October 1, the first day of my favorite time of year. Crisp leaves crunching under the feet of passerby, the smell of autumn in the air, apple orchards, hayrides, bonfires, and a cornucopia of color, all usher in the beginning of the Holiday season.
As I sat and reflected on these titillating particulars, my thoughts drifted to anamnestic and mnemonic images of hockey masks, leather sacks, bedsheets, and acupuncture needles. I love to watch movies. I love to watch movies about Halloween during the month of October. Not Halloween per se, but movies that are themed around horror, and everything else within that genre. I’m not normally one for gruesome gore porn type of films, but the occasional one slips into my viewing queue.
It is with great fanfare that I begin this new journey for the month of October 2013 of watching one film per day and blogging a brief review, for your reading pleasure.
My hopes in doing so are that you will find a film that you can seek out, if you may dare, and add to your queue. Perhaps you have seen it and want to revisit the hallowed haunting grounds. Even better yet, you either have seen and loved, or loathed, the film and simply want to refresh your memory of the reasons why. It is with these intentions that I have taken on such a task.
Thus, I now give you, without further ado:
31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 1: Night Stalker
Director: John Llewellyn Moxey
Cast: Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, Barry Atwater
Country: United States
Specs: 74 mins. / Color / OAR 1.33:1 / MPAA Rating: N/A
An investigative reporter, notices a strange set of circumstances involving a number of recent homicides in the city. He begins to suspect that the murder may be a vampire, and sets out to prove his theory before all around him commit him to a mental hospital.
Minutes into my viewing, it became evident that I was about to witness a great, modern-day, detective-noir film. The narration by the main character Kolchak, along with the moody 70’s cinematography, instantly transported me to a world of mystery and suspense with a supernatural bent. Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story) shines as the reporter caught between politics and the desire to uncover and report on the truth, something that was very much on the minds of people at the time this film was made (and still is, no doubt!).
I was engaged throughout the entire film, immersed in the tales of cover-ups, corruptions, and intrigue. The story was very well written, especially given the confines of 70’s television. Proof positive that good storytelling needn’t have the crutches or vices common to a modern Rated R feature film in order to deliver.
Richard Matheson, writer of numerous episodes of the classic Rod Serling anthology TV series, The Twilight Zone, as well as timeless novels such as Hell House, I Am Legend, and The Incredible Shrinking Man, here again displayed his prowess as an auteur of the genre. Taking a novel (at the time unpublished) titled The Kolchak Papers and adapting it as his own, Matheson was able to deliver to producer Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) a tale that would lure McGavin to commit to this made-for-tv ABC movie.
It became very evident, mere moments into watching this film, why a sequel, titled The Night Strangler, would arrive the following year, as well as a television series titled Kolchak: The Night Stalker for the ’74-’75 season.
My only qualm, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the film itself, is that I wasn’t able to enjoy this in glorious HD. My hope is that someone over at Criterion stumbles across this blog, and grants the wish of one new fan.