Now that I’m finished with Dark Shadows, I’ve decided to go on to another short-lived but influential series that began life as a Dan Curtis production and the movie that started it off.
The Night Stalker, screenplay by Richard Matheson, aired on ABC in 1972. According to the interview with Dan Curtis on this DVD, it was a huge success, hitting the highest ratings for any made-for-TV movie up that point. Different from Curtis’s previous work with its gothic settings and trappings, this was a thoroughly modern and cynical horror movie that let a vampire loose to hunt in a big and brash city, and introduced a vampire hunter who was nothing like Van Helsing.
We first see Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin), not in what would become his trademark seersucker suit and battered straw hat, but as a guy in a T-shirt in a small and shabby apartment. He pushes the Play button on his pocket tape-recorder, then gets a beer from a tiny fridge, and wanders around in the background before settling down on the bed to listen to his own recorded voice saying:
“This is the story behind one of the greatest manhunts in history. Maybe you read about it–what they let you read about it, probably some item on a back page. However, what happened in that city between May 16 and May 28 of this year was so incredible that to this day the facts have been suppressed to save certain political careers from disaster and law enforcement officials from embarrassment.
This will be the last time I will ever discuss these events with anyone. So when you’ve finished this bizarre account, judge for yourself its believability and then try to tell yourself, wherever you may be, it couldn’t happen here…”