This page was cached on Wednesday, January 5 , 2022, 3:42 pm | Fair 64º
Many of you just watched the late Darren McGavin as Ralphie’s father in the umpteenth rerun of 1983’s A Christmas Story, but we’re approaching the 50th anniversary of another iconic McGavin role.
On Jan. 11, 1972, ABC aired The Night Stalker — which entered the American psyche as the highest-rated made-for-TV movie up until that time.
Granted, the film was aided by being nestled between The Mod Squad and Marcus Welby, M.D. and competing against a “crowd-pleasing” NBC documentary about Northern Ireland factions (apparently NBC’s documentary about post-nasal drip wasn’t completed in time); but it was a milestone, nonetheless.
It was impossible for discriminating viewers to say no to the movie.
The screenplay was by Richard Matheson (famed as author of I Am Legend and the screenwriter of 16 episodes of The Twilight Zone as well as Steven Spielberg’s directorial film debut, Duel) and the producer was Dan Curtis, the creator of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (which etched the image of Rev. Trask being sealed alive inside a wall into the memories of a generation).
In those days before social media and “watch it whenever” streaming, The Night Stalker was the sort of shared experience that dominated officer water cooler conversations and school playground chatter on Jan. 12.
McGavin portrayed Carl Kolchak, a down-on-his-luck investigative journalist digging into serial killings that plagued Las Vegas — serial killings that seemed more and more the work of a vampire.
The wisecracking Kolchak got on the wrong side of the Powers That Be because news of a bloodsucker in town could dampen the tourist trade. (That’s the same reason the buffet for the annual Extended Warranty Association convention is always sequestered in a secret room.)
Keep up with Noozhawk’s daily COVID-19 coverage, delivered at 4:15 a.m. right to your inbox.
Although The Night Stalker broke ratings records, spawned follow-up TV-movie The Night Strangler, generated the 1974-1975 series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, inspired Fox’s The X-Files and garnered a cult following, nitpickers like to nitpick.
Some whine about the shoestring budget, even though director John Llewellyn Moxey did a masterful job of building suspense within his financial constraints.
Shoestring budgets were the reality, and network executives tried to economize even more. (“Are you sure you need the little plastic thingies on the end of the shoestrings? You’re killing me!”)
Yes, viewers spoiled by modern special effects might be underwhelmed by the simplicity of the film. But those people would even find fault with heaven. (“There’s no CGI? Forget that! Give me a ticket to the other place.”)
Filmgoers addicted to today’s standards of gore might bemoan the restrained nature of the movie, but the Network Standards and Practices people had spent 20-plus years protecting viewers from disturbing elements. (“Quick! More parents with dead spouses! More people smoking cancer sticks! But no karate chops!”)
Some fume that vampire Janos Skorzeny wasn’t given a more nuanced, sympathetic treatment. They wouldn’t be satisfied unless Kolchak took along a social worker to coax the vampire into experiencing a “Wow! I could’a had a V8!” moment.
Like every year, 2022 will be a buyer’s market for columnists wishing to write about cultural anniversaries; but I couldn’t in good conscience pass up this occasion.
Not when The Night Stalker left such an indelible mark.
My trip to Las Vegas in the mid-1990s is still a blur, but I was supposedly screaming, “Don’t show me the room with the HIGH stakes — show me the one with the WOODEN stakes!”
— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and the author of Yes, Your Butt Still Belongs in Church. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.
Our professional journalists are working round the clock to make sure you have the news and information you need in these uncertain times.
If you appreciate Noozhawk’s coronavirus coverage, and the rest of the local Santa Barbara County news we deliver to you 24/7, please become a member of our Hawks Club today.
You need us more than ever, and we need your support.
We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your confidence.
Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.
Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.
We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.
The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.
Thanks for asking!
Click Here to Get Started >
Full Profile >
P.O. Box 101
Santa Barbara, CA 93102
© Noozhawk 2007-2022 | ISSN No. 1947-6086
Noozhawk is a founding member of the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers.
Site design and development by Hop Studios Hop Studios