Night Stalker, The (1972)

The Night Stalker (1972), directed by John Llewellyn Moxey.


Victim #4: Mary Brandon, showgirl, 25, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 125 luscious pounds... less the weight of 12 pints of blood, of course.

The first appearance of Carl Kolchak, old-school muckraking reporter, loud and abusive and never without his little camera and tape recorder. In this first adventure young women in Las Vegas are found drained of blood. Van Helsing-like, Kolchak has to handle the whole mess. Do the authorities thank him? What do you think?

I remembered the Kolchak films fondly but didn't actually remember much about them. This was a phenomenally popular TV movie-of-the week produced by Dan Curtis from a adaptation by Richard Matheson.

It's relatively mild by horror-movie standards, but was thrilling for TV audiences of the time. The climactic battle with the fiend -- cross, pulled curtains letting in light, hammer and stake -- are taken directly from Hammer's Horror of Dracula (1958) with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

The characters make it work, particularly Darren McGavin's lovable and irritating journalist, dogged in his pursuit of the truth -- always uncovered at great personal risk -- that he is never allowed to publish. A huge influence on The X-Files says Chris Carter.

Many other familiar faces:

I'm not sure audiences caught one horrific bit: the vampire keeps a live woman tied up and uses her as a warmer for the cold blood he has stockpiled. Ick! The vampire himself: in truth, not that scary, although walking through the monster's house always has a nightmare feel.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino with a wide-ranging and detailed commentary track by Tim Lucas. He makes many interesting connections with then recent history and the national mood.