Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-5), episodes #5-#8

Episode 5: The Werewolf

Aired November 1 1974

US / 52 minutes / color / Francy, Universal, ABC Dir: Allen Baron Pr: Cy Chermak Scr: David Chase, Paul Playdon Cine: Ronald W. Browne Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Dick Gautier, Henry Jones, Nita Talbot, Eric Braeden, Jack Grinnage, Ruth McDevitt, Jackie Russell, Lewis Charles, Bob Hastings, Barry Cahill, Dort Clark, Heath Jobes, Jim Hawkins.

Carl Kolchak (McGavin) is sent in place of Tony Vincenzo (Oakland) to report on a “Swinging Singles Cruise”—the valedictory voyage of the good ship Hanover. Cabin-mate Mel Tarter (Gautier) and Mel’s ex-wife now-girlfriend Wendy (Russell) set Kolchak up with unattached, self-styled old-movie nut Paula Griffin (Talbot, with whom I’ve fallen unconditionally in love). En voyage, a werewolf—known during his human intervals as ex-NATO officer Bernhardt Stieglitz (Braeden)—starts slaughtering people willy-nilly.

Eric Braeden as Bernhardt Stieglitz.

This is because the evolutionary mechanism developed by solitary werewolves is to commit multiple murder in the most ostentatious manner possible, thereby ensuring they themselves get eliminated from the gene pool before they have the opportunity to reproduce. Charles Darwin must be spinning in his . . . hm.

Jackie Russell as Wendy and Dick Gautier as Mel.

Nita Talbot as Paula Griffin.

In place of the usual police chief trying to suppress both Kolchak and the story, we have Captain Julian Wells (Jones).

This is at least better than the previous episode.

Henry Jones as Captain Julian Wells.

Episode 6: Firefall

Aired November 8 1974

US / 52 minutes / color / Francy, Universal, ABC Dir: Don Weis Pr: Cy Chermak Scr: Bill S. Ballinger Cine: Ronald W. Browne Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Fred Beir, Philip Carey, David Doyle, Madlyn Rhue, Jack Grinnage, Virginia Vincent, Alice Backes, Lenore Kasdorf, Joshua Shelley, Carol Ann Susi, Carol Veazie, Patricia Estrin, Tom Berenger, Dick Cherney.

Professional arsonist Frankie Markoff (uncredited) is gunned down by gangland associates beside his favorite pinball machine in an amusement arcade. En route to the cemetery his cortege is passed by the car of Ryder Bond (Beir), famed conductor of the Great Lakes Symphony Orchestra.

Fred Beir as Ryder Bond . . .

. . . and in spectral form.

As investigative journalist Carl Kolchak (McGavin) soon discovers, Markoff’s spirit has become a doppelgänger of the musician, killing those close to him—his first violinist, George Mason (Cherney), his mistress, Felicia Porter (Estrin), etc.—through apparent spontaneous combustion. The spook’s aim is to scare the maestro out of his body so Markoff can take over Bond’s life.

Philip Carey as Sergeant Mayer.

Philip Carey plays this episode’s dyspeptic cop, the Chicago PD’s Sergeant Mayer. Madlyn Rhue, who just a few years later would be diagnosed with the multiple sclerosis that eventually killed her, plays gypsy fortune teller Maria Hargrove. In this early appearance, as an unnamed witness to Felicia Porter’s incineration, Tom Berenger goes uncredited.

Madlyn Rhue as Gypsy Maria.

Tom Berenger and Lenore Kasdorf as the witnesses to Felicia Porter’s death.

As its authorship might lead us to expect, this is one of the more imaginative and well thought-through stories in the series.

Episode 7: The Devil’s Platform

Aired November 15 1974

US / 52 minutes / color / Francy, Universal, ABC Dir: Allen Baron Pr: Cy Chermak Scr: Donn Mullally Story: Tim Maschler Cine: Ronald W. Browne Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Tom Skerritt, Julie Gregg, Ellen Weston, Jack Grinnage, Ruth McDevitt, John Myhers, Jeanne Cooper, Bill Mims, Robert DoQui, Dick Patterson, Stanley Adams, Bill Welsh.

Tom Skerritt as Robert Palmer.

There’s a Senate race on between incumbent James Talbot (Myhers) and populist up-and-comer Robert Palmer (Skerritt). When the latter’s new campaign manager Stephan Wald (Patterson) threatens to spill the beans on him, the elevator in which they’re both traveling plummets forty stories, killing all within save a mysterious black dog—Palmer has vanished.

The dog.

The dog attacks Carl Kolchak (McGavin) as it makes its escape, leaving him clutching the amulet it wore around its neck. Only when the dog later recovers the amulet does Palmer reappear . . .

The amulet.

After the dog attacks Palmer’s ex-lover and would-be blackmailer Susan Marie Driscoll (Gregg) in Lincoln Park, it becomes obvious to Kolchak—albeit to no one else—that Palmer has signed a contract with the Devil that will in due course, unless thwarted, take him to the Oval Office. (If the same staggering conspiracy theory has just occurred to you as occurred to me . . .)

Julie Gregg as Susan Driscoll.

For once Kolchak doesn’t have to cope with an irate cop. In fact, the two main cops with whom he deals here—Officer Hale (Mims), who helps him interpret a car crash, and an officer (DoQui) who poured bullets into the mystery dog without affecting it in the slightest—are friendly and cooperative. Do people have no sense of tradition?

Robert DoQui as the Lincoln Park cop.

Episode 8: Bad Medicine

Aired November 29 1974

US / 52 minutes / color / Francy, Universal, ABC Dir: Alex Grasshoff Pr: Cy Chermak Scr: L. Ford Neale, John Huff Cine: Ronald W. Browne Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Ramon Bieri, Richard Kiel, Alice Ghostley, Victor Jory, Jack Grinnage, David Lewis, Marvin Kaplan, Ruth McDevitt, James Griffith, Dennis McCarthy.

Someone has started knocking off the wealthiest of Chicago’s elderly grandes dames and stealing their jewels; there’s also a raid on a chichi gem exchange, where two guards are killed—later discovered to have been shot by bullets from their own guns. Carl Kolchak (McGavin), arriving at the scene of the latter crime soon after, observes a coyote that seemingly turns into an enormous Native American (Kiel).

Richard Kiel as the diablero.

Digging deeper, the reporter gets advice from the likes of jewel-thief-turned-barber Albert Delgado (Kaplan), award-winning guard-dog trainer George M. Schwartz (Griffith), anthropologist Dr. Agnes Temple (Ghostley) and Native American folklorist Charles Rolling Thunder (Jory). From these experts he learns that (a) the gems aren’t being put on the market and (b) the perpetrator is probably a diablero—a Native American spirit creature who can throw its victims into trance, shapeshift between human and animal form, etc.

Alice Ghostley as Dr. Agnes Temple.

The series’ stock figure of irascible cop is back, the role this time being fulfilled by Captain Joe Baker (Bieri). In one of his confrontations with Kolchak, Baker asks: “What does an Indian sorcerer need with expensive jewels?” It’s a question that’s never really answered.

Ramon Bieri as Captain Joe Baker.

There’s one true oddity about this episode. In the mid-1970s no one would have dreamed of giving African American roles to white actors in blackface. Why, then, was it deemed acceptable to give the two main Native American roles here to Kiel and Jory, white actors who appear in redface?

Victor Jory as Charles Rolling Thunder.


2 thoughts on “Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-5), episodes #5-#8

  1. Pingback: #113 Kolchak, the Night Stalker | Wonders in the Dark

  2. Pingback: Kolchak: The Night Stalker — tying it all together | Noirish

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