Skip to content

Remake, Reboot, or Rest in Peace? Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Remake, Reboot, or Rest in Peace Logo

Promo Banner for 70's TV show Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Fans of The X-Files, of Fringe owe some of our enjoyment to the trail of conspiracy crept in the 70’s by the Night Stalker. Rotten Tomatoes gives Kolchak: The Night Stalker a solid 86%, and 97% of the often overgenerous Google Users like it. It mixed horror, comedy, and drama and has been called, for good reason, one of the more significant TV series of the 1990s. 

UPN’s Special Unit 2 did an entertaining job of paying homage to Kolchak back in 2001 and 2002. The horror to humor mix in Special Unit 2 was less horror, more humor. And we cheered for a gnome thief protagonist instead of a scruffy journalist. Carl stole that show, and he… no? You don’t agree? Fine. Where were we? Oh.

TV show Special Unit TwoOthers in the family tree include the late 1980’s series Friday the 13th, its 2009 reboot, and Syfy’s Warehouse 13.  The Eleventh Hour added another branch to the tree in 2008, and 2005 phenom Supernatural continues the tradition and then some.

X-Files Season 10 Episode 3 is a straight-up tip of the hat to Kolchak, right down to the crumpled seersucker suit.

Actor Darren McGavin as reporter Carl KolchakThe original movies and series owe a great deal to the wonderful writing of screenwriter, author and poet Richard Matheson. If you aren’t familiar with his works, you should be. The Twilight Zone. Night Gallery. What Dreams May Come. Stir of Echoes. I am Legend.

Veteran actor Darren McGavin’s (1922-2006) superb performances draw the viewers out of their seats and into his noir world of horror and humor. He is Kolchak and through him, so are we.

So, Remake, Reboot, or Rest in Peace?

They’ve tried once already. Sort of. ABC attempted to remake the Night Stalker in 2005. But they only owned the rights to the TV movies, and not to the material in the TV series. It died after just six airings.

The Night Stalker family tree keeps growing. Supernatural may be the only show to outlast a zombie apocalypse. Come on, season 14!

McGavin brought Kolchak to life, and McGavin himself decreed when Kolchak’s television run ended. As much as we revere the original series, no, because we so revere the original…

Let it Rest in Peace–but only after binge watching the original movie and series.

Still need a fix? Find a copy of one of Moonstone’s Kolchak: The Night Stalker Chronicles.

“Carl Kolchak: Exactly what don’t you like about this hat?
Tony Vincenzo: What’s under it.”

No, we don’t like it. Not one bit. We Love it!

3 thoughts on “Remake, Reboot, or Rest in Peace? Kolchak: The Night Stalker”

  1. I’m 57 years old. Which puts me right in the time span of seeing the entire series beginning with the pilot “ Las Vegas Vampire”. with Barry????? As the vampire stalker. You are all missing it! This pilot needs to be adjusted by taking some liberties with a screen play and brought to the Big Screen not Tv ! It would sell big time ! I can see Johnny Dep playing the Karl Kolchak roll. But who would play the vampire ? Hummmm

  2. You are talking to the world’s biggest fan of “Kolchak:The Night Stalker.” I have not missed a single broadcast since January 11th, 1972. METV runs it every Saturday night/Sunday morning at ( appropriately ) midnight. METV can run all twenty episodes of it until Doomsday, and I will still be there to watch it. It rankles me to read/listen to it’s detractors knock it. This show was one of the top five shows of the 1970’s. What killed it in the end was the perfect storm of rough competition ( “Police Woman”, which was still hot in 1974-1975, and “Sanford and Son”, which, admittedly, is one of TV’s funniest comedies of all time ) Network indifference, and the dwindling interest of it’s headliner/producer, the awesome Darren McGavin. I think the show could have been saved if the Network had done two things: 1) Moved it to a different night: Nobody is watching TV at 10:00pm on Friday and Saturday nights! Any other night of the week, and the viewership and ratings would have been there.2) Darren McGavin was working his ass off to produce this series, but was not receiving the proper amount of ‘love” from the Network in acknowledgement/appreciation for his work. That would have pissed me off,too. Inasmuch as the eternal debate as to which were the best and worst episodes, for reason or reasons I’ll undoubtedly never comprehend, most “Kolchak” faithful seem to feel that “Horror in the Heights” was the best episode. It was good- not GREAT, mind you- but good. The climax’s “shoot Emily in the chest” moment seems to resonate with most of the fans, for some reason. For me, the best episodes ( after the pilot movie, of course ) were the earliest. It’s like, after a strong start, the whole show just slowly deteriorates. “The Ripper”, “The Zombie”, and most especially, “The Vampire” were truly chilling installments. ( what’s scarier than vampires-??? NOTHING, dammit! ) Anybody who disagrees with this assessment is deluded. I am tired of listening to fans knock “The Werewolf”- this episode did the best it could with what it had to work with. So the werewolf make-up was a bit soft- who cares??!! The viewers got the point. And anyway, who says that all werewolves have to look like the one that killed Little Red Riding Hood’s granny, anyway-?? Bernardt Stieglitz was a relatively benign looking wolfman! Who cares! It didn’t blunt his ability to KILL people!! This episode was extremely well-written, well-scored, ( musically speaking ) and well-paced with a truly gripping showdown between wolfman and warrior. The producers simply could not have done a better job of finding somebody to play Bernardt Stieglitz than the intense Eric Braeden, in the performance of his career. Tier “B” episodes would include “Firefall” ( aka “The Doppelganger” ) “The Devil’s Platform” ( I liked the…….politics……….of this one…..heh-heh-heh ) “Chopper”- again, the weak monster-make-up did not hurt the story for me- a vengeful ghost with a sword on a motorcycle- GOT IT!!! I love stunt-people, and the ghost of Swordman Baker was obviously played by a gung-ho stunt-person, and I LOVED it!!! Most Kolchak fans would not include “The Youth Killer” on their list of favorites, but it’s on mine, as I am a student of Greek Mythology. Helen, as beautiful as she was, was just as deadly as any other ‘Night Stalker’ threat. I also like “The Sentry” ( another unpopular entry with the fanbase ) because the point of the story was not lost on me. The Sentry was NOT the monster of this episode- it was the human beings who were encroaching on it’s territory, and threatening it’s unborn children. The ultimate lesson of this episode is, of course, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”/”Judge not, lest ye be judged, in turn”. So, “The Sentry” works for me, too, because I get the point of it. Those are the best episodes of the series. As to whether or not I would like to see a reboot of “The Night Stalker”, well, it’s like, how do you improve on perfection?? ABC tried it in 2005, and the result was horrible. ( and NOT in a “good” way ) If Hollywood can’t do any better than the 2005 Stuart Townsend/Gabrielle Union version, then I would say, “PLEASE don’t bother.” Has anyone seen Stuart Townsend in anything else, ever since???? I believe this ill-advised and unfortunate debacle finished off his career! Hey- it’s happened to actors and actresses who participated in projects a LOT better than the 2005 “Night Stalker” reboot! As for a big-screen treatment, I have always maintained that it’s success would depend on the perfect synthesis of script, actor, and production company. As far as I’m concerned, the ONLY actor who could successfully fill out the late Darren McGavin’s birdfeeder hat and seersucker suit would be John McClane himself, Bruce Willis. Unfortunately, with Willis’ recent forced retirement due to declining health, I am at a loss as to who could pick up the torch. Certainly don’t want to see anymore ‘Stuart Townsends’ in the role. I don’t know if Richard Matheson is still with us, or not. He’d be my pick for writer. I could see Rick Moranis in the Ron Updyke role, and wouldn’t Helen Mirren as Miss Emily just be perfect??? However, I am stymied as to who could give us the next Tony Vincenzo. Like the late McGavin, the equally-late Simon Oakland was a national treasure, and quite irreplaceable. So, unless the right creative people could be found, from actors to writers, I would suggest just to let old Carl rest in peace. And what could be a better note on which to conclude an article about “Kolchak: The Night Stalker”?? Excelsior!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *