Where It All Started: “The Night Stalker” turns 50

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.


  1. Silentbob says

    Finally, someone who knows about Night Stalker! 🙂

    I never even knew there was a movie, I grew up with the TV show: Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975)

    Decades later when people were all into X-Files, I’d be like, “You realise this is just a rip off of Night Stalker, right?”. X-D (I’m old.)

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Loved the movies, and one of my favourite TV shows, when it was on. I just learned that Richard Matheson (author of the novel I Am Legend) wrote the screenplay for the movies.

  3. says

    I also enjoyed The Night Strangler, my appreciation slightly diminished by the fact I grew up in Seattle, and knew that Underground Seattle looked nothing like that.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    I have both movies and the series on DVD. As a kid, it was fun learning about kinds of monsters I had never heard of before. Now, as an old fart, I love Darren McGavin and Simon Oakland sparring with each other. They were both great actors and they had a real chemistry together.

  5. says

    My favourite episode of the TV series would have to be the UFO episode, and that’s 15+ years before the X-Files. Not because I believe in them, but because of Kolchak’s explanation at the end for seemingly random attacks and events. Even the alien turns out to have human motives (getting a bite to eat, fixing his ship, going to a planetarium to “check the map”, etc.).