Yeah, maybe I was a little hard on the movie. I love Darren McGavin. He had a weird career, it a two year span he works once with David Lean and Otto Preminger twice and then fills in for Dean Martin in Jerry Lewis' first solo picture and then goes straight to B pictures and television where he spends the rest of his career until his later character roles. It's also weird that for such a beloved television presence he never lucked into a hit show. If I had known he was in such 80s movies as Raw Deal, Dead Heat, Turk 182!. and From the Hip I would have seen them in theaters.A good, in-depth review, very well written...to my mind, an overly harsh take, but fair.
I happen to really like The Night Strangler myself, and rate it at just a notch below the original The Night Stalker. Sure, it follows many of the same beats, but IMO Matheson rings enough changes to the formula to keep things fresh. The comic moments work well (perhaps more so due to the skills of the actors rather than the script), the Seattle locale is interesting, there are lots of good character bits that are nicely fleshed out with the longer running time, and the finale - though the depiction of the Seattle Underground is laughably grandiose in comparison to the reality - is atmospheric and creepy. This has one of my all-time favorite Kolchak lines, something like: "It's NEWS, Vincenzo. NEWS! And this is a NEWSpaper!" McGavin's delivery is, as usual, flawless.
Both movies are top tier TV horror, as far as I'm concerned. The TV series is a hoot but here I'm forced to agree 100% with Timothy - the basic concept, confined mostly to one location, is flawed. A rotating, NBC Mystery Movie type of scenario would have been a perfect solution to that problem. Still a lot of fun, though, thanks mainly to McGavin. Can't wait to get a hold of this disc!
In my head, I know and acknowledge all of the things you've said about the series, but I can't help it. I love it and never tire of watching it, even the poor episodes. McGavin always makes it fun. I would love to have it on Blu-ray though the added resolution would really reveal the thrown together nature of the series.I enjoy both The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler but the latter is definitely inferior to the first. I agree that the padding added to the theatrical version does the film no favors.
I also think that Matheson was truly stuck with coming up with an adequate villain and someone that audiences could truly be frightened of. He had such a hard time for a proposed third TV movie (which became moot when ABC decided to make a series) that William F. Nolan was brought in to finish his work.
McGavin always struck me as a mercurial figure. His work in "A Christmas Story" remains a highlight as well as his earlier work both in film and TV.
The problems with "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" were many including conflicts between McGavin and Cy Chermak, the programming of the show (Friday nights at 9pm when most preteens and teens were hanging out with friends, going on dates, etc.), McGavin reportedly doing uncredited rewrites because some of the scripts were so bad, McGavin being cheated out of his ownership of the show and Executive Producer credit (which Universal agreed to but never put into writing).
There's a couple of good episodes in the series particularly the episode with a former victim of Janos from the first film, etc. but the cheap production values and single setting (agree with you on this) worked against the series.
Was the TV cut issued on the previous DVDs, or have we only ever had the theatrical version on home media?
I remember the pilot movie for Spider-Man also being padded for cinema release. In one of the books on my shelf, the producer was interviewed and he said they went back to the cutting room to re-insert every single unused scrap of film they could find. Since this longer version was the only one ever released on home media formats, I wonder if it would've been less of a bore in its original TV length.