The Night Strangler (1973)

Originally airing on ABC on January 16, 1973, this sequel to The Night Stalker was just as popular as the original film. Richard Matheson would come back to write, Dan Curtis would produce and direct, and Darren McGavin would be Carl Kolchak again.

While the TV version is only 74 minutes, there was an international version that played theaters at 90 minutes with extra footage added.

This time, Kolchak has been run out of Las Vegas and found his way to Seattle, where fate has put his former editor Vincenzo (Simon Oakland, PsychoChanto’s Land) has also ended up. He’s arrived just in time, as a series of exotic dancers have all been strangled and drained of blood. And oh yeah — there are traces of rotting flesh on their necks.

A researcher (Wally Cox, the voice of Underdog) discovers that this isn’t the first time the Emerald City has dealt with murders just like this. It happened in 1952. And in 1931. And every 21 years since 1889, with a series of murders occurring over an 18-day span.

Our hero figures out the truth, but the story gets suppressed again. He deals with it about as well as you’d imagine. He teams up with an exotic dancer (Jo Ann Pflug, one-time wife of Chuck Woolery who also is in Scream of the Wolf) and tracks down the night stalker (Richard Anderson, The Six Million Dollar Man) to his lair, where the truth is revealed: he’s actually a man named Dr. Richard Malcolm who has discovered the elixir of life, but must kill six people to make it. To make things even creepier, his family died long ago and are mummified nearby.

Carl smashes the mixture and is attacked, but soon, the night stalker ages into dust before he kills himself. Out of a job, Carl and Vincenzo are forced to drive to New York City together.

A third film, written by Mattheson and William F. Nolan (Burnt Offerings) called The Night Killers was to be set in Hawaii, with Kolchak again walking into a cover-up, as UFO’s, nuclear power and androids replacing humans would have all figured into the plot. There was also the rumor of another script where Kolchak was going to discover that Janos Skorzeny was alive and making others not so well in New York City.

ABC passed on the third movie and gave Kolchak a series without Matheson or Curtis involved.

But that’s a story for another day.

The Night Stalker is everything great about made-for-TV movies, with plenty of quality actors showing up, like The Wizard of Oz star Margaret Hamilton, John Carradine (like you can keep him away from a horror movie made in 1973), “Grandpa” Al Lewis in a funny role where you assume that he’s a bloodsucker but just ends up being a homeless person, Nina Wayne as a dancer named Charisma Beauty, Kate Murtagh (The Car), Ivor Francis (the mortician from House of the Dead) and Anne Randall (Playboy Playmate of the Month May 1967, who also appears in the Al Adamson movie  Hell’s Bloody Devils).

If you love The Six Million Dollar Man, you have to appreciate the irony that both McGavin — as Oliver Spencer — and Anderson — as Oscar Goldman — would play the handler of Steve Austin.

You can watch this for yourself on New Castle After Dark. Or grab the blu ray from Kino Lorber.

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