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Friday, February 16, 2018

The Night Strangler (1973)





The made for T.V. fun continues with this sequel to The Night Stalker. I figured it made sense to follow up the original with a review of the sequel. It doesn’t hurt that both movies are great! I guess that was a spoiler. In addition to Richard Matheson returning to write the script we get the genius Dan Curtis actually directing it!

Kolchak is back in action in this follow up to the Night Stalker movie. Sometime after being run out of Las Vegas Kolchak finds himself in Seattle. His old editor, Vincenzo, bumps into him at a bar. Kolchak is trying to convince anyone that will listen about the vampire that terrorized Vegas. Vincenzo offers Kolchak a job at a paper in Seattle, and a juicy story covering a series of murders. But of course, it becomes apparent that something odd and perhaps supernatural is going on with the killings. A similar set of killings happen every twenty-one years and have since not long after the Civil War! This leads to all sorts of talk of alchemy and exploration of the creepy Seattle underground.

If you have seen the Night Stalker you know what happens when Kolchak tries to convince anyone about the odd nature of the crimes. Just like in Vegas he helps the police track the killer down only to find himself again out of a job. Only this time it ends a little more upbeat with him and a couple friends driving out of town headed to New York City and what was supposed to be a third movie that became the series instead.

It isn’t often that a sequel lives up to a movie that I enjoyed as much as I enjoyed the Night Stalker. This is one of those movies. Richard Matheson again writes the script, only this time it isn’t an adaptation but something from his own imagination. If anything, Matheson’s story is an even more entertaining than the original, while keeping to the basics of humor and character that made the first so entertaining. Moving on from the classic horror character of the vampire this film has Kolchak pitted up against a mad alchemist that has discovered the secret of eternal life. Unfortunately, one of the main ingredients for the formula is the blood of a recently dead young girl! I’ve always thought that the mad scientist is the most underappreciated of the classic “monsters”, so it was great to see it used.

Kolchak vs Dracula? Okay maybe just John Carradine.
This story also again makes wonderful use of the city in which it is set. In the first film it was the Las Vegas strip, this time the story makes use of Seattle and it’s forgotten underground. If you don’t know what this is I suggest you check it out on the net, because it is fascinating. As I mentioned earlier this allows the finale to take place in a surreal underground that is locked in time, much like our main villain. I don’t think it is as scary as the first, but still is creepy enough for a bit of fun.   

The cast is again spectacular with McGavin again carrying the movie in the role of Kolchak. He nails the characters confrontational challenging of authority. Simon Oakland returns as his put-upon editor Vincenzo, with John Carradine and “Grandpa” Al Lewis joining the cast in supporting roles as a newspaper editor and doomed bum respectively.

If you are expecting a gore fest then this isn’t the movie for you. But for a TV movie from the early ‘70s you do get to see some dead bodies and a funny sequence with a bottle of scotch in the morgue that is gross if you pay attention. As with the first the movie is shot very well, capturing both the city of Seattle as well as it’s creepy dark corners on film with equal skill. Along with the Night Stalker these movies are the gold standard of made for television horror and are must see. 


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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