harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Kolchak: the Night Stalker reviewed: The Ripper (continued)


Scene 28: He returns to the massage parlor, who are back in business if a bit more dour.

Kolchak pretends to want a massage but once in the room, he tells his masseuse, Susan, that he actually just wants to set up a sting operation. She assumes that he’s kinky and wants to watch and record the shenanigans that go on. He laughs that it’s not what she thinks and introduces himself, but she also introduces herself as an undercover officer and places him under arrest for a lewd proposal, wanting to watch her with somebody.

Scene 29: As Carl is trying to explain that he wasn’t there to watch girls while being marched to a squad car, he has to clarify that he’s “not that way, either” as nobody is listening to his attempts to explain that he wasn’t there for kinky business.

Scene 30: Meanwhile, Jack is strolling down a quiet block of the city. Voiceover-Carl complains that Warren set him up to get him out of the way [which seems like a dubious statement -- we’ve seen no evidence that Captain Warren has any such feelings toward Carl, completely different from our last two police Captains in Las Vegas and Seattle].

Meanwhile, Jack has returned to the scene of his latest crime.

Scene 31: In a horrible jumpcut, he’s suddenly drawing his sword to go after our lady cop. She pulls her gun and without identifying herself or demanding his surrender shoots him in the gut. He ignores this.

Lady Cop is thrown over the massage table with a scream of alarm, which draws her male partner out of the bathroom, but he too is tossed away.

Jack goes on the run, taking two long gun rounds from a pair of uniforms, while Lady Cop and Male Partner pull themselves together to go in pursuit.

Scene 32: Despite several squad cars surrounding the parlor, Jack shrugs off more gunfire and makes a run for it, leaping over our boys in blue. Carl voiceovers that luckily for him, his transport to jail was interrupted by all of this, giving him a first hand view of the action, where the cops are utterly unable to capture one man on foot.

Scene 33: Jack takes to an unfinished high rise with more officers on his tail, but again, bullets aren’t doing anything. This doesn’t stop every officer from trying it over and over, though.

From the ground a virtual army fires up at Jack’s fleeing form as he balances on bare beams while Carl continues snapping pictures with his ineffective flash.

Commentary: All of this is so very repetitive, and not just with the former movies but with itself. I’m actually kinda… bored… now. I’d really like them to get to the end and let’s start fresh with something totally new next time around.

Scene 34: Jack jumps down from on high and lands in the midst of a dozen cops who mob him, but this doesn’t stop him either as he easily tosses them off him, under the flashing view of Carl’s more effective camera lens.

Carl dodges several thrown bodies as the Jack breaks free from the officers. They watch him throw himself at an electric fence, which dazzles with lots of sparks as The Ripper tries to climb it.

It appears that the electricity is putting him down for the count where bullets did not.

Commentary: The electrified fence was a good stunt. It did look particularly realistic and the stuntman/Ripper did look like somebody who’d been muscle locked painfully by the current frying him. I liked the way the repetitive action sequence ended this time.

Scene 35: In a very sudden jump cut, we’re in the Captain’s office and Carl is being released from his handcuffs. As the camera pulls back, we see that Tony has once again come to bail his troublesome reporter out.

Carl complains about his camera film being taken when he had shots of the Ripper, but Captain Warren is less than impressed with his pleas. He points out that “Jack” is coming up for arraignment soon, and Carl can take all of the photos he wants of him then.

Kolchak goes on to tell the police captain that he has no idea who he has in custody. He insists that their Jack the Ripper is THE Jack the Ripper who has been killing in a series of five women over the past century all around the world, including the recent string of attacks in Milwaukee [hey, there it is!].

Obviously, nobody is going to buy this [hmm… maybe Tony, but he’s not going to admit to it here].

Carl points out all of the gunshots their killer has taken, not to mention the car hit to him, and he’s still not dead or even slowed down. The Captain points out that “his Superman is in custody” on the top floor of the jail house, disproving the superman hypothesis.

Commentary: This just bugs me. It doesn’t address the virtual barrage of bullet holes that should be riddling the guy. They could’ve at least had everyone acknowledge that something unusual may be going on with this guy, even if they can’t buy that he’s really Jack the Ripper but to totally try to hand wave everything after they set up the scene of the virtual blizzard of bullets riddling the guy is just stupid. It cannot work because the action sequences were so overdone in pointing out how invulnerable Jack apparently is.

I wish they’d handled this part a lot differently: Either that the barrage wasn’t filmed so there would be plausible deniability, or by having Captain Warren indicate that he recognizes that they’re dealing with something not-human, but that he’s received direct orders [perhaps from the Feds] that this is not to be made public and indicating there is a cover up being perpetrated deliberately [Perhaps they could’ve had Men in Black arriving to take the prisoner into custody].

Scene 36: Up on that floor, however, we see that Jack is actually not as confined as one would believe. He’s busy pushing the heavy steel door off of its hinges and taking a good portion of the retaining wall with it.

Other prisoner watch in amazement as Jack glides away down the hallway.

Scene 37: In the Captain’s office, Carl demands to see the prisoner. He’s denied.

A young cop rushes into the Captain’s office then to tell him about their newest arrival’s breakout from maximum security. Carl gives a “uh-huh, uh-huh” version of “I told you so”, as Tony follows sarcastically repeating it with slumped shoulders that once again, Kolchak has brought the weird into his life.

Commentary: Which is actually bothersome as well. I was disappointed that Tony wasn’t more on Carl’s side in this argument, remaining silent throughout the scene. After his same experiences as Kolchak, it would’ve been nice if he’d alluded to the Captain that he’d seen similar men as their killer before, and that he should be given Carl more of a hearing on his ideas.

They don’t quite hit a reset button on Tony Vincenzo, but they also don’t do enough to really bring Tony onto Carl’s side in a situation where he really should be -- despite their general differences in personality. It strikes me as off, like they’re trying too hard to maintain the Tony-Carl friendly antagonism, which could’ve been done without making sure that Tony doesn’t stand on Carl’s side like they’re doing.

Scene 38: Later, Carl and Tony are standing at a row of payphones. Carl is holding for somebody, while Tony hangs up and tells Carl that Jane’s paper hasn’t heard from her since that morning.

He leaves Tony checking into electric chairs, while he rushes to waylay the police Captain about trying to stop Jack for good. He points out that bullets won’t work any better than before, but also points out that the electric fence did stop him at least temporarily. He also finds out through Tony that when New York caught “a” Jack in 1908 they threatened the electric chair which apparently scared the Ripper or something [Honestly, I didn’t understand what exactly happened -- Did NY actually send him to the electric chair, because if so, obviously that didn’t take either so… what is Kolchak’s point again? Or… did he stop his killing spree early, because he was afraid of NY‘s newly instituted electric chair as the mode to carry out the death penalty?]

Anyway, Carl calls Mrs. Plumm to ask about Jane, but her mother is worried as well because she also hasn’t heard from her since she was off to a park to meet someone for her story.

Scene 39: Carl panics at the thought that Jane Plumm may have set up an interview with their Jack to meet on the pier at the park where she’ll end up as his last victim. He rushes off after her, leaving Tony to bellow behind him.

Scene 40: At said park, Jane is wandering toward the meeting she set up. She stops in a lamp light to get out a cigarette. She hears somebody close by and innocently asks if it’s Jack for their meeting.

Scene 41: Kolchak in the meantime has rushed back to the newspaper office. Updyke is there when Carl rummages through his desk looking for something. Ron teases that Tony took away, what we’ll learn is the letters to Dear Emily. Carl demands to know where they are, but Ron won’t say… apparently not picking up on how urgent this matter is.

You see, Carl has remembered the letter describing the stranger in the park from the woman afraid that his looks could kill or fire sterilizing beams at her. Although she’s a nutter, obviously, she can tell him where in the park Jane would be based on where the letter writer had seen Jack loitering about night after night. That would be the obvious place for him to lure Jane at that particular park.

Scene 42: Tony makes it back to the office and is waylaid by Ron in regards to sending his Ripper feature out over the wire by 10pm for the morning edition. But Tony is distracted with wondering where Carl is and what may be happening with Jane Plumm.

Ron points out Carl’s return to the building and Tony rushes into his office to find Carl going through the pile of Miss Emily letters that he wanted to ignore before. Kolchak explains why he needs to find that particular letter that he’d read before.

As Carl and Tony search through for the letter on blue paper, Ron continues to interrupt about his story which turned out to have nothing to do with the murders he was covering and everything to do with the lewd things that happen in massage parlors… totally missing the point of his assignment.

Carl finds the letter and rushes off again, leaving Tony frustrated at… everything. When Ron asks about his story, Tony suggests taking it with him to the men’s room.

Commentary: Okay, I did mostly like this Chekov’s Gun of the silly letter being Carl’s hint as to where to locate Jack’s hangout, hopefully before Jane gets murdered. The scene was a little comedy reliefy, which I’m a bit ambiguous about, but it wasn’t obnoxiously so and I liked that Ron’s expose on the murder totally missed the murder part, showing why he is usually on financial reporting [and probably why he’s stuck at rinky-dink INS].

Again though, I really wish that Tony was more involved in Carl’s quests. Here would be a great time for him to have rushed past the protesting Ron to run WITH Carl in order to save Jane from her stupid plan. The blocks are already there as Tony Vincenzo has the same experiences as Carl from Vegas and Seattle and he’s already evinced worry over what Jane may’ve gotten herself into. It’s a missed opportunity to have him argue with Carl Kolchak the entire time the reporter is trying to run into danger that they should be leaving it to the police, but also not leaving Kolchak’s side because he wants to save Jane, too.

Scene 43: Carl runs to the letter writer’s address to ask her about her X-Ray Eyed stalker.

She turns out to be an Old Recluse woman [which makes it retroactively amusing that she was concerned that her X-Ray Eyed peeper would leave her sterile]. In addition to our Old Recluse being worried about X-Ray Eyes making her sterile, she also ends up being the peeper of the neighborhood, having a telescope trained on the Ripper’s house making her the actual stalker of the neighborhood.

In addition, our Miss Emily Writer keeps a log of when Mr. X-Ray Eyes comes and goes from his house and shares that he only ever goes out at night. Kolchak asks about what he’d gotten up to that evening, and BusyBody reports that he met a girl in the park -- a “fat” girl who Carl takes as Jane. He rushes away, leaving Old SpyEye confused.

Commentary: Okay, that was another cute scene that at first I’d taken as about to be a waste of time. But I liked the humorous implications of this silly old woman being the actual Peeping Thomasita, although I do wish everything was given more urgency by our director. I like Jane Plumm and I want Kolchak to save her. I wish he’d move his pokey ass.

Scene 44: Carl tries to nonchalantly sneak up to Jack’s home, where he then breaks a window with a rock to see if there is anyone home. When he doesn’t roust anyone, he grabs another rock up and looks for a way inside.

He finds the home in a state of disrepair, actually stepping through the front porch while he’s sneaking around. He doesn’t find a way in, but does notice that the electrical box is just as sorely in need of service as the rest of the house.

Commentary: Oh, c’mon! Jane is right now in the park! Go Over There And Find Her!!

Scene 45: Thinking ahead to his confrontation with a super strong killer and deciding that something electrical based beats a rock in this situation, Carl goes to an electrical supply company -- somehow finding somebody there to deal with, and buys a load of supplies, but what exactly we don’t see currently see.

Commentary: Okay, Jane is so dead.

Thanks, Carl.

Scene 46: Kolchak returns to Jack’s lair with his box of supplies. There he hooks up Jack’s fuse box with a heavy electrical cable and then attempts again to gain access to Jack’s house by breaking in.

This he does via busted out window.

Inside, he finds that it is also in a state of decay and that Jack doesn’t bother with even cursory cleaning. In the upstairs, Carl stumbles into one room which has been kept clean and furnished. Disturbingly, he finds a tea kettle whistling on the stove and glances around in a panic for the person who is heating the water. It should be noted that the hot plate is electrical.

Seeing nobody responding to the kettle, he starts flashing photographs and checking out the collection of sword containing walking sticks. He doesn’t actually grab one to use himself however.

In a mirror, Kolchak sees a pair of black dress shoes peeking out from behind a heavy curtain and starts, but chooses to creep up on them anyway.

He finds, with relief, that the shoes don’t belong to any footses.

Commentary: And all of this is so slow and ponderous. The momentum of rushing to Jane’s apparent rescue has come to a dead stop while Carl is busy shopping and wandering around empty rooms in which a stove is left on heating water dangerously unattended. And while usually I’m all for the lack of soundtrack, in this case I wish they’d gone the opposite route as some tense music would’ve really added some energy here.

It’s actually pissing me off that nobody is rushing into the park to look for Jane, when both Tony and Carl are assuming that she’s set up a rendezvous with Jack! WHUT!?!

Just how long is this damned episode, anyway? Certainly long enough to have another attack -- maybe showing Jane in deep doodoo, or having Jack break into his nosy neighbor’s apartment to punish her for her constant spying. Instead we get empty rooms and Kolchak doddering.

See my previous comments about lost opportunities with Tony -- right now Vincenzo and Kolchak could be alternating scenes between Carl puttering around here and Vincenzo in the park trying to find Jane before she gets into a mess she can’t escape from or having Tony arguing with the Police Captain that he knows Jane Plumm is in trouble and pleading for a squad to scour the park for her.

Scene 47: While Carl is upstairs, Jack returns creepingly home but spots the damage to his front porch which makes him immediately suspicious.

As he comes in, Carl hears him from upstairs and comes out onto the second floor balcony to look down into the dilapidated front room.

On seeing his shadow approaching the stairs, Kolchak quick tiptoes back to the only room that Jack apparently lives in. But meanwhile, the Ripper is noticing the damage to one of the stair rails, pointing to an intruder having made it indoors.

Scene 48: Carl rushes and hides behind that thick curtain, which covers a deep closet. Very shortly after, Jack comes into the room and listens with growing fear as Jack putzes around a bit, including shifting the curtain.

Jack begins to hang up his cloak, inches from where Carl is sweating and trying not to panic.

The pressure becomes too great, though. Carl can’t stop himself from rushing out of the closet with a fearful yell of terror! DOH!

He trips over Ripper’s feet and gets a good look at his face before standing up to run. Jack grabs one of those walking sticks and gives chase.

Commentary: This was a nice scene for Darren’s acting, and I like that Kolchak wasn’t able to control his panic and blew his hiding spot like he did. It was still odd having it be so silent though, and the way that Jack’s being right next to Carl and not noticing it was a bit crap… not actually opening the curtain seemed a bit silly, but also the way that the cloak was hung up by Mickey Gilbert was self-consciously stiff and awkward in order to keep us from wondering why he can’t see Kolchak standing there hyperventilating.

The scene itself was tense though, so I can overlook it but it remains bothersome that we don’t know what happened to Jane and Carl spending SO much time puttering around in this man’s empty room just continues to sit wrong after that sudden panicked fleeing from the police station to intercept Jane’s meeting in the park because of her danger.

She is just totally forgotten as soon as that scene ended, and it’s just bizarre!

Scene 49: As he runs, Kolchak-double falls over the banister of the second floor, hitting the ground floor hard and having the wind knocked from him.

Above, Jack dashes for him.

Carl tries to escape but a door handle comes off in his hand and then the door won’t open. He rushes across the room for the back door, but collides with a chair, which has him spilling onto the floor! The Ripper starts making his way to the stairs [which is dumb, considering he’s more than capable of leaping from the second floor and driving his sword through Kolchak’s chest almost before he knows what has happened].

Carl’s tumble also reveals the fate of our unfortunate Jane Plumm, who falls on top of him, with her eyes and mouth hanging open in shock, but clearly dead.

The chase continues to the back of the house.

Commentary: Obviously, I’m really disappointed that Jane died but more so because she may have survived if somebody went to find her immediately [or not, it could easily have been too late, but we can’t know now]. But I was also disappointed in this because it felt like her body being here doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Jack hasn’t brought any of the other bodies to his house, so why would he have done so with Jane? Why not slice her to death in the park where he met her? And why does Jane not have any injuries or blood on her body, as if she’d been strangled when Jack’s specific modus operandi is slicing and dicing?

The conditions of her death don’t make sense and feels like it was just thrown in so that Carl [and we] know that yes, she did get herself killed, without having to film the attack on her or having the information relayed later second hand to Kolchak. This is again a problem because of the missed opportunity: Tony could’ve found Jane while Carl was checking out the house and then had the police rushing to Carl’s aid with the confirmation that his hunch was paying off.

After the time invested in Carl and Jane’s relationship on screen, I don’t like this offhanded way that she was disposed of.

Scene 50: Kolchak jumps out of the rear window that was already mostly broken by his entry, with Jack catching up on him with his stick-sword.

We now find out just what Carl had planned with that electrical cable. He makes a dash through a large puddle of convenient water and ducks behind a tree where he waits with an electrical doodad and the other end of that cable attached to Jack’s house.

As soon as Jack follows, Carl tosses the cable into the puddle and Jack finds himself electrocuted, being fed from the house fuse box.

Commentary: This was another great looking electrical stunt, though how effective it would be running a cable from a home fuse box several hundred feet to a puddle of water would be in actually electrocuting somebody I can’t say. If it was running from a transformer, I’d buy it without question.

But anyway, it’s a cool stunt if we accept the VERY convenient shallow body of water near enough to make it all work.

Scene 51: By the time the electrical box finally blows out and set Jack’s house on fire, he’s been smoldered to a crisp. Meanwhile, Jack’s former house is quickly engulfed in flames.

Scene 52: Sometime later, Carl returns to INS whose offices are in the dark. When he turns on the lights, he voiceovers to us that when the police drained that pond to find Jack’s body, they found nothing but a set of old clothes!

As he sits down to his typewriter, he tells us that Captain Warren is lodging a warrant against him for arson and destructive mischief and he’s not sure how Vincenzo is going to be able to help him out of this jam. He tells us that the house fire turned into a six-alarmer and took with it all of the evidence that it was ever Jack the Ripper’s abode.

Only one thing survived the inferno. One shoe, made in London… a shoe from a style that the maker hasn’t produced in over 70 years. Carl asks nobody how to explain that, before removing the paper from his typewriter and crumpling it into a ball and asking who would believe this story, anyway with a self-deprecating laugh. He whistles [the theme tune] on his way back out of the office and our camera closes in on the Ripper’s outdated footwear.

Commentary: To which I’d say, “A specialty footwear maker would be able to reproduce the shoe easily enough, so it isn’t that strange.” OR “A better question would be how did Jack keep the shoe in such great condition if the implication is that it is a 70 year old piece of footwear?” AND “Yeah, just how are you going to skate out of that arson charge?” AND “What? You’re really not going to mention Jane Plumm’s murder at all?

I really dislike this ending, folks.

The Good: I enjoyed the implication that each time Tony and Carl have been fired they've had to set their career sights lower and lower down the journalistic ladder. That was a nice bit of continuity with their fears after leaving Seattle. [Although an explanation as to why they're not in New York would've been nice.]

I really enjoyed Simon Oakland, Darren McGavin and Beatrice Colen's acting jobs throughout. I also liked that the police Captain was given a more moderate personality than our previous "authority figures" in the movies.

I enjoyed the seemingly silly letter actually pointing to Jack's identity later on and the light comedy of Kolchak's interactions with the woman complaining about her neighbor being a creeper, while she's the one who is obviously a big peeper.

The Bad: There was a deliberate attempt to keep our Jack's face off screen but in the end it was pointless! There was zero reasoning behind it because he wasn't deformed and he wasn't a tertiary character who our protagonists were familiar with who then turned out to be the serial killer. Trying to make his identity a secret to the audience served no story purpose.

I also didn't like how the script short-shrifted that these were Jack The Ripper style murders when it came to what the killers motive was; You had no idea that organs were being stolen except that calling the killer "Jack" inferred it until an offhand comment by Jane that a pair of kidney's were taken.

The opening Milwaukee murders were also poorly used as they also weren't actually story related. There is one mention by Kolchak late in the episode that they were connected with Chicago, but nothing was done with that angle at all. What was the point of having them at all in the script?

Other Thoughts: The death scenes for this first episode of the series was a real letdown from the movies and I'm not sure if it was a censorship/standards issue or a budget issue. But you can't have a killer who hacks up their victims and not show us any stage blood whatsoever thoughout the entire episode! That was just oddly... lame.

Using somebody as mysterious as Jack for just another mega-strength, bullet resistance killer after we'd seen largely the same thing with our immortal Strangler and similar to the vampire was a real letdown. Nothing is made of Jack the Ripper being in the States and stalking the midwest, except for his likely age in the modern era. Any generic superhuman could have been plugged into this script without changing a thing.

I don't like the way that the past shared experience of Tony Vincenzo and Carl Kolchak in Vegas and Seattle is never talked about by our protaganists. It feels odd, especially, that Carl wouldn't throw their fight against a vampire and a near immortal, super strength killer at Tony as a way to garner more support for his fears about Jack being alive and well. In fact, I was disappointed [but not enough for The Bad] with the way Tony was kept in the background still instead of having him elevated to being a co-hero with Carl. And it's weird as well that we hear nothing about Louise Harper.

I was also left disappointed in how Jane Plumm and her attempting to get close to the killer for the story was handled and the offhanded way that her death was handled and then forgotten about. She was too much of a character for Kolchak to play off of to have not gotten an onscreen death scene and for this to have had an emotional impact on Carl and/or Tony at some point.

I found the pacing to be much too slow for this story, especially when we should be ramping up to reach the conclusion.

You know the "authorities don't buy the outrageous claims of the good guy and stubbornly cling to mundane explanations" thing that all supernatural stories must do? It doesn't work here, because the director has scenes in which those explanations aren't just ridiculous but aren't even presented as possible when the Captain character half-suggests them. It's all just conveniently handwaved away without a real discussion on the clearly superhuman feats of our antagonist. It's just badly handled.

The Score: I left unimpressed with this first episode of Kolchak's series. It feels like the creative team decided to play it safe by basically repeating the beats of the last movie. They introduce Jack the Ripper but don't actually use any of the gruesome history in the story, and characters are introduced who seem important but then are treated like afterthoughts later on [both Jane and Carl's co-worker]. There are directorial choices that suggest important things that turn out irrelevant (like keeping Jack's face hidden), or are slowing down the pacing where we needed to be excited and tense.

Overall, I have to call this a lackluster episode and as the pilot to kick off a series, a failure.

2.75 out of 5 stars

Next up: "Invisible Ghost" movie review (1941) starring Bela Lugosi.

Tags: kolchak: the reviews

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