Kolchak, The Night Stalker
“The Night Stalker” tv movie
Starring: Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Ralph Meeker
Writers: Jeffrey Grant Rice, Max Hodge, Richard Matheson
DIR: John Llewellyn Moxey
Blurb: … Investigating a series of Las Vegas murders, Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) discovers that each victim has been bitten in the neck and drained of blood. Though Kolchak’s outlandish theory about the murders gets him nowhere with the police, his initiative to apprehend the killer himself gets him into hot water… with a modern-day vampire!
My Blurb: Uh, “modern-day” being circa 1972 of course. Before we even start, I want to give a kudo to Darren McGavin, whose Kolchak is sardonic and amusing and bumbling and brave and kind of a jerk, but you’re on his side anyway because Darren keeps him on the right side of charming to smooth over his less complimentary edges. I absolutely love him in this iconic role as the predecessor to Fox Mulder and his ilk.
Scene 01: We open on a set of hands feeding a tape cassette into a recorder and turning it on. We soon see that this is Kolchak and he’s listening to his own recording in which he’s putting together a book on the “greatest manhunt in history” while he rummages in a nearly empty fridge and glances over a manuscript.
His voice goes on to describe a massive suppression of the actual facts involving the case to protect powerful city political interests and law enforcement. His voice assures us that this will be the last time he ever discusses this case and that after we’ve heard/read the tale, just try to tell ourselves that it can’t happen where we live to us.
Scene 02: We have a sudden cut to Flashback Land in Las Vegas where we follow an unfortunately early-70’s dressed and coiffed woman as she makes her way down a busy avenue. Kolchak’s voice over introduces us to Cheryl Hughes.
She’s a swing shift change girl at one of the casinos and has been waiting for a girlfriend to give her a lift home: And by “waiting”, we mean walking endlessly away from the busy main thoroughfare to more and more sparsely populated streets. Presumably girlfriend is psychic and will be able to trace her movements.
Carl guesses that Cheryl had become mad at her girlfriend for not being there on time and chose to walk the eight blocks home, which alas took her through an alley shortcut.
“Cheryl Hughes - en route to her doom,” he ponderously intones.
From just off screen, a hand suddenly reaches out in a jump scare and grabs her by the throat hard enough to cut off the sudden scream.
Scene 03: Cheryl is dragged further into a side building lot, fighting her attacker. She’s thrown into a pile of garbage with enough force to stun her unconscious, as her attacker shadow-stalks his way up on her, hissing and gasping the entire time.
Commentary: Obviously, the blurb gives us the identity of our killer. But I like the way this sequence was filmed. The killer’s face and upper torso is kept in shadow, as if he’s actually carrying the darkness attached to him and the score/hissing is well handled on the sound track. I also really miss the way things used to be filmed where we don’t get hyperactive editing that makes it impossible to see what is happening. Here, we get enough time and space to see the lead up to the attack and though we don’t see the actual murder, that’s because we’re not yet supposed to know about the blood draining mystery until Carl finds out about it.
Scene 04: We cut to later, where the trashmen have arrived to collect. Cheryl’s body is found stuffed into a can.
Insert Title Credit
Scene 05: Cheryl gets autopsied. One of our surgeons indicates the oddity that they’re seeing -- no blood after cutting her open. Our Chief Coroner is Larry Linville!
Larry goes to call the district attorney, while the two junior coroners work on the internal organ examination. He orders that there will be no discussion outside of the room about this cadaver to anyone.
[The repetitive theme of Kolchak is that the authorities are always in opposition to The Truth being made public, so this immediate desire for secrecy under the actor credits is par for the course.]
Scene 06: We join Kolchak two days later as he’s tooling around in his rusty, old convertible. He tells us that he was called 97 miles back to work by his boss from the only vacation he’s had in forever because the story is just that big that his editor wanted him on it. Kolchak is a reporter. Kolchak states that there is a rumor that his managing editor, Vincenzo drove his father away the day after his birth. Kolchak wonders how he kept from driving his mother away, too.
Scene 07: In the paper’s office, Vincenzo greets Kolchak with a pile of papers, a gruff attitude and no shit to give about Kolchak’s complaints about being assigned a “two day old, third rate murder”.
He wants to pawn it off on somebody else, but Vincenzo says they have their assignments already and the story is his. Kolchak tells him he’s beautiful when he’s angry - Vincenzo orders him out of his office with a smirk.
Commentary: The best relationship in Kolchak was between McGavin and Simon Oakland, and when Vincenzo isn’t in the newspaper office for Kolchak to play off of later, you can really feel Simon’s absence. It’s always great when you have two actors who just feel like they’ve known each other for years and these two have that chemistry.
Scene 08: Kolchak’s first stop, as he continues voiceover-ing for us and his book, is the County Hospital to speak to one of his spies/sources. He questions the “undetermined” cause of death by the coroner and Doctor Source asks why he doesn’t go bother the coroner to find out instead. Doctor Source O’Brien can only tell him that the girl lost a lot of blood, but otherwise there isn’t anything to tell.
Scene 09: His next stop is the casino, where he talks to one of Cheryl’s co-workers, who also happens to be a “close friend” of his. Gail Foster is grieving her friend’s death, but still has to work the floor. She’s there to meet somebody and rushes off after telling Carl that her friend didn’t date much, and never the same guy twice. She had the opinion that the unfortunate Cheryl didn’t much like men and that she’d gotten her brown belt in karate in case any of them got too fresh with her.
Scene 10: Carl says that there just didn’t seem to be much of a story about one unfortunate girl getting herself killed in the alleys of Las Vegas. But then, the ripples started to appear showing that something else was happening in the city as several days later another body was discovered.
We meet our Sheriff, the wonderful Claude Akins with the unfortunate name of Butcher -- how red herringy of him.
He’s not at all happy to see his nemesis Carl Kolchak speeding up.
The latest victim is another blonde woman, left lying on her side in the middle of a sand covered road construction project. Amazingly and creepily, there isn’t any footprints in the sands around the body from whoever disposed of her.
Bonnie Reynolds had been a 27 year old, divorced cocktail waitress. When an officer rolls her over, her throat is revealed to be torn open but the blood around the wound is all that is in evidence showing she’d been killed elsewhere… and her pallor suggests she lost one hell of a lot of blood. Just like Cheryl Hughes, in fact, something that the Sheriff reacts to shock to, as that tidbit hadn’t yet been made public.
On the embankment, the other police find a purse and signs of a struggle in the sand but the Sheriff points out again that the only footprints between Bonnie and them are their own.
Scene 11: Later in the editor’s office, Vincenzo is berating Carl’s story for suggesting that Bonnie Reynolds was thrown 22 feet from the embankment to where she was laying without any sort of official statement that is what happened with her body. He then tears apart the story for suggesting that Cheryl and Bonnie’s murders are connected -- again without any sort of official statement acknowledging that is the case.
He also asks how Kolchak knows the cause of death was massive blood loss when the coroner hasn’t released the details of her autopsy yet. But what really burns his ass is Kolchak’s suggestion in his submitted article that there is a super-powerful madman running around Las Vegas.
Kolchak tries to defend himself at not making up things in his article, but Vincenzo is having none of it. He reminds Kolchak that he’s there to report, not make up fairy tales to make a big splash. He accuses him of chasing a big fat byline so he can make his way to a big city paper and leave Vegas behind, instead of just reporting the facts as they’re known.
He further orders Kolchak to stop antagonizing the police.
Commentary: Hmmm. Okay, you can see Vincenzo’s point on a lot of his arguments but some of this scene just strikes one as false. Mostly the bit about complaining about Bonnie’s massive blood loss which is a fact… maybe not that she died from it, rather than it happening post-mortem, but that could just be reworked a little to be more accurate in phrasing. The way that it’s coming across, Vincenzo is doubting that there was massive blood loss which is clearly a ridiculous thing to suggest. But also, it seems incredibly unlikely that a newspaper editor would take the position that “the police will get around to notifying us of anything when they have some answers” rather than berating Kolchak for the opposite -- that he should be leaning on the police more to get some actual facts that they can report.
It’s also a little off that Kolchak never even tries to report sensibly but jumps immediately to the tabloid fodder of super-powerful killers. It’s hard to see him as the crusading reporter when he’s crusading balderdash right out of the gate [and continues to do so as a character trait, no matter how much respect he loses because of it, making him a stubborn ass as well]. Obviously, we know Kolchak must be proven correct, but it’s still too much for him to immediately jump to supernatural explanations if he’s not starting out the tv movie as an actual tabloid reporter.
The script is being a little clumsy in setting up the Kolchak-on-his-own development by making both him and his editor come across as needlessly antagonistic over each other’s failings as news co-workers.
Scene 12: Days later, another woman is discovered. This time a brunette and rather than dumped outdoors, this one is found in her home. Carol Hannachek - swing shift cocktail waitress. She’d arrived home from work and poured a glass of milk before her quick demise. And she has what can only be human teeth marks on her throat.
Carl finds out from her roommate that she’d been sleeping only feet away but never heard Carol’s murder. Carl is also concerned both that a pattern was clearly forming in regards to this spate of deaths, and that nobody in authority would answer a single question about what they were finding.
Scene 13: Carl meets later with Bernie Jenks, another of his friendly contacts - and the local FBI agent poolside. Over beers, Carl complains about how everyone has gone tight lipped when they have a man or men of unusual strength killing women and leaving them without any blood.
Bernie complains that Carl wasn’t supposed to know about the massive blood loss thing as that isn’t public knowledge yet. Carl suggests that the FBI take a look, but Bernie tells him it’s not a federal jurisdiction case at this point, so Carl changes tact and asks him to unofficially check across the country and look for any hospital cases matching what has turned up in Vegas, lately. He also would like Bernie to check with state mental hospitals for the recent release of any patients that may think they’re Count Dracula.
Bernie jokingly asks if Carl believes in vampires. Carl doesn’t take the ribbing in good spirit and pressures Bernie to just help him out. Jenks shares with Kolchak that he’ll be interested to know that the local PD actually is wondering the same things he is, they’re just waiting for the special coroner’s report and two pathology experts from LAPD to examine all three women for more details before they act. He invites Carl to meet him at the Sheriff’s office at six thirty that evening to get the results of the special coroner’s report and then dashes off to hit on a bikini waitress.
After he skips off on his hunt for a date, Kolchak hears an announcement over the outdoor speakers that he has a call waiting for him.
Commentary: This is another nice scene for the actor chemistry. I really liked how McGavin interacted with Ralph Meeker through this scene. And it was a nice touch to confirm that the Sheriff’s office aren’t filled with idiots… they’re coming to the same strange suspicions that Carl has, they’re just not going to run around saying it out loud until they get some conclusive physical evidence. And I also like that the vampire-angle isn’t being treated seriously, except as a possible psycho suffering a delusion… even by Kolchak himself.
Scene 14: Kolchak’s caller is Dr. Hottie, aka Dr. Source O’Brien. He tells Kolchak about a robbery he just heard about through the Medical Community Grapevine about another local area hospital that got robbed the night before. Amazingly, it wasn’t hit for money or drugs, but for BLOOD! DAH-DAH-DAHHHHHHHHHH.
Dr. Source O’Brien goes on to Hottie his way into telling Kolchak the entire supply was taken without regard for RH Factor or Type. Kolchak wonders aloud, but Dr. Hottie has no more time to chat - he has to get back to doctorin’ and signin’ forms which he doesn’t even glance at in easily erasable pencil.
Well, you just know this gets Carl’s reporter instincts, not to mention overly active imagination revved up.
Scene 15: At the County Courthouse that evening, we get a rundown of the coroner’s findings. Dr. Larry Linville reports that the victims died extremely quickly… in under a minute. He further reports that after the initial wound, the blood was removed under tremendous suction which would explain the lack of any fluid in the areas around the body - especially the last victim who wasn’t relocated after killing.
Carl asks about the method of the wounds and Dr. Linville reports markings similar in nature to a dog. This causes an uproar and he has to clarify for the stupid politician and grumpy sheriff that he didn’t mean the wounds were caused by a canine, only that they shared a similar profile. He also reports that they were able to find saliva in the wounds.
The saliva was human in origin. At this, there is another commotion by the assembled authority figures. Dr. Linville admits that he cannot say for certain that a human would’ve bitten the victims, nor can he give any reasoning behind someone wanting to plant such evidence on the deceased - only that it existed in the wounds. He can also say unequivocally that cause of death was shock induced by massive blood loss.
Kolchak brings up the possibility that a human could bite and withdraw blood purposely which causes a snit fit by Sheriff McGrumpy-Pants. Dr. Larry gives Kolchak a barely suppressed look of amusement at what sounds like “vampire” in the question. Dr. Larry brings up a psychological condition in which a person can suffer delusions that they are vampires, including a case in the 1920’s in Germany. Sheriff No-Hear-It won’t tolerate wild speculation about a ‘vampire’… even a fake one running around the streets of Las Vegas. Dr. Linville allows the idea to pass, but tells them that based on the saliva samples they should be seeking a man with a severe anemia or other blood based disease. D.A. Sane offers that they have to proceed as if they have a delusional killer out there. He asks the City Police Chief about the recent blood theft.
A witness has reported a “strange, skinny orderly” suspiciously - in hindsight - hanging out at the refrigeration units. She only later found out that there wasn’t any such person working as an orderly there. As they break up the meeting, Dr. Linville offers support for Kolchak’s ‘vampire’ theory… though wild, it isn’t without merit based on the evidence.
D.A. Sane won’t go that far though, and orders to the reporters that the vampire speculation is to remain in the meeting room. He doesn’t want any wild imaginings cropping up in the papers. He orders that for the moment the deaths are “undetermined” in cause… because they can’t close the beaches! I mean, women completely drained of their blood would be bad for casino business. D.A. Sane then calls Kolchak into a private meeting, before he can get any more face time with Coroner Linville.
Commentary: This is a long scene and it basically gives us details that we could get on our own. But surprisingly, I didn’t find it boring or difficult to sit through, mostly because of the nice work done by Larry and Darren, and of course Claude was there to interject grumpily every time things may have slowed down.
In addition, a not-commercial-break is in the middle of it, so that helps too.
Y’know, I think that I prefer ‘70s movies because they don’t have the hyper-editing or constant scene changes designed to “help pacing” but that actually just hurts it by interrupting things relevant to the plot to show people looking randomly concerned, or busy itself with irrelevant conversations. This is how to deal with this sort of scene, if it must be on camera at all. The relevant information is shared, people react and we move on -- but it’s all taken care of right here. The only better way would be, again, off screen or in the crime arena, or in the autopsy room itself. But I will be willing to admit that it was stretched out further than needed to take up tv movie time.
I must also admit to you, dear readers - because I want to always be honest with you all - Kolchak’s white shoes/brown slacks combo is grossing me out.
It’s also kind of nice to see Larry Linville as the authoritative and reasonable sort, rather than the bumbling, hysterical comedy relief ala Major Burns. He could use some hair conditioner for those frizzies, though.
Scene 16: In the hallway, DA takes Kolchak’s arm and tells him that he’s becoming quite the pest around his office. He further not only tells him that he’s going to suggest to Vincenzo that somebody else take this story, but he issues a vague threat through his grinning, joking two-faced smile.
It’s not only the DA Sane-Becomes-Slimy-Political-Creep who is pressuring Kolchak now to keep his mouth shut about the more interesting details of these cases. His FBI Horn Dog Friend is also out to warn him off of ruffling feathers before he finds himself out of a job and blackballed around town by the power brokers in city government.
Kolchak is, naturally, hard headed and stubborn and has the scent of a sensational story now. Agent Jenks tells him to let things cool for a few days for their friendship’s sake and then he’ll unofficially look into anything Carl brings him.
Scene 17: Cut from Kolchak’s exasperation to Vincenzo’s. Carl is in his office pointing out that he never said in his submitted article that it was a vampire.
Vincenzo points out the article’s big headline is “Vampire Killer In Las Vegas?” which does seem to indicate the very thing that was supposed to be kept under wraps for the moment.
[On the other hand, where does Vincenzo get off hiding pertinent information from the public? On the other-other hand, does the public need to know everything immediately -- don’t we want some details to be kept in-house until the killer is caught as a way to weed out every attention-seeking dickhead from wasting resources while the actual killer skates away? Grrr. I started the comment being on Kolchak’s side, damn it. But that was probably because DA Political-Creep annoyed me. Now… well… hmmm.]
Carl tries to impress on his editor that the story makes things clear, but Vincenzo doesn’t want the word ‘vampire’ used at all. Kolchak chooses to play the ‘public right to know’ card. Vincenzo has already received a call from downtown though about Kolchak’s running with the vampire theme at the meeting and makes it clear that nothing with vampire in the article is getting printed for the time being. Kolchak gets sarcastic and is shouted out of the office.
Commentary: And it seems like every article Carl submits going forward runs into this same thing, which kinda makes me wonder just how he’s a reporter at all rather than a space waster in the office. I guess we just have to infer that he’s usually not so hyperbolic in his articles and it’s the nature of this case that has him flouting authority and trying to be as big a pain in the ass as possible.
Scene 18: A bit later Kolchak drops in and wakes his girlfriend up during a nap to share a drink with her over his rough day. Gail is trying to interest Carl in some romance, but he’s still sore about Vincenzo stopping his story. Even after Gail finally gets his mind off his disappointment with the day, the phone then rings still interrupting.
The call is in regards to another kill, though there appears to be a better eyewitness. Kolchak rushes out, leaving Gail worried about working nights until this butcher is caught.
Commentary: I want to talk a bit about Gail Foster, if I could -- which I can because I’m the one typing. The relationship between Gail and Carl really feels under-developed in this tv film. Carol Lynley tries, but I always get the feeling during her scenes that just as she’s getting a grip on her character, the scene has ended and we’re still left not really knowing Gail or what she actually feels about Carl or her life.
It’s one of the more disappointing things about the script up to this point, because there could’ve been more done with the character to give us some insight into Carl himself if we weren’t getting so many travelogues of Las Vegas and if the meeting with the coroner hadn’t taken so much time. If Carl and Gail are an item, and if presumably she’s to come to risk at some point, we really need to see them as a couple and I’m still not there with the characters. I wish we’d gotten a dinner scene maybe, where they actually talk about the case and themselves on a deeper level than the sketched out relationship we’ve gotten.
Scene 19: When Kolchak arrives on scene, a policeman is with a elderly couple. The woman is upset, as you’d expect, while she describes what she thought was a man kissing a neighbor woman only to have the woman fall lifeless when he turned away from her.
Carl rushes to take photos of the victim - Mary Brandon - show girl, and number four on their killer’s list. Kolchak makes a Bela Lugosi joke, but the cops aren’t amused. One of them tell him to knock it off, and we find out that the elderly witnesses are Mary’s parents.
[Oh, god… I just can’t even imagine.]
Scene 20: Carl and the cop return to the first officer still taking the statement from Mary’s mother about what she’d seen. She describes an older, maroon car as his getaway vehicle. Carl asks if he could have a few moments with the witnesses for his story and it’s allowed with an admonition to take it easy on them.
We don’t get to witness how exactly Carl handled this situation, but Mary’s mother seems very strong as she’s holding it together. Her father is mute through the whole scene.
Commentary: I really want to give the benefit of the doubt to these characters, but the acting here just doesn’t feel up to the task of this scene. Mary’s mother’s actress does well enough as an eyewitness to a crime, but she doesn’t seem like somebody who is actually the family member who witnessed her daughter’s death only feet from her. And the father’s actor doesn’t do enough with his silent role to really draw us into his anguish with his body language. I felt a bit let down once we find out that this was Mary’s parents because it should’ve put a whole new spin on their reactions, but it really doesn’t. They’re acted like two people who saw something horrible happened, but it could’ve just as easily been to a neighbor they didn’t really know well.
Scene 21: Carl turns to another contact he’s cultivated - this one a switchboard operator at the County Courthouse, where he brings her a box of chocolate whose vendor - Whitman’s - has had their name obscured by tacky, silk flowers because they apparently didn’t secure the rights to show it onscreen.
He flirts playfully with her to get a look-up on the car the DMV is tracing for the police. While she laughs about how she’s been bribed again and looks into what she can find out for him, Bernie runs across them and pulls Kolchak aside. Agent Jenks is there to share the preliminary sketch of their man before any of the other papers get it.
Scene 22: Finally, a front page story on the slayings is put into The Daily News along with the composite sketch. But somebody is not happy about this likeness being in the paper. A man who we only see from behind his shoulder folds the paper angrily as he stalks through a casino.
While we don’t see his face, everyone who does gives him an aside second look revealing something unusual about him. [Well, excepting those extras who can’t resist looking at the camera man instead… mid-aged brunette in the purple dress….]
Scene 23: Sometime later, a woman in the most unfortunately yellow slacks is walking through a parking lot. She’s being watched by POV from a car. As she gets into her own car, we see why everyone was taken aback by the man with the newspaper walking through the casino. His eyes are bloodshot with broken vessels and he’s as pale as talcum powder.
Scene 24: He leaves his car to approach the woman, but she senses the danger. Before he can reach her, she releases a Doberman from the back seat of her car!
Unfortunately, the woman stands there looking terrified rather than using the opportunity to get into her vehicle and get the engine running. She therefore sees this stranger easily strangle the attack dog. She stands frozen - we see her top is just as unfortunate a choice as her slacks.
Poor, unfortunately dressed woman huddles against her car, but again doesn’t try to get into the vehicle. She senses her doom. But by this time, our murderer has her caught in his whammie-vision and she succumbs to his hypno-glare as human victim five.
Scene 25: The following day, Kolchak is once again in Vincenzo’s office getting his current draft reviewed. He complains in thought-over that reporters are like Galileo knowing the world is round, but stuck with an editor who knows the world is flat.
Vincenzo’s latest gripe is Kolchak’s attempting to prematurely label victim five as the latest case based on a strangled dog. He warns Carl that he’s tempted to fire him, despite the owner’s soft spot for “washed up big city reporters”.
Vincenzo tells Carl that he’s tired of his pressure to blow this story up in the newspaper, while also being pressured to keep a lid on things by the city government. They get into a argument about the vampire aspect of the story because Carl suggests that they have a nut who thinks he’s Dracula draining victims of their blood and that is news [Hard to argue with that, Vincenzo! What the hell are you thinking?]
Vincenzo however has greater concerns than Carl’s byline dreams. He’s got the entire city regime breathing down his neck, along with every other paper, to keep things under wraps as much as possible to protect the city from falling apart or shutting down in fear.
Commentary: Which, no… it’s just stupid at this point and strikes me as really false for the character of a city paper. The fact that this isn’t a one paper town and ergo all of the television news anchors, reporters, photographers, camera men, sound technicians, station/paper owners and miscellaneous assistant editors, et al. would have to also be in this conspiracy of silence makes this portion of the story ridiculous. All to keep us on Carl’s side as the crusader arrayed against the powerful interests in town… which would work, if again, we weren’t talking about a major city that never sleeps. There is just no way that something this sensational would be kept quiet by EVERYbody.
It’s just becoming silly, now.
Scene 26: Carl is driving down the strip that night. He voiceovers for us that his switchboard contact got back to him after listening into a few calls illegally. She found that the DMV has one suspect they can’t account for matching the car’s description given by Ms. Brendon’s parents. The name and address for the car’s registered owner turns out to be a fake.
Scene 27: Carl goes to the used car lot where the automobile was sold. The lot owner recalls setting a price for the vehicle and the man he sold it to was creepily quiet throughout the sale.
But actually, he was recalling the tale to the county sheriff and Butcher is royally annoyed as Carl comes screeching up to a halt. Kolchak interrupts to ask questions to Butcher telling him to butt out.
Anyway, Car Salesman tells them that the guy finally told him that the car was $300 too much and he kept staring and staring at him in an odd manner. The salesman ended up agreeing to the price, because the man’s eyes and voice were creeping him out and he felt like he wasn’t someone to mess with. The encounter was enough to make him think about not working nights.
Scene 28: Elsewhere, someone is ironing. It’s Gail, ironing a shirt of Kolchak’s, who is complaining that he’s waited his whole life for a story like this one and he’s being blocked from telling it at every turn. He complains in wonderment about the holes in Mary’s neck being airbrushed out before the photos were published.
Gail tries to point out that he’s going to get fired… again… if he keeps going on like this and reviews his lowlight employment history with him. He’s been fired several times in each city of Chicago, Seattle, Boston and New York making his way down the ladder to smaller and smaller markets.
He changes subject by telling her she should quit her night job at the casino, but she snarks that she supposes he’d support her. He warns her that they have a missing girl that he’s betting fell victim to their mysterious killer, making five girls, all of whom have worked nights.
Gail tells him that she has been thinking about his being out there stalking. She pulls out a few books she took out from the library discussing vampires and the myths around them. Even though Kolchak laughs at her silliness, she suggests seriously that so far their killer has done everything that the book discusses and broaches that maybe he really is a vampire. She insists that Kolchak read it for his own safety. He reads out loud from the book, gaining [and giving us] the rules that govern [this vampire’s vulnerabilities].
Commentary: This scene is… I’m not sure. I like the touch of domesticity between Gail and Carl, because as stated, we need to know more about her so that is good. McGavin and Carol are doing a lovely job of being a long-term, but not joined at the hip couple and have a nice, easy chemistry between them.
But the scene is long and a bit wordy, especially when he’s got to read the rules of the vampire, which is the very basics that EVERYBODY already knows. We really didn’t need the run time being used to refresh the basic “they’re killed by sunlight and a stake through the heart” refresher. But it is nice that after the 30 minute mark, Carl is on his way to accepting a real vampire is their culprit so he can play the hero whose story will never see the light of day later… not really a spoiler… Carl is always the hero and his story is never printed so that the plebes can remain ignorant of the supernatural dangers in the world, as is de rigueur for these “lone hero” tales.
Scene 29: In a hospital, we see a man dressed all in black and carrying a doctor’s old fashioned medical bag. Carl continues to voiceover about how a vampire’s victims can rise in their turn as a vampire [which we’ve not seen] and that the vampire must absolutely have blood to survive. As Carl is waxing onward, our fake doctor is entering the hospital’s supply room.
An unfortunate nurse happens by and notices the slightly open door and the sounds of bottles clinking within. She spots our vampire stealing blood and knowing he doesn’t belong there, immediately runs out and shouts for help.
[Yay, a smart nurse! Boo to the absolutely dreadful “shouts” of “horror” and mincey run down the hallway.]
Our vampire continues cleaning out the cooler without a care. Before he can make his escape, nurse has returned with an orderly, who punches our vampire in the face. He dead-eyes his shocked face, before throwing him around the little room while nurse stands there… and stands there….
Orderly and nurse are both pushed against the opposite wall, stunning each. Another orderly comes to the sounds of the commotion, but is tossed easily aside one-handed. A third orderly isn’t as lucky, as he’s not just tossed against a wall, but out of a top floor window to the pavement below.
Commentary: This was a well done scene, as far as the stunt people are concerned. But what I want to mention is how I hadn’t realized until this scene how sedate the whole enterprise was coming across as. The sudden exciting music and the physical action was really welcomed and well-timed, as the mystery was starting to lag as Carl gets caught up on what we know. The vampire’s sudden confirmation is well placed in the script and I liked the boost that the pacing receives with this hospital fight -- as one sided as it is in the vampire’s favor. Oh, and our vampire will be revealed to be named Janos Skorzeny, so I’m going to stop referring to him as “the [generic] vampire” and start using his name because it’s easier.
Scene 30: We return from a not-commercial-break to find Janos’ sixth human victim lying in a pile on the tarmac. Kolchak heard through monitoring police channels about the wild brawl at the hospital and is seconds ahead of the police in arriving to see the hospital personnel dealing with their dead colleague.
But what’s more -- Janos hasn’t made his escape yet! Carl is a witness to three orderlies being dragged/tossed around like children as Janos continues to stride out of the hospital. The police officer arriving behind Kolchak clubs Janos, which does nothing except leaving himself in a pile along with the orderlies. Carl shoots several pictures as Janos is able to run away from the gathering police, taking several bullets to the back without injury.
The police gather to go into pursuit and Carl tries to make sense of what he just himself witnessed. We’ve got to think that Gail’s idea of a real vampire isn’t so outlandish at this particular moment.
Commentary: Again, this sequence is really welcomed for the way that it puts some energy into the program at just the right time to pick things up. There is some minor issue that I’m not thrilled with, but it is minor: For one thing -- Barry Atwater simply isn’t imposing and doesn’t have the gravitas to make the scene work well. When he takes off into the night, it leaves us less impressed, than him looking kinda pathetic, especially when he runs through the parking lot like any ordinary burglar. I can’t help but think that this sequence could’ve been more impressive if they’d been able to include just a bit of wire-fu in Skorzeny’s escape instead of his running off in his tux and dress shoes.
Scene 31: After daybreak, Carl is again driving through Vegas. He's rushing to the County Courthouse for another news conference with the DA -- this one much more heavily attended, due to Carl’s story finally being printed about the action at the hospital. With the lid finally off the killer, and his identity apparently learned, Carl is feeling pretty full of himself at having scooped all of his rivals.
It falls to Jenks to start the public update by sharing what the Bureau learned of their quarry through Interpol. The very first detail causes a sensation as it’s revealed that Janos is over 70 years old. Sheriff accuses them of handing them the wrong man’s information, but Bernie won’t have it. He tells the room that he’s been up all night triple checking everything. Of interest is Janos’ apparent interest in hematology, where he passed himself off in England during WWII as a blood specialist doing research on victims of The Blitz in London. He later appeared in Canada, where he was spotted several times along the border between there and the U.S. -- usually in places where rioting or other forms of large scale violence were occurring. Jenks throws in Sheriff Butcher’s face that Mr. Skorzeny’s British National status makes him an international fugitive and therefore the FBI is now officially taking over the case from local jurisdiction.
Bernie continues to annoy Butcher by both mentioning Kolchak’s story’s theory of a vampire in Vegas as not ridiculous on its face and allowing Carl to raise questions, where as Butcher would obviously like to strap a muzzle onto the reporter. Carl’s interjection involves what he himself witnessed at the hospital the previous night.
Carl goes on to describe police officer’s shooting Janos, some at point blank range. He questions how a 70+ year old can outrun police cruisers chasing him down, and he wonders about a wound on Janos’ head leaking clear fluid rather than blood. Sheriff begs DA to shut Kolchak up, but Paine is sure that the more Carl talks, the more ridiculous he sounds and they’ll finally be rid of him when he hangs himself with his own rope.
Kolchak, never one for subtlety, continues to blab out his suggestion that they’re dealing with a genuine, non-human monster. He tries to soft sell it in suggesting that maybe Janos isn’t a real vampire but his suggestion that they try to treat him as if he were would be the sensible thing is met by laughter and scorn not just by the city authorities, but by his fellow newshounds in the room. Naturally, the DA is more concerned with the public’s perception of law enforcement if they suggest they’re seeking a vampire. Kolchak gets in Paine’s face over his worry over perception rather than thinking like their quarry but Paine orders him to sit down and shut up and further continues to pressure the news to not spread wild rumors that will only hurt the city’s image with those all important gamblers.
City Police Chief then does a rundown on what the police department is up to in trying to catch Janos. DA seems to be paying more attention to Carl’s tape recorder.
Commentary: This part is also problematic. It’s being presented as Carl suggesting something completely wild and crazy and sounding like a lunatic, but actually that isn’t the way it’s scripted. Carl never says that Janos is a vampire, he states that Janos is acting as if he were a vampire. It’s just basic profiling that the police would proceed as if Janos believes he is a vampire, however delusional that is, and then act accordingly to trace where he may be hiding out. It’s just ridiculous [in keeping with the bullheaded authority figure trope] that the police would completely discount the fact that Skorzeny himself obviously believes that he is a vampire -- whatever the truth of the matter. I can see them ignoring Kolchak’s supposed observations about Janos’ apparent super-human escape but to suggest that thinking like Janos would be thinking if he believes himself to be a vampire is just vapid, and causes the scene to make everybody in the room look stupid just so that Carl can be proven right later. But it isn’t necessary here because Carl never says that Janos is the undead -- he only insists that Janos is acting as if he believes he is, which is a fact. I hate the way this scene is being used to pump up our protagonist artificially.
Scene 32: Later, Carl is quietly talking to a man at a blackjack table and getting his agreement to help him out with something whose details we don’t know. But, then Carl has him repeat the instructions back to him, so….
The point is that our player is going to show the sketch to every real estate agent he knows and ask them if a property had been sold recently to him.
[Why can’t Kolchak do this by visiting the agents’ offices? What is this side character needed for?]
Scene 33: Carl then joins Gail at a table. She asks what is wrong, and Carl admits that he has a bad feeling the cops aren’t going to catch their murderer. He’s also bothered still by the things he saw during the cops’ attempt to arrest Janos. She suggests that he may be ready to actually believe that they’re dealing with a real creature, but he shushes her, not wanting to think about it.