Tyree: Do you remember the vampire from Las Vegas? | Chroniclers
Many of you have just watched the late Darren McGavin as Ralphie’s father in 1983’s umpteenth “A Christmas Story” rerun, but we’re nearing the 50th anniversary of another iconic McGavin role.
On January 11, 1972, ABC aired “The Night Stalker” – which entered the American psyche as the highest rated made-for-television movie to that point.
Admittedly, the film was helped by being nestled between “The Mod Squad” and “Marcus Welby, MD” and competing with an NBC documentary “to please the audience” on the factions of Northern Ireland (apparently, the documentary by NBC on postnasal drip was not completed on time); but it was still an important step.
It was impossible for informed viewers to say no to the film. The screenplay was by Richard Matheson (famous as the author of “I Am Legend” and the screenwriter of 16 episodes of “Twilight Zone” as well as Steven Spielberg’s first film “Duel”) and the producer was Dan Curtis, the creator of Gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows” (which etched the image of the Sealed Reverend Trask alive inside a wall in the memories of a generation).
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Back in the days before social media and streaming ‘watch it every time’, ‘The Night Stalker’ was the kind of shared experience that dominated conversations about officers’ water coolers and backyard chatter. school recess on January 12.
McGavin portrayed Carl Kolchak, a hapless investigative reporter focusing on the serial murders that plagued Las Vegas – serial murders that increasingly seemed to be the work of a vampire. The sarcastic Kolchak has taken the wrong side of the powers that be because the news of a leech in town could hamper the tourist trade. (This is the same reason why the buffet at the Extended Warranty Association’s annual convention is always sequestered in a secret room.)
Although “The Night Stalker” broke audience records, the follow-up TV movie “The Night Strangler” spawned the 1974-75 series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”, inspired Fox’s “The X-Files” and aroused a real cult. , nit-pickers like to nit-pick.
Some complain about the tight budget, even though director John Llewellyn Moxey has done a masterful job of creating suspense in his financial constraints. Tight budgets were the reality, and network executives tried to save even more. (“Are you sure you need the little plastic things on the end of the laces? You’re killing me!”)
Yes, viewers spoiled for modern special effects might be disappointed with the film’s simplicity. But these people would even find fault with Heaven. (“There’s no CGI? Forget it! Give me a ticket to the other place.”)
Today’s movie-goers addicted to gore standards might bemoan the film’s restricted nature, but those responsible for network standards and practices have spent more than 20 years protecting viewers from disruptive elements. (“Quick! No more parents with dead spouses! No more people smoking cancer sticks! But no karate!”)
Some fear that vampire Janos Skorzeny has not received a more nuanced and sympathetic treatment. They wouldn’t be satisfied unless Kolchak brought along a social worker to persuade the vampire to experience a “Wow!” I could have had a V8! moment.
Like every year, 2022 will be a buying market for columnists wishing to write about cultural anniversaries; but I could not in good conscience pass up this opportunity.
Not when “The Night Stalker” left such an indelible mark.
My trip to Las Vegas in the mid-90s is still a blur, but I was supposed to scream, “Don’t show me the room with the HIGH stakes – show me the one with the WOODEN stakes!” “
Danny Tyree accepts responses by email to [email protected]