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The Night Stalker (1972) – Episode 84 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“So think about it and try to tell yourself wherever you may be, in the quiet of your home, in the safety of your bed, try to tell yourself, It couldn’t happen here.” As all horror fans know, of course, it could happen here. It always happens here! Join your faithful Grue Crew – Doc Rotten, Chad Hunt, Bill Mulligan, and Jeff Mohr – as they journey back to 1970s Las Vegas with Carl Kolchak in search of The Night Stalker (1972).

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 84 – The Night Stalker (1972)

Before it premiered in 1972, no one predicted the impact The Night Stalker would have on the horror genre as seen on network television. Produced by Dan Curtis, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, written by Richard Matheson from a novel by Jeff Rice, the film unexpectedly set a ratings record for TV-movies. Its success led to a follow-up telefilm, The Night Strangler (1973), and a legendary TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975). To top it off, The Night Stalker was the first film in the successful pairing of Curtis and Matheson that would last for half-a-dozen films through Dead of Night (1977).

The story of The Night Stalker is told through a series of audio tape recordings, documenting an unprinted story written by Carl Kolchak, a rebellious, idealistic reporter. Kolchak believes a series of killings have been committed by a vampire but, not surprisingly, he can’t seem to convince anyone else. When the powers-that-be are finally forced to face the truth, a temporarily triumphant Kolchak discovers he’s been playing a rigged game all along.

Darren McGavin is Carl Kolchak as he creates an iconic character from Matheson’s brilliant screenplay. McGavin is supported by a cast of venerable character actors that include Simon Oakland as Vincenzo, Kolchak’s editor; Ralph Meeker as Bernie Jenks, one of Kolchak’s few allies; Claude Akins as Sheriff Butcher; Kent Smith as D.A. Paine; Charles McGraw as Chief Masterson; Elisha Cook Jr. as Mickey Crawford, Kolchak’s key source; and Larry Linville as Coroner Makurji. The superlative cast of The Night Stalker is rounded out by Carol Lynley and Barry Atwater, as Kolchak’s girlfriend Gail and the vampire Janos Skorzeny, respectively.

The 1970s Grue Crew all saw the television premiere of The Night Stalker and are adamant regarding how well it holds up. Chad reflects on the after-effects experienced by his young self when he first saw the film, and emphatically declares his love for all things Kolchak. As a vampire aficionado, Bill is impressed by the feral nature of Atwater’s portrayal of Skorzeny, and voices his appreciation for the unique elements this film brings to the vampire canon. Jeff talks about how well Bob Cobert’s score enhances the film and gives some shoutouts to the classic era of horror by means of a short quiz about two of the film’s many character actors. Kolchak’s signature attire (porkpie hat and shabby suit) gets Doc fired up and the final confrontation between Kolchak and Skorzeny fans his flame even higher.  As the Grue Crew’s fearless leader, Doc does his usual masterful job keeping everyone on track and what would a Gruesome Magazine podcast be without a demonstration of his skill at the innovative pronunciation of names? How many ways can you say “Janos Skorzeny?” (We love you, Doc!)

We want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans:  leave us a message or leave a comment on the site or email the Decades of Horror 1970s podcast hosts at docrotten@decadesofhorror.com.

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Burnt Offerings (1976) – Episode 76 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“Oh yes, and this house will be here long, long after you have departed. You’ll believe me.” These ominous words turn out to be all too true for the summer renters of the Allardyce house. Join your faithful Grue Crew – Doc Rotten, Bill Mulligan, Chad Hunt, and Jeff Mohr – as they take a trip for a short summer stay with the Rolf family at the Allardyce house and encounter the horrors of Burnt Offerings (1976).

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 76 – Burnt Offerings (1976)

Directed and co-written by Dan Curtis of Dark Shadows, Nightstalker, and Trilogy of Terror fame, Burnt Offerings is co-written by frequent Curtis-collaborator William F. Nolan, adapted from Robert Marasco’s novel of the same title. The film begins with the Rolf family – Marian (Karen Black). Ben (Oliver Reed), their son David (Lee Montgomery), and Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis) – arriving at their too-good-to-be-true summer rental. The family is greeted by the property’s brother and sister owners – Roz (Eileen Heckart) and Arnold (Burgess Meredith) Allardyce – and Walker (Dub Taylor), their handyman. The Allardyces explain to the Rolfs that their only duties during their summer stay are to keep up the house and property, and to feed Mother Allardyce, who will remain locked away and unseen in an upstairs bedroom. As soon as Roz, Arnold, and Walker leave for the summer, the house begins to have a very disturbing effect on each of the Rolfs.

Given that Curtis made his reputation in television, your Grue Crew marvel at the quality of the cast of this theatrical release.  Doc, Chad, and Jeff unabashedly love Burnt Offerings! On the other hand, Bill opines that haunted house films are not his thing, but even so, admits that Burnt Offerings is a pretty good example within its sub-genre. Doc expresses his appreciation for Karen Black’s performance and we discover that Chad has been a fan of Oliver Reed’s acting ever since Hammer’s The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), despite Reed’s legendary antics. The entire Grue Crew were freaked-out by the Hearse Driver/Chauffeur (Anthony James) that appears from Ben’s (and Dan Curtis’) childhood nightmares. As the show winds down, Jeff burns the remaining time to go all fanboy on William F. Nolan to the point that no one else can give their final thoughts.

Doc also reveals a guest appearance he made on Episode 107 of The Horror Returns Podcast on which they covered three films from 1978: The Manitou, Piranha, and Martin. They also give a special shout out to the late Santos Ellin Jr. and all he has done to promote the genre we love so much. You can find The Horror Returns on iTunes or at this link: The Horror Returns

We want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans:  leave us a message or leave a comment on the site or email the Decades of Horror 1970s podcast hosts at docrotten@decadesofhorror.com.

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Dracula (1974) – Episode 61 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“You are now in my domain gentlemen, and you shall not leave.” Doc Rotten is still on hiatus, diligently working on the next issue of the Gruesome Magazine quarterly print and electronic editions, but Chad Hunt, Bill Mulligan, and Jeff Mohr are back, along with guest-host Joey Fittos, to take that familiar journey from Transylvania to England, this time as told by producer/director Dan Curtis in 1974’s Dracula.

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 61 – Dracula (1974)

Originally released as Bram Stoker’s Dracula until the rights to that name were acquired for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version, the film is now sometimes referred to as Dan Curtis’ Dracula. This TV movie was scheduled to premiere in October 1973 but was preempted by news coverage of an unfolding historical event and rescheduled for February 1974.

This episode’s Grue Crew discuss Emmy winner Curtis’ start as the creator and executive producer of the daytime, horror/soap opera Dark Shadows (1966-71). He then went on to direct and produce a number of horror-related movies in the 1970s: The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973), several TV-movie adaptations of well-known horror novels, and the theatrically released Burnt Offerings (1976).

Though your hosts find the script lacking in places, they do give props to frequent Curtis collaborator and horror icon Richard Matheson, who penned the screenplay for this version of Dracula. Despite this script’s faults, Curtis and Matheson do use a plot device lifted from Dark Shadows that doesn’t appear in Bram Stoker’s novel or any previous film versions but is used again by Coppola in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Academy award winner Jack Palance tackles the title role. Curtis and he had worked together before on another TV movie, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968). Chad, Bill, and especially Jeff, appreciate the feral quality of Palance’s performance, but Joey says, “He’s not my Dracula.” The rest of the cast – Nigel Davenport (Van Helsing), Murray Brown (Jonathan Harker), Fiona Lewis (Lucy), Penelope Horner (Mina), and Simon Ward (Arthur) – don’t have much to work with, possibly leading to their seemingly lackluster performances. The crew also point out that many of our listeners may recognize Sarah Douglas, one of Dracula’s brides, who later played Ursa in Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980).

When all’s said and done, Mr. Fittos gives Dracula (1974) thumbs down. Though Chad and Jeff admit it doesn’t hold up to impressions from their first viewings, the other hosts think it is worth the watch for Palance’s performance.

We want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans:  leave us a message or leave a comment on the site or email the Decades of Horror 1970s podcast hosts at docrotten@decadesofhorror.com.