Carl Kolchak AKA the Night Stalker, played by Darren McGavin, was the main character in two ABC TV movies and a later TV show in the 1970s. Created by writer Jeff Rice, Kolchak is an investigative reporter for a Chicago wire service- Independent News Service (INS). Despite the wishes of his editor, and to the consternation of the police, Kolchak constantly finds himself embroiled, gonzo-like, into investigations of the macabre.
What I love about the series is mainly the character of Kolchak himself. He is one of those people who things happen to. Extraordinary, bizarre and unprovable things. He’s also the living embodiment of the hard-bitten, hard-drinking, womanising reporter. His appearance is that of a sleazy press-man clad for the tropics. I imagine predecessors of his ilk playing cards with Ernest Hemingway in a Havana bar just before the fall of Batista.
Sadly, what was arguably Darren McGavin’s best remembered role only spanned a couple of TV movies and a single season. A pity because the series seems to have inspired both Chris Carter’s The X-Files and Stephen King’s excellent and underrated The Night Flier.
- The Night Stalker (1972) ABC TV movie
- The Night Strangler (1973) ABC TV movie
- Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975) ABC TV show: 20 episodes
There was a short-lived reboot of the show in 2005, but this bears zero resemblance to the original (and the best). There was also a rumour last year that Johnny Depp had made a deal with Disney to play Kolchak. In the meantime, a search of Amazon, will get you to the DVDs and various spin-off novels.
Finally, on a personal note, I was partially inspired by the irascible, never-take-no-for-an-answer character of Carl Kolchak to pursue my very new career as a newspaper columnist. I also dig his battered straw fedora.