I am watching the film ‘The Night Stalker’ (1972) for this forthcoming weekly video dispatch. It is a made for TV movie that along with The Night Strangler (1973) preceded the cult TV Series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
“It featured a fictional Chicago wire service reporter—Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin—who investigated mysterious crimes with unlikely causes, particularly those that law enforcement authorities would not follow up. These often involved the supernatural or science fiction, including fantastic creatures.
I love the feel of 1970s dramas, particularly horror or science fiction films that take place in dreary, gloom dipped cities. The film stock of some of the B-movie fare often seems just slightly under-exposed and it’s like peering into a distant time. Lots of them have a meditative quality where the camera seems to be dwelling pensively on a slow-moving disaster in the making. I get the feel that the filmmakers in many of these films, of the ones I’ve seen that have me thinking of this, like ‘God Told Me To’ (1974), ‘End of the World’ (1977) etc, have feelings of cultural dissemblance on the rise. Of an acceleration of the world around them, where they are privy to the lurching motion of the entire spaceship earth, before the acceleration smooths out into a contant nightmare and everyone takes it for granted as the silent state of our everyday being.
For what it’s worth, I love to sit with these quiet, timeswept movements of lost men driving cities streets in shitbox cars, trying to solve the riddles of the imploding universe. Talking to themselves about the disasters coming down upon their heads.
“So all the loose ends had been gathered
together and tied into a pretty knot …right around the neck of… guess who?” – Carl Kolchak, ‘The Night Stalker’, 1972
The script for ‘The Night Stalker’ was penned by one
NOVELIST, AUTHOR 1926 – 2013
Richard Burton Matheson was an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He may be known best as the author of I Am Legend, a 1954 horror novel that has been adapted for the screen four times, although six more of his novels or short stories have been adapted as major motion pictures: The Shrinking Man, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Bid Time Return, A Stir of Echoes and Button, Button. Matheson also wrote numerous television episodes of The Twilight Zone for Rod Serling, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. He later adapted his 1971 short story “Duel” as a screenplay which was promptly directed by a young Steven Spielberg, for the television movie of the same name.
I’ll discuss the Night Stalker and some of its cultural significance as I perceive it in the upcoming Weekly Dispatch this Sunday/Monday. Stay tuned.