DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Kolchak - The Night Stalker

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Steve Tannehill, Oct 26, 2005.

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  1. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    XenForo Template  kolchak: the night stalker Studio: Universal Studios Home Video Year: 1974-75 (2005 Release) Rated: Not Rated Aspect Ratio: 4x3 Audio: English DD 2.0 (Mono) Captions/Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish Subtitles Time: Approx. 17 Hrs. 6 Min. Disc Format: DS/DL (DVD-18) Case Style: ThinPaks The Feature: Wow, talk about a blast from the past. Yet another show from my childhood has made its appearance on DVD. After two highly successful TV movies in 1972 and 1973, the exploits of intrepid newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak became a TV series in 1974-75 with Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I remember tuning into these shows religiously, even though they were probably a tad too scary for a sensitive boy like me. Focusing on horror, the supernatural, and the occult, Kolchak paved the way for shows like The X-Files. Sadly, Kolchak did not last long--only twenty episodes over a partial season ever aired, compared to over 200 episodes of those files in the cabinet of X. That's a shame. Kolchak was an endearing character, a writer for the Independent News Service, who made his way around Chicago in his cheap suit and hat, driving a yellow convertible, always lugging his tape recorder and cool (to me at the time) 110 camera, after the latest case of unusual circumstances. Did a headless motorcycle rider slice off the head off a victim? Did a dead body keep turning up... alive? Count on Carl Kolchak to dig up the details. He was the bane of boss Tony Vincenzo's (Simon Oakland) existence. He constantly got in the way of police investigations (as far as they were concerned). But werewolves, vampires, zombies, even Jack the Ripper himself were all fair game for Kolchak's unique investigative style. The original Kolchak movies have been released twice on DVD, first by Anchor Bay in 1998, and later by MGM in 2004. I was very happy with the original Anchor Bay release, mostly for the fond memories. And that is the spirit in which I watched this TV series. In reviewing a TV series, I seldom have time to watch the entire set, but I watched about three hours total of Kolchak, including three complete episodes and parts of three others. What was fascinating to me as a child is, alas, a little cheesy today. But the show is still reasonably fun. Kolchak is a great character, and the series is populated with equally memorable ones. As far as the shows go, I found the series pilot "The Ripper" to be rather intense, and actually a little risque. By today's standards, it is pretty tame, but I can't believe I was allowed to watch this as a kid! "The Zombie" had its gross makeup moments. "Chopper" (with its story by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale) had me chuckling a bit when I saw the "headless" motorcycle rider and the shadow of the boom mike. Okay, so the production values were a little cheap--but that adds to the charm. And the writing was fun. Universal has split the series across three dual-sided, dual-layered (DVD-18) discs. The discs were housed in individual ThinPaks (like Firefly). I could not make out the country of manufacture on the disc, but there was no "Made in Mexico" sticker on the outside of the package. I mention this because of production problems that seem to originate from Mexico on DVD-18 product from Universal. Thankfully, there were no glitches evident on these discs. The episodes are laid out as follows: Disc 1 Side A The Ripper (51:42) - Air Date 9/13/74 The Zombie (51:28) - Air Date 9/20/74 They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be... (51:50) - Air Date 9/27/74 The Vampire (51:49) - Air Date 10/4/74 Disc 1 Side B The Werewolf (50:51) - Air Date 11/1/74 Firefall (51:23) - Air Date 11/8/74 The Devil's Platform (51:40) - Air Date 11/15/74 Bad Medicine (51:50) - Air Date 11/29/74 Disc 2 Side A The Spanish Moss Murders (51:45) - Air Date 12/6/74 The Energy Eater (51:49) - Air Date 12/13/74 Horror in the Heights (51:12) - Air Date 12/20/74 Mr. R.I.N.G. (51:19) - Air Date 1/10/75 Disc 2 Side B Primal Scream (50:30) - Air Date 1/17/75 The Trevi Collection (50:30) - Air Date 1/24/75 Chopper (50:33) - Air Date 1/31/75 - Story by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale! Demon in Lace (50:35) - Air Date 2/7/75 Disc 3 Side A - almost broke it off the hub attempting to remove it from the case Legacy of Terror (50:29) - Air Date 2/14/75 The Knightly Murders (50:30) - Air Date 3/7/75 The Youth Killer (50:34) - Air Date 3/14/75 The Sentry (50:30) - Air Date 3/28/75 Disc 3 Side B is blank. The Feature: 3.5 / 5     Video: Unfortunately, the video quality is a real mixed bag. I know for a fact the transfer is not to blame for obvious problems with the source: splices, film off-center (briefly), dirt. There was no cleanup at all for at least the first two episodes. But later episodes did not look as bad, especially during the lighter daytime scenes. The image was a little soft, but honestly I expected that on the big screen. During the darker scenes, however, the image was too dark to make out a lot of detail. My recommendation? Watch this on a small, old TV like you did as a child and you'll never notice how it looks. Video: 2.5 / 5    Sound: Sound quality for this Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation is perfectly fine. It is monophonic, and a little hollow with the narration. Spanish subtitles and English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired are included. Sound: 3 / 5    Extras: There are no extras. But I won't hold that against the overall score, so... Extras: 0 / 5 In Conclusion: I like Kolchak: The Night Stalker. It is not the greatest TV show ever, nor is it the best presentation I have ever seen on DVD. I wish a little more could have been done with the video quality, but that inevitably would have made the production of the set (and therefore the set itself) more expensive. Still, this would make great viewing on Halloween. Overall Rating: 3 / 5
    Display calibrated by Steve Martin at http://www.lionav.com/
     
  2. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    Steve, you might want to double-check your running time. 6 hrs and 53 minutes for 20 episodes of an hour-long show??? And not including the 2 TV movie pilots from a few years earlier (released separately which I have), this is the complete series, correct?
     
  3. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Oops, corrected. Thanks.

    This is the complete 20-episode 1974-75 series.

    - Steve
     
  4. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    Yes, I know there are all 20 episodes in this set.
    17 hrs and 6 mins. looks right to me. [​IMG]
     
  5. AndySvn

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    I agree the image is soft and murky. I think the cheese factor hit its' apex with the "Primal Scream" episode (monkey men from Antarctica). Crow, Tom Servo and Mike would have a field day with that one.

    On the other hand, Darren McGavin is so entertaining and the dialogue is so excellent it overcomes what flaws the DVD set has.
     
  6. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    It was perfect for a 10-year-old... and 30+ years later, I still find it entertaining on that level.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to watch some Munsters! [​IMG]

    - Steve
     
  7. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    i've watched 4 episodes complete as well as bits and pieces from several others.
    Dark? yes. The Zombie ep looked like the blacks were crushed and the whites blown out. i don't remember it ever looking like that, but maybe it did. i'll try to find my sci-fi channel copy from the mid 90s to see.
    but in anycase, the overly contrasted image didn't bother near as much as what i assume are encoding related anomolies- shimmering, aliasing, instability around edges & highlights.
    apart from the credits of every episode of Dragnet, i just haven't seen these kinds of problems with Universal material before- its very dishertening.

    on the other hand, Horror in The Heights looked as i had hoped the entire set would have looked- overall just fine and most of the time right up there with other solid 70s era Universal product.

    Spanish Moss Murders looked a bit dim/dark but very close to the Columbia House tape i have

    Energy Eater looked like it was sourced from a 16 mm print at times, but it was still a kick to finally see it in its original form again after more than 30 years.

    its a shame the series wasn't treated better, but i suppose i can always hold out hope now that it will be revisited somewhere down the line (maybe on a HD format) and refurbished.
    in the meantime, at least i have something thats still better than the 10 smeary analog VHS tapes i've been lugging around for so long. most replete with ugly network bugs and periphery promos, not to mention the cuts.

    so, still a net plus for this fan.
     
  8. Brett*H

    Brett*H Stunt Coordinator

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    A lot of people have stated that this show has a very dark picture. I can remember watching this series when it originally aired on tv but I also can remember these episodes as always being very dark,visually.Some scenes did not have a lot of detail in them and they were very hard to make out even back when the series was on tv.

    I believe that this series was originally filmed to look "dark".

    I haven't seen these episodes for many,many years and I'm getting my set tomorrow. (how fitting that it is on Halloween!)I'm really anxious to re-live this series again.It was something new and different back in the 1970's when it aired and it sounds as though it has held up well for a new generation of viewers.
     
  9. Daniel Bakken

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    The problem seems to be the little to no detail in the dark areas. Too bad they didn't use better elements.
     
  10. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

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    Dammit!!! My disc 1 froze up while watching 'Thay have been, They are, They will be...' on my Sony 7700. It happened not long after the scene where the mysterious men walk out of Vincenzo's office after taking Kolchak's photos and tape. Back to Future Shop I go today for a replacement.

    Universal's got to get their act together regarding their DVD-18's. It's getting to the point where I have second thoughts about buying their DVD sets.[​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  11. Scott Engleman

    Scott Engleman Auditioning

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    Mine froze up on the exact same episode, although it was earlier in the ep, where Kolchak was wrangling the World Series ticket out of Updike. It jumped to only 4 or 5 seconds later, so I gave it a pass. There was a faint scratch on the DVD that might have been responsible, although it's more likely the DVD-18. I'm 7 episodes in, and that was the only one that had a glitch so far.
     
  12. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

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    And here we go again. Thanks, Universal... I've been burned by your crap dvd-18's before... I'll pass on this.
     
  13. Bill GrandPre

    Bill GrandPre Cinematographer

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    This is the first I've heard of problems on this set. I got through all 5 sides without a problem and when the set was first released, it seemed like everyone else was having good luck, too.
     
  14. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I had zero problems as well. It defintiely sucks for the two people above but this set seems to have had much less problems than the usual Universal DVD-18.
     
  15. Gary W. Graley

    Gary W. Graley Second Unit

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    I agree with Brett, after all, it was called Night Stalker [​IMG]

    I've yet to pick this up, may order from Amazon as I always liked the show.
    G2
     
  16. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    the dark doesn't bother me so much, but there's no getting around the fact that these transfers are crap. all low grade which then provide the indifferent encoding with plenty of opportunities for shimmering, aliasing, edge instability, moire...
    The episode Legacy Of Terror is the pits with the thin stripes in Kolchaks suit moireing in every medium shot and close up.

    the farther along i get, the more the novelty of finally having the set wears off and the reality of what a lousy product this really is sinks in.

    in 1997, the a/ quality of this set probably would have been fine. in 2005 it's like a piss in the face.
     
  17. Gary W. Graley

    Gary W. Graley Second Unit

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    That would suck for sure Paul, my system may not show that
    as I've not moved up to a larger video display yet, and
    probably won't for a few more years [​IMG] so I would be watching
    it on a Sony 27" so hopefully the problems won't be as
    painful as on a larger display?

    G2
     
  18. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    27" and you should be ok Gary. Steve probably hit on it in his review that we should just watch these on a (smaller) tv. the problems here are quickly noticeable on an fp at 60" (unlike the majority of Universal sets i've seen, which can look better than some recent movies on my system).

    about the only sin i'm not seeing is EE. Its noticeable on the CH tape i have, but didn't seen any on the DVD. one plus in its favor i guess. i wonder if the indifferent quality of this set is indicitive of the value system of the new regime controlling the Universal product?
     
  19. Gary W. Graley

    Gary W. Graley Second Unit

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    Well, expecting the pack to arrive on Monday from DeepDiscoundDVD, [​IMG]
    G2
     

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