For those who lived through the 1970s, “The Night Stalker” doesn’t just mean the serial killer Richard Ramirez. It also means the film starring Darren McGavin as reporter Carl Kolchak. It first aired on January 11, 1972, fifty years ago this week. It was the highest rated TV movie of its era, and it’s 33 rating is good even now.
There’s one thing that sets the two movies (this and 1973’s “The Night Strangler”) and TV show apart from a lot of action, horror or drama shows that have come since then. Kolchak is a reporter, armed with only a camera and a tape recorder, not a gun. He’s not a tough guy hero, he’s a coward, a vulnerable and normal person, which makes him easy to identify with (similar to the vulnerability of John McClane in the original “Die Hard” movie). But he’s also a nosy parker interested in getting the story and as abrasive as #60 sandpaper, which gets him into so much trouble and makes him fun to watch.
The movie has an 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz cited the “Night Stalker” films and TV show as inspiration for “The X-Files”. Legal or not, the movie can be watched on youtube.