harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Movie Reviewed: The Night Strangler


The Night Strangler

Starring: Darren McGavin, Wally Cox, Jo Ann Pflug, Simon Oakland
DIR: Dan Curtis

Blurb: (blah-blah) … Surfacing in Seattle, Kolchak uncovers another maddening mystery [after the disaster in Las Vegas]: Every 21 years - for the past century - a serial killer commits a spree of  murders, drains his victims’ blood and then quietly disappears. But Kolchak is on to this monster and is about to discover a shocking underground lair… an army of rotting corpses… and the ageless madman behind it all!

Scene 01: We get a pan around the city and bay near Seattle, WA. In voiceover, Kolchak tells us that what we are about to witness is the incredible tale of a series of the murders that no one has ever heard about in the news. This is because the facts of the case were falsified for public consumption, hiding the truth.

Scene 02: Carl’s voiceover tells us about Merissa, a young woman heading home at 0230am from the dance hall that she worked in. Somehow, Carl knows that she planned to go straight home, take a shower and go to bed… but she never made it!

We follow poor, doomed Merissa as she takes a dark, dark alley homeward. A shadow dashes by in the foreground, obviously scoping her out. She seems to sense or hear that somebody may be following her, but then thinks better of it and continues strolling on her way.

The shadow dashes across the alley entrance behind her and hides among the trash receptacles. The shadow clumsily knocks over a discarded bottle, alerting Merissa to her danger. Instead of breaking out into an immediate run, she turns around and demands to know if someone is behind her, hiding.

She spots shadow man ducking around the waste receptacle and takes off running. She exits the alley and nearly collides with a cab. She tries to tell the driver that someone is chasing her, but it’s late night and the cabbie takes her for a cheap streetwalker. He speeds away, leaving Merissa to her fate as she stands in disbelief watching the tail lights rush off into the distance.

She’s relieved to see no sign of her stalker when she looks back into the alley and figures that she dodged a bullet, anyway - thankfully - since Seattle cab drivers can’t be counted on.

Commentary: And I’m lovin’ the cool 70’s horns on the soundtrack.

Scene 03: Merissa makes it to her street corner, but she stops to light up a cigarette [or she’s waiting for the credits to stop flying into her face and blinding her]. Alas for her, being stalked down an alley doesn’t make her rush to get inside.

She stands around for ages smoking on the quiet street. That’s when shadow man dashes up behind her and grabs her with a hand over her mouth.

Commentary: Obviously Merissa had to die for us to kick things off, but damn if you don’t want to slap her for standing there when she knows somebody was following her. What the hell?

Scene 04: The following day, Tony Vincenzo  makes his way into a newsmen club/bar. He’s come in from a rough day as editor in his new position in Seattle. He can scarce believe his ears and is not happy to hear the clear voice of one Carl Kolchak echoing through the bar noise.

Tony receives “the usual” from the barkeep, which turns out to be a glass of white milk. He asks bartender to peek around the corner and see if he notices an odd little man in stereotypical reporter suit and hat.

Carl is seen arguing with another reporter over what news is actual news. Bartender picks him right out and confirms Tony’s fear that Kolchak has turned up like a bad penny stuck to his shoe all the way from Vegas.

Scene 05: Carl is still bitter about what happened in Las Vegas and is haranguing his colleague with the story of the vampire he had to fight. This has been going on long enough that reporter finally gets up and nearly runs away from him.

Carl is reading his unaltered article that he keeps a copy of in a portfolio and apparently drags around with him everywhere, including to bars. After his cohort makes his escape, Carl looks up to see people staring at his manic behavior.

He assures the gawkers that he’s fine before slamming his portfolio closed in frustration. As he gets up, apparently a bit drunk to boot, his hat is placed on his head by somebody else. He turns around to grin at finding his old boss, Vincenzo there.

They exchange pleasantries and Kolchak is quick to ask Tony for a job.

Commentary: Soooo… yeah… I guess we could piss and moan about the likelihood that Carl and Tony would both leave Vegas and end up in the same city and then the same bar and that one would be looking to hire a reporter and the other would be looking to be hired. But, I’m not a’gonna. I love Simon Oakland as Tony Vincenzo and his work opposite Darren as the always hyperbolic and annoying Carl Kolchak too much to complain about the extreme contrivance to get them back together for another mysterious killer case.

Scene 06: The following day, Kolchak’s and Vincenzo’s boss and paper owner is warning Carl that no outrageous stories are going to be tolerated at his paper, the way he carried on in Las Vegas.

Carl assures Mr. Crossbinder that he’ll mind the Ps and Qs of the paper’s standards most stringently, while Tony can’t keep the doubtful roll of his eyes hidden. He’s also seemingly wondering what could’ve possessed him to give Carl another chance after his previous debacle cost them both their jobs.

Commentary: Just a simple kudo to repeat that I love Simon’s work as Tony. He’s so very amusing with his exaggerated facial gestures.

Scene 07: In the hallway, Carl makes a good natured insult toward his new big boss but Tony tells him not to sell the old man short, as he’s smart and capable as Editor-in-Chief.

Carl really does intend to heel strictly to non-sensationalism and asks for his first assignment. Tony hesitates for a moment, but finally gives Carl the Merissa murder to investigate.

Scene 08: Three days later, Kolchak is stopping by the police station for background information on the investigation into the dancer’s death. Carl’s voiceover tells us that the “Ethel Parker” … our dancer’s given name… murder investigation didn’t appear to be advancing any.

He tries to get a comment with Captain [Scott] Schubert about the lack of progress but the Captain refuses to speak with him at all unless he makes an appointment with his secretary. He is forcefully escorted out of the precinct, complaining all the way.

Scene 09: Carl’s next stop is the bar where Merissa was dancing, but finds no leads there either. Ethel never mixed with customers, nor did she complain of unwanted attention or overly aggressive patrons bothering her. He was able to talk to her folks in Massachusetts and found from them that she’d never had a serious boyfriend or other relationship that may have followed her out to Washington State on her trail.

She was just a quiet, unassuming woman who kept to herself.

Scene 10: Carl stops by another belly dancer’s apartment: one Charisma Beauty to ask her questions about her unfortunate co-worker. He first has to get around Charisma’s “husband”, a stern woman who acts as bodyguard.

In voiceover, Carl tells us that Charisma was less than forthcoming with any information but may’ve been uneasy speaking freely because of the glares of Wilma Krankheimer - your stereotypical butch lesbian character.

Scene 11: With all of his questioning about the victim leading him nowhere interesting for his story, he drops by next on the houseboat of one Louise Harper, the third of the trio of belly dancers at the “supper club” cum bar.

Louise is a mile-a-minute talker who takes Carl as a door to door salesman. She’s rushing to class and chats about not really having money for extras but she’d be glad to see what he’s selling later. He struggles to find an opening to clarify his purpose in finding her.

Commentary: Her home is awesome, in that she takes a power boat into the city. I want to live on a houseboat where I need to take a dingy to the nearest city. If it wasn’t for my addiction to modern conveniences… like this here internet… and my opposition to living in poverty, I’d make an excellent hermit. Alas, I’d never survive hermit-ization without television and other stuff that takes money. And I’m pretty sure when you’re a rich hermit, as I’d insist on, you become a “recluse” instead.

Scene 12: He finally shouts over her to properly introduce himself and what he wants, but she’s running late for her class. She invites him to stop by the club one evening and she’ll find time to answer his questions about poor Ethel.

Kolchak shouts sarcastically as she speeds away whether she’s aware that there was a murder. But she shouts back that she also knows that Seattle is one of the world’s busiest ports and opines that with men coming and going like the tide, the killer is probably in Oklahoma by now. She shouts a cheery goodbye at him. He shakes his head and tells us that she was wrong, as the killer was still in Seattle and working up his list of victims.

Commentary: I wanted to be annoyed at her aggressively bubbly personality, because it’s just annoying when people are so … aggressively enthusiastic… about life. But by the time she pointed out Seattle’s way station status, I was charmed with Jo Ann. I’m suddenly not looking forward to her being endangered and possibly killed, since she’ll obviously be getting much more involved in the investigation due to guest-starrage.

Scene 13: We cut to police cars with sirens arriving at the scene of an ambulance. Police Captain Schubert is on the scene personally, as they look down on the body of their second victim: Cocktail waitress,  Gail Manning… looking particularly gruesomely pale with drawn skin.

Carl is already on scene waiting to waylay the Captain, who brushes by him as Kolchak’s voiceover informs us that the second victim was found only a block and a half from poor, doomed Ethel Parker.

Captain again refuses to answer any questions and has his officers run interference while he gets back in his escorting squad car. Carl frustrated, voiceovers that the cause of death - according to the public information released, was strangulation and was done cleanly and quickly.

Scene 14: However, this is contradicted the following day by the Coroner’s report.

The Medical Examiner reports that Gail had a needle puncture mark underneath the hairline at the base of the skull. They can determine that a small amount of blood was withdrawn via this puncture.

Carl shouts out whether the same was true of Ethel. The Medical Examiner reports they haven’t been able to confirm the same puncture on the previous victim, but her autopsy results did confirm a small amount of blood loss from her as well.

The amount of blood missing is very small from both victims, which is why it wasn’t reported the first time from Ethel, as it didn’t seem significant enough to note in a public briefing. Captain Schubert is instantly annoyed at Carl’s interruptions and sarcastically asks if they might not be able to get on with the briefing.

Scene 15: Following the briefing, Kolchak is - of course - dissatisfied with the facts as presented. He drops in at the Medical Examiner’s Office. He brings a bottle of scotch and questions for a chatty morgue attendant. He learns a few more details still being kept out of the public reporting.

Scene 16: Which is of no help to his story, since Vincenzo points out that they can’t link the minor blood missing to the murders directly, unless they can get confirmation that Ms. Parker also suffered needle punctures prior to her death.

After getting a reimbursement slip for the scotch, Kolchak tells Vincenzo that according to the attendant, Ethel did in fact have a needle puncture and that she also sustained a broken neck. On further questioning, Gail also suffered the same injury. Tony doesn’t see the significance as a broken neck isn’t that unusual in strangulation cases.

Carl tells him that according to the attendant, the women’s killer had to have been an unusually strong man to have caused the injuries received. The bones weren’t just broken, but actually crushed.

Tony returns to Carl’s article, but a moment later jumps up in outrage. Carl insists that his facts are true, according to the attendant. What has Tony upset in the article is Carl’s claim that residue of rotted flesh was found on the women’s skin, as if they’d been strangled by a dead man.

Commentary: So, of course he’d word it in as dramatic terms as possible. Instead of simply suggesting that the killer may be connected with… oh, the coroner’s office… or a funeral home… or hangs out in a place with rotted bodies.

No, he goes for the “as if they were killed by zombie-man” in his article. Can you really blame Tony for regretting hiring Carl on again?

Scene 17: That night, in a raucous bar, belly dancing be happening. This is Louise Harper’s gig and Carl has stopped by as she suggested to ask her his questions during her break. He opines that he couldn’t believe it, but her hips moved just as fast as her mouth.

Despite some loud and drunken cat calling, the act is tasteful and Louise remains fully clothed in a modest outfit designed to highlight her waste and show off her hips without actually revealing anything.

Charisma is next up after Louise, and her outfit reveals much more leg. Wilma watches with overjoyed pride as her wife goes through her act on stage.

Carl exits to join Louise in her dressing room.

Scene 18: She’s busy reviewing her text books and notes. She tries to beg off as having too much to do right now, what with trying to make her way through Algebra. But Carl charms her into giving him a few minutes.

[Ugh. All the sympathy in the world, dear. I’ve tried and tried to get a handle on it, but I just don’t get Algebra. All those numbers and letters mixing together just confuses the crap out of me. Even when I think I’ve got it, five minutes later I’ve lost it again.]

Scene 19: After she’s changed into street clothes, Carl treats her to vending cart food on the corner. He questions her about regulars that watch her dance and asks if any of them ever give her bad juju vibes.

She offers that they’re all weird. Any of them could be a strangler, as far as she knows.

A group of people come by and Carl finds it odd the way they’re congregating. He asks what is going on, and Louise tells him about the underground tours that Seattle has to the city that the current one was built on top of.

They’re joined by Charisma and Wilma, who also get a bite to eat. Charisma tells Kolchak about “Old Seattle”, while Wilma gives him nasty, hard looks.

Wilma can’t help but notice Carl’s wandering eye. She soon cuts the interview short by dragging Gladys back to the club for her second set.

Commentary: And although there is a bit of amusement in Carl’s wasted efforts to charm Wilma and getting only a solid block of disgruntlement back in return, the scene is really a bit of a waste. There was no reason to have a scene this long just to inform Kolchak that there is a buried city under the current Seattle.

In fact, very little has happened up to this point as the murders have been completely off screen thus far. It makes our 14 minute running time feel more closer to 25, so pacing is starting to feel a little too leisurely. We need to get an exciting stalking scene, or join our killer being dastardly pretty soon here to maintain interest in our plot.

Scene 20: Kolchak visits the newspaper morgue to delve into the secrets of ‘Old Seattle’ from Titus Berry. Mr. Berry is a big Seattle history buff and mistakes Kolchak for also being enthused to dive into the city history.

But he does share a very interesting tidbit in chitchat: The current series of two murders thus far is strikingly similar to murders that occurred in the early 50s.

When Carl checks into this tidbit, he finds that Mr. Berry wasn’t exaggerating about the similarities. Contemporary newspaper accounts complained about certain bizarre details being concealed by police officials, but these details were nevertheless not included in the articles. It sets Carl to wondering if any strange details were being hidden by his police force and whether these would also match what was happening in the earlier slayings.

Commentary: This is a part of the scripting that I find especially clumsy. It just doesn’t feel organic that the chance encounter of “Old Seattle’s” existence would lead to Carl wasting precious story reporting time looking up details about the old city in the paper’s old articles, so that Mr. Berry can provide the relevant data dump.

There is simply nothing to tie together underground city tours and a modern day strangler targeting women working into the early mornings. I am much less forgiving about this contrivance than I am with Tony and Carl meeting at the right time for Carl to drive his editor crazy with his wild speculations again. But I do want to compliment Wally Cox for his Mr. Berry - who is at the same time: nerdy, a bit creepy and an ace at obscure historical details about his city. For just a moment, I wondered if he wasn’t the strangler, as his first impression really struck me as “off”. But then he seemed like a decent, quiet sort who just happened to retain historical facts well and probably excelled at being an archivist.

But he still doesn’t really fit into the story at this point, given the way the script doesn’t set up a reason for Carl to be there to begin with.

But what is more: We’ve only expended another 2-3 minutes in runtime and it feels like over 5. We really need something exciting to add some adrenaline, here.

Scene 21: Later, Kolchak is meeting with Tony, who points out that a few similarities isn’t the same as having the same killer on the loose as in 1952.

Carl tells him to continue reading his article submission. Tony reaches a particular section and sits flabbergasted. Carl has included the information that the victims had traces of rotted corpses on their bodies in the past as well, and that the attacks showed signs of somebody with mega-strength.

Tony complains that he can’t print something like this at the Chronicle, and further can’t believe his luck that he’d have Carl back in his life with another crazy story. Carl warns Tony that if this is the murderer from 1952, he isn’t done yet.

Scene 22: Cue cut to a woman walking home late at night on another deserted street. Joyce Gabriel makes her way home from a late date. She spots a man with a scalpel standing over a body and screams.

Scene 23: A short time later, police are on the scene looking at another dead woman with flakes of dead and rotted skin around her throat.

Scene 24: Across the street, Ms. Gabriel is talking to Captain Schubert, with Kolchak hanging close by while his colleagues focus on the victim. Joyce remarks that she can’t imagine why the man didn’t chase her after she screamed, but she ran as fast as she could and he didn’t follow her.

Carl tries to ask a follow up question, but Scott shouts at him that he’s getting sick of his butting into police business. He insists that he’ll ask the questions.

When the Captain asks Joyce what the attacker looked like, she tells him that he looked like a dead man.

Scene 25: Later, Tony is shouting at Carl “not to say it, I don’t want to hear it”. Kolchak asks about the similarities between this eyewitness’ statement and the earlier police reports, but Tony doesn’t want to know.

They get into a shouting match over Kolchak insisting they have a supernatural killer in Seattle and Vincenzo being just as adamant that he’ll only believe there is a strong man with unusual looks who is a strangler and he won’t hear anything else about it.

Scene 26: In the newsroom, a woman reporter - older and dumpier - tells Carl excitedly that she’s planning on walking the area where the attacks have taken place every night and has written up an article saying so. She dares The Strangler to attack her.

Carl makes a mildly insulting quip and moves on.  At his desk, Carl finds a note from Mr. Berry and rushes out to see what the archivist has uncovered.

Commentary: One of the selling points for this movie is the traces of humor laced throughout. This affair with The Night Strangler is written with more of a trace of fun than was The Night Stalker and I like that. But the first movie spent more time with the killer pulling off his deeds than this one has done, and that I don’t appreciate as much.

The consensus seems to be that The Night Strangler is a more fun and better movie than Stalker, but I had more fun with the vampire killer than I’ve had thus far with our zombie.

Scene 27: Mr. Berry, now excited to be involved in the hunt for this murderer, had decided to go back even further than 1952 to see if there had been any articles on murders matching the same description that they’re seeing now.

He’s shocked to find that in 1931, six other strangulations occurred in the same area of Seattle. And like with 1952, certain aspects of the crime were being held back from official documentation of the crimes. But unlike the 50s series of murders, there was a reporter who’d managed to uncover what the police were trying to keep hidden and had an editor willing to print those details: And just like with the current spree, the victims had been found missing some of their blood.

The killer was described in the 30s as some kind of a super man. Kolchak puts together that the string of kills seems to be following a 21-year pattern. Mr. Berry is stoked by this odd observation and he goes to look even further back to 1910 for similar articles.

Amazingly, they find the same thing. Kolchak smiles a Mr. Berry and asks if they dare try going back to 1889 for the same pattern.

Scene 28: Cut to Kolchak approaching Vincenzo’s desk gingerly with an amused half-smile pasted on his face. Tony gives him a look and preempts that he refuses to read it.

Kolchak asks him to just read the first line, still very clearly amused by how his editor is going to react and Tony looking like he already knows that doing any thing of the sort is going to be a huge mistake he can’t take back. He can’t resist.

Well, Tony can’t stop his curiosity now that he’s read that the same string of murders is happening every 21 years all the way back to the Chronicle’s founding. Carl tells him that he’s going to check out an older competitor’s archive the following day but in the meantime, he reads Vincenzo the eyewitness account of their killer from the 1880s.

He’s described as a “maniac”, of course. But more interesting to Kolchak and heartburn inducing for Tony is the descriptors of his being stronger than ten men and having the face of a corpse, with cheekbones protruding through the flesh. Vincenzo stops Carl right there and asks how he expects him to actually print such a preposterous supposition.

Carl only grins and nods his head that this is exactly what he expects Vincenzo to do.

Scene 29: Some time later, and the rest of the bullpen are surrounding an artist. With them is Joyce. Because the police refused to allow her to describe what she supposedly saw to a police sketch artist, the paper found one of their own.

Joyce’s description is of a man with bone showing through his skin and looking more dead than living, except for his glaring eyes.

Scene 30: The fallout of Vincenzo’s printing of the sketch artist’s work is quick in coming. The police are incensed at the sensationalism of their killer and Scott Schubert is explosive in his outrage. He gathers reporters for a press conference, not to share information about the man hunt, but to accuse Kolchak, Vincenzo and the Seattle Chronicle of yellow journalism of the lowest sort.

As he rages on and on, Carl is sitting in the back of the room with a distinct sense of déjà vu. As he listens to the Captain rage, he translates that he knows more than he’s supposed to and ergo the police will now be harassing him… just like in Vegas.

Commentary: I loved how this “police are antagonistic and won’t consider the facts” scene was handled. It was funny by acknowledging that the scene was basically a repeat of the Las Vegas’ police conferencing in the earlier movie, but having Kolchak comment on the similarity at the same time as Tony is squirming in his seat uncomfortably.

It was a fun way of saying, “Yeah, we know we’re repeating the scene you guys saw in the last movie, but we gotta do it for the story, so let’s have a laugh and a wink about it”.

Scene 31: Later, Tony is yelling at Kolchak for getting them into hot water again by insisting on not following certain sensible behavior when it comes to what to print. He reads a memorandum from Mr. Crossbinder spelling out that any repeat of the sensationalistic type articles about the current crimes will result in the immediate dismissal of anyone associated with writing or printing said article.

Carl of course is more interested in The Truth, while Tony would like to stay employed. He starts yelling at himself for following Kolchak on another one of his wild monster stories and putting himself at risk of losing his position -- again!

Kolchak yells back that they wasted a lot of time in Vegas arguing about whether there was a vampire running around and a lot of women died who didn’t need to. He wants them to skip trying to deny the obvious this time around.

Tony tells Carl to stop speculating on what the facts are saying and just report the simple, dry facts without any opinion.

Scene 32: Late that evening, Carl is walking the district alone where the murders have been centered. He voiceovers for us that he spent all day in the various newspaper archives looking for how far back things go. He finds that the first series of murders apparently started in 1889, shortly after the founding of the Chronicle, as far as he can make out.

He also found that the series of murders happened over a time span of 18 days every time. That leaves them with 8 days to find the monster and stop it. And, based on the other series of killings, the murderer is looking for three more victims to complete his collection.

He tells us that it wasn’t long before that number was down to two.

Scene 33: As he’s walking, he gets stopped by a spot light from a passing police cruiser. They demand his identification.

Shortly afterward, another car of officers come across a man with a syringe drawing blood from a woman on the sidewalk. They yell for him to halt, but of course the guy runs.

The woman is clearly dead already. With the second crew turning on their sirens to chase after the suspect, the ones with Kolchak take off in their car as well. He chases after them on foot.

Scene 34: On a side street, the cops catch up with their madman, but he’s able to run where the cop cars can’t maneuver.  They chase after on foot, but Kolchak manages to get ahead of them and on the killer’s trail while more cop cars are responding to the scene.

Scene 35: In a dark alley, Kolchak loses sight of the Strangler, only to have him jump from the shadows. He easily hoists Carl up off of his feet and pins him against a brick wall.

He’s thrown to the side as the responding officers catch up to them. One of them discharges his gun, but this either misses or has no impact. The officers try to club the man into submission, but he tosses them around like children.

The madman finally runs after getting a flashcube to the eyes from Carl. As he flees, the police open fire at him. He’s able to get up and over a wood fence, taking at least one bullet to the back but not stopping.

In the meantime, the backup arrives on the other side of the alley, but they report not seeing anyone fleeing their way. Kolchak is left looking around, not understanding where the Stalker could’ve escaped to.

In the meantime, Captain Schubert pulls up in his squad car and snatches Carl’s camera from his hands. Kolchak shouts for it back, but Schubert drives off after ordering him to leave the area or be arrested for loitering.

With the cops taking off to conduct a grid search of the neighborhood, Kolchak is left to ponder just what happened to his assailant after he jumped over that wooden fence.

Commentary: So, I liked the cramped and dark feeling of the alley and I loved the jazzy soundtrack playing over the sequence. But honestly? This just didn’t have the excitement that I’d hoped for. It would’ve been great if we’d seen this gnarly face glaring into Kolchak’s somewhere along the line, but we don’t. The only thing we’ve seen thus far is a  drawing and I want more.

But also, this scene was also a little too repetitive with The Night Stalker as far as the superhumanly strong bad guy tossing cops around. But it’s also not as exciting because it’s taking place in that same tight space. It traded the suspense leading up to the assault on Carl for the excitement we should’ve gotten with the assault on the police. And there was no throwing orderlies out of windows fun, either. Basically, the tension dissipates as soon as the police arrive, because the space is too cramped for a brawl and it also only lasts a minute rather than leading to a running fight the way that the Vegas chase did with the Stalker.

Scene 36: The following day, we join an absolutely awful bit of karaoke. Oh. Oh, dear.

This gives way to a speech by an author who’d written and made popular underground Seattle, as we’re at the Underground Tours meeting place, getting ready to head out on the walking tour of the hidden city. Kolchak has joined this particular tour this afternoon because his arguments with the Captain did not produce his film returned.

He’d phoned up Louise and asked her to set him up a ticket and come with him. He admits to us in voiceover that her coming with him was not work-necessary.

Scene 37: As the tour begins, Louise is soaking up the environment with a grin while Carl is all watchful eyes for anything out of the ordinary.

Carl gives us a lyrical description of Old Seattle while holding Louise back from the rest of the tour. He’s spotted a side tunnel and naturally is choosing to go off on his own to investigate. For what better hiding place for an undead man than a remnant of the past that nobody bothers to visit any longer?

A little bit of wandering brings Carl and Louise to what looks like an encampment tucked away from the tour trail. Kolchak has Louise hold the flashlight while he starts taking photos with his replacement camera.

From behind a curtain, a man jumps out on to Kolchak’s back. Louise gives a short, startled scream before Carl flips the man over his back. When the guy gets up, he’s clearly not a half-decayed Strangler, but a hobo who doesn’t like his “home” being invaded by two snooping people.

He threatens with a crow bar, but collapses into unhealthy sounding coughing. After giving a seemingly endless list of bodily complaints, Kolchak is finally able to ask him if he’s ever noticed anyone else skulking about down there, away from public eyes.

Carl trades five bucks and the promise of a twenty if the homeless man will call him, should he see anyone else in the catacombs under Seattle but otherwise comes up with nothing for his time. Although, Louise is mightily amused with meeting the drunken stranger.

Commentary: I didn’t really like this scene, and not only because it feels like padding. The distance Kolchak walked to find this homeless man’s squatting place didn’t feel like it was far enough away from the tour group for him to have stayed hidden the way he obviously has. It also wasn’t nearly as funny as I think it wanted to be, what with Louise laughing so much at the old, drunk guy. I also didn’t like that there wasn’t at least some small clue to make it feel like we spent time here for a reason. I’m presuming that the guy will call Carl at some point when it’s plot-necessary but this just felt pretty empty as scenes go.

Scene 38: Sometime later [presumably the following day or so, since Louise has changed outfits into something hideous], Kolchak is out again on a date with Ms. Harper.

Carl tells her that he doesn’t like her working nights with what is happening, but she responds that unless he’s offering to pay her tuition… he isn’t.

He goes on to talk about the case and the peculiar bad guy who seems to have vanished for the moment. This leads to Carl telling her about seeing something like this before and then sharing about his experience in Las Vegas the previous year.

He shares how that case ended in an elevator full of people. All of the a bit … nonplussed by the guy discussing having a murder wrap over his head because he put a stake through a “vampire’s” heart, and then having his whole story buried.

Louise gets off the elevator looking like maybe she should’ve been considering coming on a date with Carl a little more carefully before turning him down, instead.

Scene 39: Carl tells her that he’s starting to think that maybe he’s the one who is crazy instead of people like Vincenzo who can ignore what is in front of them.

We scene transition with Louise telling him about a friend who may be able to help him figure things out.

Scene 40: We're on a new day again, this time at the college where Louise is taking her courses. She tells Carl that there is an anthropologist who is into the legends about werewolves, vampires and ghouls. She seems to even believe in the legends to some extent. She suggests that if he believes he’s dealing with something inhuman, like he supposedly did in Las Vegas, then he should talk to this professor.

Scene 41: Cut to Professor [Margaret] Crabwell. Kolchak asks her doubting face how a man could preserve his vitality, despite being over 100 years old. He asks if it’s even possible to retain one’s youth over such a span of years.

She jokes that if it was possible, she’d be an 80 year old sexpot. But she goes on to say that the alchemists weren’t trying to stay young forever, so much as straining to become one with the universe. They led humble lives in a Spartan way focusing on elixirs but avoiding variety, pleasures and excess.

He asks about what sort of ingredients would be in such elixirs and is pleased when she reports that human blood was an ingredient, as he now has a motive for the murders and an explanation for the super-vitality of the man who tossed him around in the alley.

Scene 42: That night, Vincenzo returns to his office to find Carl stretched out on his sofa. Kolchak is there to discuss his theory that their killer is the same man who has been murdering for nearly a century and that he’s doing so because he’s renewing his Elixir of Life to maintain his life and relative youth.

Tony plays along with the string of suppositions that Carl lays out for why the murders are occurring, before shouting at him again to stop bringing him wild theories and bring him some damned facts… you know, the way that reporters are supposed to be wont to do.

Kolchak storms out of his office, frustrated at Tony’s lack of imagination… and refusal to print his story.

Scene 43: Over a shot of a wet Seattle, Kolchak voiceovers his curiosity about their killer and how he’d get his fifth victim when the city was on virtual lock down and being watched at night by the virtual army of police officers trying to catch him.

He intones he didn’t have long to wait.

Scene 44: We rejoin Louise dancing at the supper club. Unlike earlier, the club is nearly deserted this time with so many people - most probably - staying in until the killer is caught.

Meanwhile, POV cam with heavy breathing stalks along the hallways backstage.

Scene 45: POV comes to the dressing room door, partially ajar. Inside is Charisma and Wilma, doing the former’s hair for that night’s performance. Strangler rushes in with inhuman growling to Ms. Beauty’s cries of alarm. Before Wilma can step in protectively, she’s batted aside in the face and goes down in a heap.

Charisma struggles, but is overpowered.

Scene 46: She doesn’t escape.

Carl is there with the police, watching Gladys be body bagged while in the hallway Louise and Wilma sob. Carl states that Louise found Gladys’ body when she returned from her set. Wilma is still in a state of shock.

Carl admits that he wasn’t doing so well himself, as he tries to talk to the Captain, only to be roughly pushed aside and held back by police.

Commentary: I just want to mention Wilma/Gladys here since their part in the story is completed. Other than an amused smirk and the “husband” remark, the teleplay has been very fair and nonjudgmental about the heavily implied lesbian relationship between the two women and it was nice that a scene of actual emotional connection and devastated sorrow was given to Wilma to point out that she was a real woman with real feelings and has now lost someone she genuinely loved. After poking some fun at her stereotype, although I don’t think maliciously certainly, it was a nice surprise to see that the director included a very human moment for Wilma Krankheimer rather than having her only be a comedy character to glare at Kolchak.

I do wish though that we’d spent a little less time with Kolchak’s ultimately slow investigation and a little, just a little bit, more time with developing a relationship between Louise and Gladys/Charisma prior to this death. Since this is the emotional murder of the movie [unless Louise actually becomes the sixth and last victim], I think there needed to be more scenes of Charisma getting to know Louise and Carl building up to this scene so that she’d have more of a presence prior to her attack.

Tags: kolchak: the reviews

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened