentry

Title: Kolchak – The Night Stalker (1974)
Starring: Darren Mcgavin, Simon Oakland, Jack Grinnage, Ruth McDevitt, John Fiedler, Carol Ann Susi
Format: Color, Box set, Dolby
Rated: NR
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: October 4, 2005
Number of discs: 3

Robert Burke spends much of his time lovingly crafting thematic music playlists at the Rhapsody Radish.

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  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    I’ve only seen The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, and enjoyed them both.

    And Can’t forget Mcgavin as the father in A Christmas Story!

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I think I understand the character of Arthur Dales a lot better now! I’m going to check Kolchak out. Thanks!

  • http://www.musicradish.com Robert

    Phillip, let me know what you think, if you get to see some Kolchak.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Oh, man. I too, used to watch The Night Stalker first-run (I was 9 years old), and it creeped me out big-time. I remember it was only on for a season, and almost nobody watched it, but those who did have long-lasting memories, not of the episodes themselves (which I’ve almost completely forgotten), but of the chills they felt watching them.

    McGavin was great in the role, too.

    I haven’t seen ‘em in 30 years either, but I’ve often wished they’d turn up somewhere (I have never had cable TV in my life, so I’ve missed it if it showed on cable).

    Glad to hear about the DVD. I’m not a big DVD consumer, but this goes to the top of my list.

  • http://www.musicradish.com Robert

    >And Can’t forget Mcgavin as the father in A Christmas Story!

    Wow! yea! Holy shit, it never even dawned on me. He was absolutely brilliant in A Christmas Story!

    uao, we have a lot in common man. It’s scary.

  • http://www.wallybangs.blogspot.com wallybangs

    The series was good, but it never topped the original 2 hour movie where Kolchak meets that vampire out in Las Vegas. I was around 7 when that aired and my father let me watch it. I’ve never been as scared since.

  • Wangdangler

    Poor quality dvd set. Discs one and two kept locking up or “freezing”. Tried to return but was told no because the dvd set had been opened. Thanks for nothing Wal Mart and UNIVERSAL STUDIOS.