THE NIGHT STALKER is an effective thriller about a displaced reporter from New York City investigating a series of vampire-like murders in Las Vegas. One of the most popular TV movies of the 1970s, THE NIGHT STALKER helped raise the profile of workaday character actor Darren McGavin, who is perfect as Carl Kolchak, a reporter who, as described in the sequel film, "looks like he just came from a road company performance of The Front Page." Kolchak, knowing he is on to the story that will make his career, clashes with his boss (Simon Oakland), the local authorities and anybody else who tries to getting to the bottom of the killings.
This cliched but fun "hard-boiled reporter" story is pitted against the supernatural horror of a vampire stalking and killing local dancers and barmaids coming home at night from the casinos. Vampires have so long been romanticized (Dark Shadows, Angel, the TWILIGHT novels and movies, etc.) that is good to see one that is simply a vicious, brutal, undead killer, something he has in common with later TV vampires of the era such as Mr. Barlow in SALEM'S LOT and the title character of Dan Curtis's DRACULA. - JB
A major hit when it first aired, THE NIGHT STALKER spawned an inevitable sequel. In THE NIGHT STRANGLER, Kolchak, now relocated to Seattle and out of work, runs into his old boss, also conveniently located to Seattle, and once again gets a job as a reporter. Within minutes, he is assigned to a similar case - mysterious murders of young women at night - and he soon suspects there is more than meets the eye to these atrocities. Despite higher production values and an outstanding cast of veteran stars such as Simon Oakland, John Carradine, Wally Cox, Al Lewis and Margaret Hamilton, THE NIGHT STRANGLER falls short of its predecessor in terms of thrills and chills. It leans too heavily on the twists and turns of the first film, even when those twists and turns don't jibe with the circumstances of the serial killer story. Still, with a cast like that, the film is guaranteed to be entertaining. Jo Ann Pflug is also a much livelier and funnier companion for Kolchak that Carol Lynley was in the original film.
The two films were followed by the short-lived TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker,
in which the reporter, still played by McGavin, uncovers some new
supernatural beasty on a weekly basis. Neither Dan Curtis nor
Richard Matheson had anything to do with the series, and McGavin
himself was highly unsatisfied with it, yet it has its fans and was a
main inspiration for Chris Carter's The X-Files. ½ - JB