Night Strangler, The (1973)

The Night Strangler (1973), directed by Dan Curtis.

One year after The Night Stalker (1972) we get a sequel in a very similar story. Darren McGavin returns as dogged and abrasive reporter Carl Kolchak, now in Seattle. He runs into his old boss, the long-suffering hot-tempered editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), who puts Kolchak on a murder case and it's off to the races.

A series of young women -- yes, it's always women, several of them exotic dancers this time -- have been murdered: throats crushed, small amounts of blood withdrawn and traces of rotting flesh left on their necks, as if a living-dead ghoul were collecting samples. Kolchak finds this has been happening every 21 years for almost a century.

Like the first film this was a very popular TV movie, but we've traded freshness of concept for familiarity with the characters and mythology. This is not a bad thing when we have fun with it. Kolchak is a hero for his time: seeking truth but always frustrated by the System and never able to get credit for his victories, or even able to tell people about the ghastly reality all around them.

New faces:

I want to give a shout-out to massively framed Kate Murtagh who I remember as the monstrous madam of Farewell, My Lovely (1975), but who I now see was featured on a famous album cover:

Dan Curtis directs as well as produces this time and Richard Matheson provides a new screenplay. The ghoul's lair is the much-loved Bradbury Building, last seen in Blade Runner (1982).

The home video version is 90 minutes long, 16 minutes longer than the broadcast edition. The full film was cut for commercials in the US but shown complete at theaters in Europe. The shorter broadcast version has been lost now.

I might be able to cut 16 minutes from what we have, an excess of shouting and arguing with the cops and politicians.

Matheson wrote a third script which was never made. Instead we got 20 episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker which are available on DVD. Two more TV movies -- The Demon and the Mummy and Crackle of Death -- are edited compilations of TV episodes.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino with a another fact-filled commentary track by Tim Lucas.

He finds this film and other Dan Curtis projects like the Dark Shadows TV series to be much influenced by Mario Bava.