These two movies gave rise to the tv series Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975).
1. The Night Stalker US movie (1971 tvm). ABC. Pr Dan Curtis. Dir John Llewellyn Moxey. Mufx Jerry Cash. Screenplay Richard Matheson. Based on story by Jeff Rice. Starring Claude Akins (Sheriff Warren Butcher), Barry Atwater (Janós Skorzeny), Carol Lynley (Gail Foster), Darren McGavin (Carl Kolchak), Ralph Meeker (Bernie Jenks), Simon Oakland (Tony Vincenzo). 73 mins. Colour.
A Serial Killer is loose in Las Vegas; the young female victims are found drained of blood and with human bite-marks at their throats. Hardbitten reporter Kolchak of the Daily News pursues the story, believing the killer a maniac who thinks he is a Vampire; girlfriend Gail convinces him the vampirism might be more than delusional. At last the authorities accept Kolchak's theory, and hammers, stakes and crosses are issued to the police. But Kolchak finds the vampire first and, with FBI friend Jenks, exposes him to sunlight and stakes him. For this he is, to shut him up (vampirism being bad for the tourist trade), threatened with arrest for murder and thrown out of town. [JG]
2. The Night Strangler US movie (1972 tvm). ABC. Pr Dan Curtis. Dir Curtis. Spfx Ira Anderson. Mufx William J Tuttle. Screenplay Richard Matheson. Starring Richard Anderson (Dr Richard Malcolm), Scott Brady (Captain Schubert), John Carradine (Llewellyn Crossbinder), Wally Cox (Titus Berry), Margaret Hamilton (Professor Crabwell), Darren McGavin (Carl Kolchak), Simon Oakland (Tony Vincenzo), Jo Ann Pflug (Louise Harper), Nina Wayne (Charisma Beauty). 74 mins. Colour.
The success of 1 gave rise to this sequel, a pilot for the tv series. Kolchak's old editor Vincenzo, now working on the Seattle Daily Chronicle, employs him. His first assignment is to report the murder of a belly dancer. Soon there is a second victim, with some blood drawn off from near the brain by hypodermic and a residue of dead human flesh being left around the neck. Kolchak finds out that similar series of murders have been committed in Seattle's Pioneer Square area every 21 years since 1889; each time six young women are murdered over an 18-day period. He next discovers that an ingredient of the Elixir of Life sought in Alchemy was human blood. And an 1867 reference describes a local physician, Dr Richard Malcolm, telling Mark Twain he has found the key to Immortality. Identifying this man with the modern-day philanthropist Malcolm Richards, Kolchak discovers beneath the Richards Clinic a subterranean City inhabited by corpses plus, indeed, Dr Malcolm. Malcolm has killed six times, but has yet to take the sixth dose of elixir; before he can do so, Kolchak destroys it, and Malcolm enters accelerated ageing.
Both 1 and 2 transcend their cheapness and the over-smartass characterization of Kolchak to stand as excellent Supernatural Fictions, the former as a worthy treatment of a standard theme, the latter as a fascinatingly inventive extension of the formula. [JG]