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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974)

"I promised I'd show up with a haircut, a new hat, and pressed suit...but I lie a lot."
- Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: December 15, 2005

Stars: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland
Other Stars: Scatman Crothers, Antonio Fargas, Sharon Farrell, Dick Van Patten, Jamie Farr, Larry Linville, Jim Backus
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations)
Run Time: 17h:06m:00s
Release Date: October 04, 2005
UPC: 025192226526
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C A-BC- D-

DVD Review

Kolchak: The Night Stalker has always intrigued me due to its immense influence on The X-Files. From the beginning, that show's creator, Chris Carter, sited Kolchak as his main inspiration, with the title character himself appearing in some early X-Files episodes. Kolchak has been buoyed by Carter's kind words through the years, but the show had a rather large cult following even before the successful run for Mulder and Scully. It also garnered huge ratings when it initially aired from 1974-1975, producing numbers that would have blown today's hit series out of the water.

Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) was introduced as a down-trodden reporter in Las Vegas, then was seen again in another special as a down-trodden reporter in Seattle. In the weekly series, Kolchak shows up in Chicago, a struggling reporter for the Independent News Service, and still looking for the next big story. Well, in Chicago, those stories are coming a mile a minute in the form of various monsters, some of which resemble famous creatures or killers from the past.

Kolchak's editor, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), puts up with his ace reporter's crazy theories about monsters and the supernatural only because he usually follows up on these notions and is almost always right about them. The pair constantly argues, though, and regardless of what Kolchak finds, the authorities always do all they can to make sure that the identities and nature of these ghouls doesn't become public knowledge.

The interaction between McGavin and Oakland (similar to that of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny) is the series' strongest asset, as these two fine actors play off of each other with a natural chemistry that flows from scene to scene. Theirs is a much more volatile relationship than Mulder and Scully, but the ease with which they work together is nearly impossible to duplicate.

Despite the series very much looking its age, the gloomy settings power the series. The tone of the production design is slightly altered depending on what monster Kolchak is after in a given week. Still, this is one of those shows that fans can instantly name when you flip to it, whether you catch the opening titles or not, and that's a heck of a sign that the atmospherics are effective.

Some familiar fiends show up among the series' first five episodes. The Ripper has Kolchak after a killer who resembles Jack the Ripper, not only in style but in physical appearance as well. More familiar horror figures show up in The Zombie, The Vampire, and The Werewolf, keeping the classic monster theme going.

Following these, the enemies become a bit more original and spookier. My personal favorites are The Devil's Platform, Chopper, and Demon in Lace. There's a little something for every horror aficionado's taste, with appearances by aliens (They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be...), killer spirits (Firefall and The Energy Eater), and other demonic creatures (Horror in the Heights and Legacy of Terror) to name a few.

All of the episodes in this set are entertaining, which is the series' charm. They don't have to be viewed in any particular order as each show offers up a new fright, but it's worth watching from the beginning to see how Kolchak and Vincenzo develop their relationship. The special effects are surprisingly ahead of their time, generating some very scary ghouls whose often gruesome features will stay. So, spend some time with Kolchak and Vincenzo; after which you'll know exactly what Chris Carter saw in this great slice of genre television.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All 20 shows are in their original full-frame format, and unfortunately, they look they're 30 years old. Still, there isn't half as much grain and dirt as I expected. The colors are nicely handled, maintaining their intended drab look, but avoiding any bleeding or other glaring issues.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio stays exclusively up front and is just fine for the material. The music can be a bit overbearing at times, but dialogue remains clear throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 80 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Law & Order, Battlestar Galactica, House M.D., American Gothic, The Munsters: Season Two
Packaging: Nexpak
3 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: DVD-18

Extras Review: Aside from a few previews for other Universal Home Video releases, there aren't any extra features.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Kolchak: The Night Stalker is a classic TV show that was long overdue for a DVD release. However, Universal's three-disc set is lacking in extras, giving the feeling that this release was rushed to coincide with the recent TV premiere of the new version of the show, The Night Stalker. Hopefully, this set will be revisited down the road.


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