Kolchak: Two episodes

The Devil’s Platform

Devil doggie. Are the fangs fake?“Palmer is evil incarnate! He’s going to go all the way to the White House, to the Oval Office!”

Not one of my favorites, but I suppose it was inevitable in the immediate post-Watergate era.

In brief, a Chicago politician (Tom Skerrit) has sold his soul to the Devil. (I know, I know — Just the one?) To facilitate his meteoric rise from obscurity to the Senate, and perhaps beyond, Bob Palmer gets rid of all who oppose him by killing them off in horrific and somewhat flamboyant ways. Occasionally, he accomplishes these matters personally in the form of a big woofums doggie, which is kind of cute when it’s not snarling ferociously.

Carl Kolchak gets in Palmer’s way while waiting for an elevator at a high-rise building. The elevator is coming down much too fast, since Palmer and his about-to-be-late campaign manager are inside, along with a number of other unfortunate people. Carl hears their screams as the elevator drops and, after it crashes into the basement, rushes downstairs to get a photo.

In addition to all the now-dead people in the elevator, there is also the doggie wearing a pentagram on a chain around its neck. No sign of Palmer. As the dog leaps past Carl, the chain catches on his coat sleeve and he winds up in possession of the pentagram–and pursued by the dog.

When Palmer’s opponent for the Senate dies in a car crash that evening, it occurs to Carl that there’ve been a lot of weird deaths surrounding Palmer’s campaign. Then he notices a photograph of Palmer wearing the same pentagram.

Miss Emily bearing giftsThe high point of this episode is the first appearance of Ruth McDevitt as Miss Emily.

She’s been mentioned in previous episodes, but the character has been away on vacation in Italy. She returns now, bringing gifts: artichoke pasta for Tony Vincenzo, a new hat for Carl (which he doesn’t wear), and a bottle of Pope-blessed holy water for herself.

This last item will come in particularly handy when Carl confronts Bob Palmer near the end of the episode in Palmer’s very own satanic temple in his basement, complete with giant pentacle on the floor.

Instead of destroying Carl, Palmer makes him an offer–join up with Satan’s League! If he signs his name in his own blood, he too will get everything he wants.

Holy waterCarl Kolchak’s ambitions are really pretty modest though. The prospect of gaining them isn’t enough to tempt him to go along with the Forces of Darkness.

Woofums Doggie does not win the Senatorial election.


Bad Medicine

This episode is a little better than the above one. To begin with, it features the first of three appearances by Richard Kiel, and in this instance he’s recognizable for more than his height.

Kiel plays the Diablero, a eight-foot-tall magical medicine man from Native American mythology. The Diablero has a penchant for gemstones, the bigger the better. He needs them to pass from this world into the next, and to get his hands on them, he steals them from Chicago’s wealthiest citizens.

Why he hypnotically forces society matrons to commit suicide once he’s taken their diamonds, pearls, and rubies remains a mystery. It’s just the way of the Diablero, I guess.

Also, the template of these stories require some kind of body count. A supernatural jewel thief who wasn’t a killer wouldn’t be enough to interest Carl Kolchak.

Like the Devil’s Candidate Bob Palmer, the Diablero is a shapeshifter. To commit his thefts in penthouses atop tall buildings, he turns into a large crow with a freaky-sounding “caw!” and bursts in through windows, then reverts to human form to tower over his bewildered victims. He also occasionally turns into a coyote to rip out the throats of guard dogs who get in his way.

The police, who have seen the crow and the coyote as well as the very-tall Native American guy at the robbery scenes, conclude that he must be a circus performer who’s turned to crime.

Two officers are shot when they encounter the Diablero in action. The police department would have it that they shot each other in a freak accident while trying to apprehend the oddly dressed criminal and his animal companions–until ballistics show that each man actually shot himself. They try to hush things up, but Kolchak with his nose for bizarre and potentially supernatural news sniffs the truth out.

With some assistance from Alice Ghostley and an elderly Native American gentleman, Carl learns all he needs to know about finding and defeating the Diablero. It turns out that the bad Medicine Man is camped out on the 39th floor of an under- Coyoteconstruction high-rise, forcing Carl to hike up quite a lot of stairs in the otherwise empty building until he hears the sound of chanting.

He locates the Diablero in the act of casting the stolen gems into a small fire, where they vanish, presumably into that other world that the Diablero wishes to enter. But of course Carl puts a stop to that with the aid of a broken mirror.

There is no recovering the gems, though.

Musical note: While the title of this episode makes me want to sing the Bon Jovi song of the same title, the drumbeat that features in the Diablero’s theme is reminiscent of Paul Revere and the Raiders’ Cherokee People.


Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.