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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > TV > Night Stalker (2005) - The Complete Series

Night Stalker (2005) - The Complete Series


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Episodes: C-



Reimagining.  That has been the latest attempt to recycle and gut out great ideas and classics, cult and otherwise to squeeze a buck out of them.  As we have noted before, one of the most imitated and ripped-off TV properties of all is Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which was inspired by the great hit TV movies Night Stalker and Night Strangler.  Producer Dan Curtis did the films, but not the series, yet they are tied together forever.  After several attempted revivals with star Darren McGavin, Morgan Creek almost did a theatrical feature film with Nick Nolte as Kolchak, but that fell through.  Years later, after The X-Files became the one imitator that was a hit, ABC decided to revive Night Stalker as a series with some of that show’s minds and the result made every single mistake one could have made.


Forget the bad humor and bad pop culture references; forget that the show wasted the talents of its cast.  From the rushed pilot, to its deservedly early cancellation, to its universal panning, the new show actually started to pick up a bit towards the end as the chemistry between Stuart Townshend as Kolchak and Gabrielle Union as new character Perry Reed kicked in, but it was too late with far too many mistakes already made.  Had the show began with that, it might have had a chance.


The episodes that did get made are as follows, with a * marking the shows with an audio commentary track:



1)     Pilot*

2)     The Five People You Meet In Hell

3)     Three

4)     Burning Man

5)     Malum

6)     The Source

7)     The Sea* (concludes previous episode)

8)     Into Night

9)     Timeless (a lame remake of The Night Strangler)

10)  What’s The Frequency, Kolchak?



The casting is mostly of unknowns, character actor Cotter Smith is wasted as a barely, rarely seen Tony Vincenzo with no humor, wit or point.  The only thing that made half sense was having the great character actor Stephen Tobolowsky cast as newspaper researcher Titus Berry; a role played by the great Wally Cox, best known for the sitcom Mr. Peepers and as the original voice of Underdog.  Tobolowsky is the kind of distinct character actor the original telefilms and TV show episodes were loaded with.  Along with humor, wit, heart and soul that is what viewers were looking for.  Instead, we got a very, very bad rehash of X-Files, Millennium, it imitators and spin-offs that were past their prime and long over.  Even with a rushed pilot, that does not excuse the bad shifts from the original show to the new one.


This included a tired conspiracy plot that was nowhere as good or interesting as the one X-Files set up and idiotically abandoned, some good/evil dichotomy garbage with Kolchak as a possible bad person he obviously would not become later, the supplanting of Kolchak’s individuality with a team (versus his constant mantra of “I Work Alone” from the original series), the humorlessness, the dark gold-yellow paintjob on the new Ford Mustang versus the lemon-yellow from the original series that was not a brand new model and the abandonment of the overall supernatural world for one that has less-convincing supernatural elements underlining the tired, semi-snuff world of torture and mutilation that was a hallmark of X-Files and Millennium that are now cliché, silly, stale and even offensive at this point.  The original versions were original and groundbreaking.  All this show can do is very badly repeat the worst possible history, which is the trouble with “reimagining” great ideas as if they were your own.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image was shot in digital High Definition and looks especially poor in the pilot before they got to use the Panavision Genesis HD camera, which employs film lenses superior to those for video.  Even in the later shows, the quality is not great and to be frank, the 1972 and 1973 TV movies and 1974-75 original TV series looked better and the DVDs of both have better picture performance.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is sometimes more compressed than it should sound, but is able to be just better than the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono from the 1972 and 1973 TV movies and 1974-75 original TV series, though they often had more character in their mixes and better music scores.  Philip Glass did the new theme, but for such a key composer, it is uncharacteristically dull.


Extras include commentary tracks on the pilot and The Sea, three deleted scenes more in line with what the series needed to succeed, a DVD-ROM section to print scripts that were never shot like Ascendant and The M Word and Spotnitz on camera discussing the film.  It should be noted that the original series had three completed scripts that went unfilmed and two only recently become comic books!  Both had further undeveloped ideas before ABC dropped the ax.  Spotnitz explains that they only had the rights to telefilms, which Disney owns through their acquisition of ABC, while the series is with NBC/Universal.  Still, that is no excuse to have this “reimagined” disaster turn out the way it did.  The result was a show that was the biggest bomb of the 2005 –2006 season and there are those very few, thin number of people who liked the show joining executives in hoping the series will be a latter-day hit on DVD and even cable TV broadcasts, but I very highly doubt it.  The ball was dropped very early and the show and audience never recovered.


Ironically, Darren McGavin and Dan Curtis passed away during this show’s rise and fall.  They never totally got the respect and recognition they deserved despite some landmark successes.  The show does not desecrate their legacy, especially since that was not the intent and no one is going to remember it as long as the originals.  Stick with them.  You can find the reviews of both on this site at the following links:


The Night Stalker/Night Strangler Double Feature




Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75): The Complete Series




-   Nicholas Sheffo


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