Darren McGavin winningly reprises his role as reporter Carl Kolchak in The Night Strangler, the sequel to
the 1972 made-for-television vampire/crime film The Night Stalker. Although the film isn’t as scary as its
predecessor and is a little dated. It still entertains and admirably avoids being a retread.
The film opens with Kolchak and his former editor Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) accidently meeting each
other at a press club in Seattle. The chemistry between the actors, which worked in the previous film, is
improved upon here.
Although Kolchak is assigned mundane story assignments, a series of gruesome murders attract his
attention. The victims have been strangled and blood removed from their bodies with a hypodermic
needle. Kolchak, despite resistance from his publisher and police, investigates the crimes over the
protests of Vincenzo and confronts yet another killer with supernatural origins; not a vampire this time
but someone steeped in the more obscure elements of Alchemy. Script writer Richard Matheson, who
wrote I Am Legend, develops the mystery in an intriguing fashion.
Much as the first film captured the personality of Las Vegas, this film makes its Seattle setting as much a
character in the film as its hero and villain. The Richard Matheson script smartly exploits Seattle’s
“under-city” (a subterranean level of older buildings over which the current city is built), and Dan Curtis
builds a sense of dread just as effectively as in The Night Stalker.
The Night Strangler trades the sense of menace generated by both the vampire and shady city officials in
the first film for more of a sense of fun. There is little doubt that Kolchak or his new romantic interest (a
belly dancer and college student played well by Jo An Pflug) will emerged unscathed but Curtis does
build suspense despite that.
The performances from the cast, which includes Margaret Hamilton from The Wizard of Oz and veteran
character actor John Carradine, are excellent and drive the film as much as the creepy subterranean sets
and the witty dialogue. This film is highly recommended for fans of horror films from the 70s.