TV Review: Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974–1975)

Original Run: September 13th, 1974 – March 28th, 1975
Created by: Jeff Rice
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Kolchak Papers by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Music by: various
Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jack Grinnage, Ruth McDevitt 

Francy Productions Inc., Universal Television, ABC, 20 Episodes, 50-51 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve wanted to work my way through all the classic Kolchak material for quite some time. After reviewing the two television movies, I knew it was time to watch the television series, which only ran for a single season of twenty episodes.

Overall, I prefer the two films but the show is where the character and his world really come to life and start to develop its own mythos.

The show is a mixed bag of some great and some mediocre episodes. None of them are bad but some are a bit slow and felt like they were interesting concepts or ideas that didn’t live up to the level of the franchise at its best.

The episodes I dug most I truly loved, though.

Darren McGavin was born to play the role of Carl Kolchak and it’s hard to envision anyone else in the part, even though it was rebooted thirty or so years later with Stuart Townsend. I’ve never seen that version but I may track it down in order to review it. That show failed pretty quickly though and has less episodes than the original.

I think that the quality of the episodes being a bit shaky didn’t have so much to do with the monsters featured but had more to do with the creative teams that worked on them. Some stories felt rushed, some felt slow and the craftsmanship was sometimes lacking. For instance, in one episode the cinematography could look superb for 1970s television while in the following episode, it could look really pedestrian and half assed.

That’s not to say that the show didn’t have a consistent look and feel, it did. It’s just to say that it really stood out when a director would go the extra mile or when a writer took time crafting a solid, more fleshed out script. You could gauge which episodes were made with actual passion and love for the material.

Faults aside, I dig the hell out of this show and the two main characters within it. I love McGavin and Simon Oakland brought an extra level of gravitas. Plus, the two men have incredible chemistry.

While this is a franchise that seems almost forgotten in the early part of the 2020s, it is still historically significant. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have gotten other great, similar shows like The X-Files.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the Kolchak movies before the show, as well as the reboot and The X-Files.

Film Review: The Night Strangler (1973)

Also known as: The Time Killer (working title), Kolchak: The Night Strangler (long title)
Release Date: January 16th, 1973
Directed by: Dan Curtis
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: The Kolchak Papers by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Music by: Bob Cobert
Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Anderson, Margaret Hamilton, John Carradine

Dan Curtis Productions, ABC Circle Films, ABC, 74 Minutes, 90 Minutes (extended syndication version)

Review:

“I just saw your “so-called killer” wipe up the street with your so-called police force!” – Carl Kolchak

In my last Kolchak related review, I talked about my love of the show but also mentioned that I had never seen the television movies that predated it. This is the second and final film and I’ve got to say that I liked it a hair bit better than the very entertaining and charming first one.

I guess the consensus is that they were pretty equal in quality but I felt like Darren McGavin and Simon Oakland were much more in-sync together, as well as more comfortable with their characters.

This story doesn’t see our crack reporter trying to take down a vampire, instead, he’s trying to stop an alchemist that is killing young women and using their blood to stay immortal. I guess the baddie is similar to a vampire, in a way, but he’s more like a Jack the Ripper type of killer with an extra twist.

The film also takes place in Seattle, after Kolchak was chased off from Las Vegas due to the events of the previous story. He’d also have to leave Seattle at the end of this where the heroes mention that they’re moving to New York City. The TV show that followed the next year put them in Chicago, however.

Anyway, this is solid, cool yet hokey ’70s fun and I like that it didn’t stay focused on vampires and allowed itself to be more open with weird monsters and phenomena. In fact, this franchise was a big inspiration on the creation and format of The X-Files, two decades later.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor The Night Stalker and the television show Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

 

Film Review: The Night Stalker (1972)

Also known as: The Kolchak Papers (working title), Kolchak: The Night Stalker (long title)
Release Date: January 11th, 1972 
Directed by: John Llewellyn Moxey
Written by: Richard Matheson
Based on: The Kolchak Papers by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Music by: Bob Cobert
Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Carol Lynley, Barry Atwater, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Elisha Cook Jr.

Dan Curtis Productions, ABC Circle Films, ABC, 74 Minutes

Review:

“Rumor has it that the day Anthony Albert Vincenzo was born, his father left town. The story may be apocryphal, but I believe it. The only point I wonder about is why his mother didn’t leave too.” – Carl Kolchak

I was a pretty big fan of the Kolchak television series when it was in syndication back when I was a kid. It originally aired before I was alive but I remember my granmum having it on her television set in my younger, most impressionable years.

Sadly, I hadn’t seen it since the ’80s and I never saw the two television movies that predate the single season show. So I figured I’d start with the original Night Stalker movie and go from there.

I’m glad to say that this was pretty close to my memories of the show and seeing Darren McGavin ham it up while monster hunting was a sight to behold and enjoy, once again!

More than anything, watching the original film, which I found in HD on YouTube for free (as long as that lasts) motivated me greatly to continue on with the second film and twenty-ish episode series.

McGavin is great in this and it’s my favorite role that I’ve ever seen him play. It’s like it was tailor made for his specific talents, as it maximizes his strengths and charisma. I’m not sure how close the Kolchak TV material is to the original novel but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

In this story, ace reporter Carl Kolchak is investigating strange murders that appear to be vampiric in nature. No one wants to believe what Kolchak starts to uncover and even after the vampire gets into a skirmish with police while stealing blood bags from the hospital, those in power try to suppress Kolchak’s narrative.

Eventually, we get a showdown with the vampire and the end result sees Kolchak having to leave Las Vegas or be charged with murder for killing the bloodsucking fiend.

While the picture can feel hokey and dated, I mean, it is a ’70s television movie, it’s still an energetic, charming, entertaining ride and pretty solid shit for its time and production limitations.

Plus, Darren McGavin is stupendous.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel The Night Strangler and the television show Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Film Review: Bride of Boogedy (1987)

Release Date: April 22nd, 1987
Directed by: Oz Scott
Written by: Michael Janover
Music by: John Addison
Cast: Richard Masur, Mimi Kennedy, Tammy Lauren, David Faustino, Eugene Levy, Vincent Schiavelli

Michael Janover-Oz Scott Productions, Walt Disney Television, ABC, 93 Minutes

Review:

“[after stealing the magic cloak] So this is the secret of your success, eh Davis? Magic! Well two can play at that one my friend! When I’m through with you, you and your family will be sorry you ever moved to Lucifer Falls!” – Tom Lynch

I figured that I’d have to watch this after revisiting its predecessor a week or so ago. Plus, both are streaming on Disney+, which I re-upped to watch and review all the classic animated films.

This one is slightly better than the first but I think that mostly has to do with the fact that it is twice as long and actually the length of a regular film. An issue with the first one is that it felt rushed in its pacing, due to only having about 45 minutes to tell its story.

In this one, the filmmakers had more room to breathe and could tell a richer, more complete story.

I did miss Kristy Swanson and John Astin in this one but that was also off-set by the inclusion of Eugene Levy and a smaller part for character actor, Vincent Schiavelli.

The story sees Mr. Boogedy return after he’s essentially raised from the netherworld by a professional rival of the protagonist family’s father.

The film is primarily made up of gags and amusing sequences but there isn’t a whole lot in the picture that really matters. Everything is building up towards a big town carnival though.

At the carnival, Mr. Boogedy appears in front of everyone and steals the family’s mother away to be his bride. The family then has to find a way to pull her back into the real world while locking Mr. Boogedy away once again.

This film is cheesy and goofy but it’s also endearing, as you do care about the family and how positive and optimistic these people are, even after moving to a haunted house in a town called Lucifer Falls.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and other episodes of The Magical World of Disney.

Film Review: Mr. Boogedy (1986)

Release Date: April 20th, 1986
Directed by: Oz Scott
Written by: Michael Janover
Music by: John Addison
Cast: Richard Masur, Mimi Kennedy, Benjamin Gregory, David Faustino, Kristy Swanson, John Astin, Katherine Kelly Lang

Walt Disney Television, ABC, 46 Minutes

Review:

“Ah, did anybody leave a weird green light on in that room?” – Carleton Davis

I remember watching this when it was on television for the first time. Now I mostly remember the sequel, as it was twice as long and had a bigger finale but this was a cool “horror” film that I liked as a young kid. It also didn’t terrify my mum.

This was really made as an episode of The Magical World of Disney, which was a pretty cool anthology television series that used to air on Sunday nights in the ’80s (and probably earlier).

Each episode was usually a short, hour long story. Sometimes they’d be like full-length TV movies, as Mr. Boogedy‘s sequel would be.

I liked this because it featured two actors I liked, Richard Masur and John Astin. It also introduced me to Kristy Swanson, who I (and every boy my age) started crushing on pretty hard.

This is a basic boogeyman story but the origin and background of the character were kind of interesting. However, you don’t get to see the monster until the very end and only for a few minutes. Plus, he’s kind of a careless idiot that destroys himself by sucking off his own cloak with a vacuum he’s using to terrorize a kid.

This is decently written but it’s nothing great. I like how they developed the character, even if it was quick. Honestly, this did feel a bit rushed, not in how it was produced but in the pacing of the story. Granted, 46 minutes isn’t a lot of time and this could have been a richer, better experience if they had make this one twice as long.

I guess I’ll see how the sequel stands up when I review it in a few weeks.

This is goofy, family friendly fun but it comes across as really outdated and will probably only be worthwhile to those with the nostalgia bug.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and other episodes of The Magical World of Disney.

TV Review: Stumptown (2019- )

Original Run: September 25th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jason Richman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Stumptown by Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, Justin Greenwood
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson, Tantoo Cardinal, Cole Sibus, Adrian Martinez, Camryn Manheim, Michael Ealy, Donal Logue

Don’t Tell Mom, The District, ABC, 7 Episodes (so far), 44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After reading the first Stumptown comic, I figured I’d give the television show a shot, as it just premiered a month and a half ago and because I generally like Cobie Smulders and Jake Johnson.

This is adapted from a neo-noir comic series by Greg Rucka and while the show adapts it fairly well, at least, its framework, this feels a little less neo-noir and a bit more like a network television crime show. While that’s not a bad thing, network TV is generally a pretty watered down and sterile version of the things it tries to adapt.

At least this has the same spirit as the comic.

It feels and looks different in that it loses its stylized visual allure and the edginess is scaled back quite a bit.

Additionally, the first episode starts with a familiar story for fans of the comic but it quickly veers off in its own direction. The show is episodic, usually solving a crime in one or two episodes where it then moves on to the next plot. So if you’re expecting the first graphic novel to basically be the first season, it isn’t.

Now all of this might sound like criticism but it’s not.

The fact of the matter is, I like the show, at least the half dozen episodes I binge watched to see if I wanted to keep moving forward with it. Based off of my experience, I’ll probably watch a full season of this and then decide whether or not I want to stick with it. But, so far, so good.

What really works for me is the cast. Everyone is really good in their roles and the main players all have great chemistry. I especially like the chemistry between Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson and Cole Sibus.

I also like that the show features a special needs character that isn’t treated unrealistically. In fact, Sibus’ Ansel is one of the highlights for me. The kid is just damn good.

Additionally, within the first episode, the show accomplished what it needed to do in that it made me care about all of these characters.

Also, Stumptown is pretty refreshing in 2019, in that it features a tough, female lead but this show is written in a way that makes her a very anti-Mary Sue character. She struggles, she fails, she adapts, hell… she gets her ass kicked… a lot. Yet she grows as a character, becomes better at her newfound job and works through her flaws.

I can’t yet say that this is a hands down good show. It’s off to a solid start though and I care about these people and their situations. Maybe I’ll have to give an update after season one concludes sometime next year.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: probably other network television crime and P.I. shows but this one does seem cooler and more fun than the majority of them.

Film Review: Killdozer! (1974)

Release Date: February 2nd, 1974 (TV)
Directed by: Jerry London
Written by: Ed MacKillop, Theodore Sturgeon
Music by: Gil Melle
Cast: Clint Walker, James Wainwright, Carl Betz, Neville Brand, James A. Watson Jr., Robert Urich

Universal Television, ABC, 74 Minutes

Review:

“How do you go about killing a machine?” – Lloyd Kelly, “A machine? It’s too heavy to hang and it’s too big to put in the gas chamber.” – Dennis Holvig

I first learned about Killdozer! from seeing the Marvel Comics adaptation in a discount bin, back in the day. I bought it and later on, a friend of mine told me about the movie.

I never did see that movie until now and it’s actually streaming on YouTube for free, assuming it doesn’t get pulled down.

Anyway, this was a really short movie but I guess it was wedged into just a 90 minute TV time slot with commercial breaks.

The movie is exactly what you’d expect, a bulldozer comes to life and kills people. Nothing more, nothing less.

Killdozer! suffers, however, from just how cheap it was. Everything conveniently takes place on a tiny beach island where there are only six construction workers. The kills are all pretty weak, because this is a ’70s TV movie and there isn’t much action, except a killer bulldozer moving at a snail’s pace and a few old dudes running around going, “How do we kill the damn thing?!”

I guess the film is notable for having a very young Robert Urich in it. But really, he’s the first guy to feel the rage of the killer machine and it’s psychic alien meteor powers.

This wasn’t a terrible watch but there is nothing all that worthwhile here, either. I’m glad it was short because anything longer would have made this worse. Frankly, it could have been whittled down to 40 minutes and just been an episode in any random horror anthology TV series.

Also, the poster is really misleading, as the guy in it is shrunk down a lot. The “killdozer” is not that big. Not at all.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other killer vehicle movies: DuelChristine, The Car and Maximum Overdrive.

TV Review: Cloak & Dagger (2018- )

Original Run: June 7th, 2018 – current
Created by: Joe Pokaski
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Cloak & Dagger by Bill Mantlo, Ed Hannigan
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Olivia Holt, Aubrey Joseph, Gloria Reuben, Andrea Roth, J. D. Evermore, Miles Mussenden, Carl Lundstedt, Emma Lahana, Jaime Zevallos

Wandering Rocks Productions, ABC Signature Studios, Marvel, Disney-ABC, Freeform, 10 Episodes (so far), 42-49 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I watched this right after I quit watching Runaways in the middle of its inaugural season. Sadly, this is pretty cringeworthy too and I couldn’t finish it. But at least I got further before my body couldn’t physically hit the “play” button around episode 7 or so.

Cloak & Dagger is lame as hell. Where is the superheroing? 7 episodes into this and they’ve barely explored their powers. This is just teen drama crap that feels more like it belongs in the Twilight franchise than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where it is supposed to take place.

The acting isn’t terrible but it’s nothing to praise. I mostly like the characters but if I’m being honest, they do not feel like the Tandy Bowen or Tyrone Johnson that I’ve gotten to know in the comics over three decades.

Also, why is this in New Orleans? I mean I love New Orleans but these characters are from New York City and often times cross paths with Spider-Man, Daredevil and other street level heroes of the Big Apple. Honestly, this feels completely separate from the larger universe it is supposed to be a part of.

The writing is slow, dull and I don’t care about the story one friggin’ iota.

The writing is also the biggest source of this show’s cringe. The dialogue is rough, unrefined and sounds like it was written by an intern that won’t get hired by the studio after graduation. Also, this gets pretty sociopolitical, not that that’s a bad thing but the show tends to hit you in the face with Mjolnir when trying to make those statements.

I have no urge to finish this or to watch a second season. I doubt that the show will last much longer and this is just further proof that the MCU is stretching itself way too thin, regardless of each project having its own filmmakers or showrunners. It’s just becoming so tiresome and this put me past the point of exhaustion. I wouldn’t call it “superhero fatigue”, as some people have called this market over saturation of superheroes, I would just call it a lack of the right people to steer these multiple ships.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Runaways, as both are mind numbingly bad and nearly unwatchable.

TV Review: Runaways (2017- )

Original Run: November 21st, 2017 – current
Created by: John Schwartz, Stephanie Savage
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Runaways by Brian K. Vaughn, Adrian Alphona
Music by: Siddhartha Khosla
Cast: Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, Allegra Acosta, Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, Ever Carradine, James Marsters, Brigid Brannagh, Kevin Weisman, Brittany Ishibashi, James Yaegashi, Julian McMahon

ABC Signature Studios, Marvel Television, Fake Empire Productions, Hulu, 10 Episodes (so far), 46-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Well, the day has come. I finally found a Marvel television show that doesn’t cut the mustard. In fact, I made it five or six episodes in and I had to walk away. I just couldn’t go on.

The first two episodes were the same story told from different perspectives and both were an absolute fucking bore.

The third episode started to get more interesting but every single character in this show was unlikable. Not only that, no one did anything that seemed to make a lick of fucking sense.

Then Julian McMahon shows up as the villain and he plays his role exactly like he played Doctor Doom in those terrible Fantastic Four movies from the ’00s.

Then this show got preachy, the hipster feminist was annoying as fuck, all the other kids were terrible, the parents were just as terrible and I found myself banging my head against my coffee table.

That’s when I realized that I could just hit “back” on Hulu and exit out of this rabbit hole I was falling down.

The premise of the whole Runaways comic (and TV show) is (and I’m paraphrasing here because I don’t want to look it up again), “Every kid thinks their parents are evil. Well, what if they really were?” Yeah, sorry… I never thought of my parents as “evil”. I’m sure most normal, well adjusted kids also don’t think this. So what kind of sociopath came up with this idea? Most parents aren’t the dad from Varsity Blues. Grow the fuck up.

Anyway, fuck this show. Good job, Hulu.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Marvel shows: LegionThe Gifted and Cloak & Dagger.

TV Review: Inhumans (2017)

Original Run: September 29th, 2017 – November 10th, 2017
Created by: Scott Buck
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Inhumans by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Sean Callery
Cast: Anson Mount, Serinda Swan, Ken Leung, Eme Ikwuakor, Isabelle Cornish, Ellen Woglom, Iwan Rheon

ABC Studios, Marvel, Devilina Productions, IMAX Entertainment, Walt Disney, 8 Episodes, 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Well, this show has been trashed by just about anyone and everyone who actually took the time to give it a watch. Being that I have seen everything within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, I couldn’t just ignore this and knew that I’d have to give it an honest shot.

It’s pretty damn bad but it isn’t as horrendous as many have claimed. I saw that it was expiring soon on Hulu, so I figured I had better binge through this quickly before losing the opportunity.

To start, this should have really excited me. It stars Mr. Bohannon from Hell On Wheels a.k.a. Anson Mount. He also plays Black Bolt, a character I have loved in the comics for years. Sadly, Mount can’t speak in this part because his voice is like getting bitchslapped by God. He spends most of his time talking in sign language as Medusa translates for him. When Medusa isn’t around, he just gives very intense stares that make me think he is going to crack my television screen.

Medusa is pretty terrible and unlikable but then so are all the heroes. Crystal is damn cute but she always has this look on her face like she just sipped on a cup of tea and noticed a cat turd floating in it.

Speaking of Crystal, her story is the worst thing about the show. It is a little teenage love story that comes off like one of those Miley Cyrus Disney movies before she cut all her hair off and got her boobs out a lot. Crystal’s boyfriend is some Hawaiian surfer brah that tells her to “hang ten” all the time. In fact, Crystal is lost and trying to locate her family and surfer brah says, “Hang ten! Jump in the water with me! We’ll look for your family later!” Dude’s a total Disney Channel douche nugget and he probably calls his mom “brah”.

Iwan Rheon who was a big deal on Game of Thrones, a show I don’t like or care about, plays the bad guy but he’s just a human being. Actually, he’s a sour, jealous bitch that didn’t get magic powers like the other Inhumans and he somehow kicks them out of the kingdom and takes over the Moon. I loved Rheon on Misfits though and that was, by far, an infinitely better show than this or Game of Thrones.

I don’t know, the more I think about this show, maybe it is as bad as all the detractors are saying.

On a positive note, it was filmed in beautiful Hawaii. So all the scenery was breathtaking and amazing but I’d rather just watch LostHawaii Five-OMagnum P.I. or Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: The other MCU TV stuff but this was so bad and short-lived that I’d imagine it will be ignored in the future and that Disney will revisit these characters in a completely different way, years from now.