Thursday, October 20, 2005

Return of the Night Stalker

I wanted to watch Kolchak The Night Stalker in 1974 when it came on.

I'd read the paperback novel on which the first TV movie was based, enjoyed The Norliss Tapes, also from Dan Curtis Productions, and talked about it endlessly with my friend who was also interested in scary movies.

But reception was fuzzy on the ABC channel from Lafayette, LA, the only ABC affiliate we could get in Central Louisiana. In those days of rabbit ears, Kolchak looked like it was set in Norway or Finland on my TV.

Managed to catch "The Spanish Moss Murders" but it was really more like listening than watching.

It wasn't until the rebroadcast on the CBS Late Movie in the early eighties that I saw the whole series.

It was destination TV on Friday nights, cool, scary, campy and watched by just about everybody I knew. I discovered that when at a church lock-in the subject of zombie killing came up. "Fill his mouth with salt," everyone answered in unison.

The New Stalker
Someone on one board or another that I was browsing noted the new Night Stalker lacks the original's humor.

I like it, but it's true, it just doesn't have that Kolchak zing. The new Carl has been injected with Fox Mulder's DNA, even as Fox was the offspring of Darrin McGavin's Carl.

The quirky fun is lost in the reimaging. I'm not sure what would have been the right way to do it. In his Night Stalker diary published in Entertainment Weekly, producer Frank Spotnitz notes he considered a modernized version of McGavin's Carl with someone like John C. McGinley or a few others. Might have been fun, but it might not have worked.

In spite of...
In spite of all that, the thing the new show does manage is to overcome the "monster of the week" formula that plagued the original.

It overcomes it with X-Files scripts, but it overcomes. I hope it achieves well enough against CSI to make it to full season. I want to know more about the neo werewolves that got Carl's wife and the mark on his wrist and all that.

At least I get good reception thanks to Dish Network, and I can watch on DVR even though Christine prefers Gil Grissom

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