26 January 2010

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Jimmy Sangster: That Kolchak Episode

Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Image via Wikipedia

In our recent Jimmy Sangster: The Man From Hammer post , we've mentioned the TV series Jimmy Sangster worked on during his "American Years"... In that list was Kolchak: The Night Stalker (starring Darren McGavin) and the episode Horror In The Heights as he wrote the screenplay for it at the time.

In today's post, we're taking a more detailed look at Kolchak: The Night Stalker in general and the episode Horror In The Heights in particular.
(And we've also added a video-clip with Kolchak's opening intro.)

Enjoy this little trip dowm Memory lane...

Loup Dargent

Night Stalker (video game)Image via Wikipedia

 Jimmy Sangster: 
That Kolchak Episode

The Night Stalker

In the 1970s TV series, Carl Kolchak was a Chicago reporter who, episodes after episodes, investigated stories which were definitely out of the ordinary. On a weekly basis, he faced vampires, werewolves, Greek goddesses with a grudge, robots, reptiles, space aliens, Indian spirits and, of course, rakshasas...

Two TV movies were made before the TV series.

The first one, titled The Night Stalker, was co-written by Richard Matheson (from the legendary Twilight Zone) and Jeff Rice (the future Night Stalker TV series creator) and directed by John Llewellyn Moxey.

It was first shown on January 11 1972 and received the success it deserved by being the most highly rated TV movie at the time.

The second one, The Night Strangler, directed by Dan Curtis and penned again by Richard Matheson, was first shown on January 16 1973 and also received a high rating, successfully paving the way for the weekly TV series.

In both TV movies, the role of Kolchak was played by the late Hollywood actor-producer Darren McGavin.

The TV Series Episodes
  • The Ripper: written by Rudolph Borchert and directed by Allen Baron.
  • The Zombie: story by Zekial Marko, teleplay by David Chase and directed by Alexander Grasshoff.
  • They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be... (aka U.F.O.): story by Dennis Clark, teleplay by Rudolph Borchert and directed by Allen Baron.
  • The Vampire: written by Bill Stratton, David Chase, Rudolph Borchert and directed by Don Weis.
  • The Werewolf: written by David Chase, Paul Playdon and directed by Allen Baron.
  • Fire Fall (aka The Doppelganger): written by Bill S Ballinger and directed by Don Weis.
  • The Devil's Platform: story by Tim Maschler, teleplay by David Chase, Donn Mullally, Rudolph Borchert, Larry Markes, Norm Liebmann and directed by Allen Baron.
  • Bad Medicine: written by L Ford Neale, John Huff and directed by Alex Grasshoff.
  • The Spanish Moss Murders: story by Alvin L Friedman, teleplay by David Chase, Alvin L Friedman and directed by Gordon Hessler.
  • The Energy Eater: story by Arthur Rowe, teleplay by Arthur Rowe, Rudolph Borchert, Robert Earl and directed by Alexander Grasshoff.
  • Horror In The Heights: written by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Michael T Caffey.
  • Mr R.I.N.G: written by L Ford Neale, John Huff and directed by Gene Levitt.
  • The Primal Scream (aka The Humanoid): written by Bill S Ballinger, David Chase and directed by Robert Scheerer.
  • The Trevi Collection: written by Rudolph Borchert and directed by Don Weis.
  • Chopper: story by Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis, teleplay by Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, David Chase, Steve Fisher and directed by Bruce Kessler.
  • Demon In Lace: story by Stephen Lord, teleplay by Michael Kozoll, David Chase, Stephen Lord and directed by Don Weis.
  • Legacy Of Terror: written by Arthur Rowe and directed by Don McDougall.
  • The Knightly Murders: story by Paul Magistretti, teleplay by David Chase, Michael Kozoll and directed by Vincent McEveety.
  • The Youth Killer: written by Rudolph Borchert and directed by Don McDougall.
  • The Sentry: written by L Ford Neale, John Huff and directed by Seymour Robbie.

An Influential TV Show
'Kolchak really isn't a pure horror show, although it deals with man-killing monsters and creatures every week...
The simple fact is, you can't do a legitimate 'horror show' on network time, as the sponsors don't want to scare people out of their pants. So we decided to titillate, not terrify, to have fun with it.'

Darren McGavin (Carl Kolchak)
While things have kind of changed since the 1970s when it comes to show horror stories on TV, this short lived TV series still has a cult following...

It is also said to have influenced Chris Carter, the creator of
The X-Files himself...
Which seems to be confirmed by the fact that he casted Darren McGavin in a guest role as retired FBI Special Agent Arthur Dales... The first agent assigned to what became eventually the X-Files Department.

Horror In The Heights
Roosevelt Heights is a Chicago urban slum whose population consists mostly of elderly Jews and reporter Cark Kolchak is given an assignment to cover the poverty there. But, he soon discovers that some weird things are definitely going on in the area... 

Swastikas (not the nazi symbols but the Hindu ones which are believed to keep evil spirits away) are painted everywhere and elderly citizens are found dead, stripped to the bone, apparently by rats.

Kolchak finds an even more sinister reason behind the deaths: a rakshasa, a Hindu shape shifting demon that can entrance its victims by taking the form of the person they trust most.

He consults an elderly rakshasa hunter (Mr Singh, the owner of a newly opened Indian restaurant in the area) who entrusts him with the only thing that can kill the rakshasa: crossbow bolts blessed by a priest of Brahma.

Mr Singh is a rakshasa slayer who has spent his life tracking and killing them wherever they appear. But, unfortunately, he is now too old and weak so the rakshasas do not fear him anymore.
'I am looking for someone to carry on my work. Somebody courageous, strong of heart and pure in spirit. Perhaps you?'
Singh looks at Kolchak for a minute and says 'Perhaps not.'
But, as there is obviously nobody else around fitting the job description, Carl Kolchak has to be the chosen one after all.
However, to slay the demon, Kolchak will have to shoot whoever it is that he trusts the most, and pray that it is the rakshasa and not the real person when he does.

The story, written by British born Jimmy Sangster, who has also penned many of the Hammer Studio's best horror stories, gave the audience an unusual and terrifying monster from a mythology most western viewers were not familiar with and - it worked.

Simon Oakland as Tony Vincenzo.Image via Wikipedia

Kolchak: The Night Stalker 

(Opening Intro)

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