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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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Salem’s Lot (1979) – Episode 69 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“Open the window, Mark. Please! Let me in! It’s OK, Mark, I’m your friend. He commands it!” If a floating Glick boy ever says this to you, no matter what, don’t open the window!  Doc Rotten is off on assignment for this episode, but regular hosts Jeff Mohr, Bill Mulligan, and Chad Hunt are joined by Joey Fittos, the Thug with a Mug, as they travel to the not-so-quaint and disturbing New England village of Salem’s Lot to discuss the equally disturbing 1979 miniseries, Salem’s Lot.

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 69 – Salem’s Lot (1979)

The literary juggernaut known as Stephen King had already made the book-to-movie transition with Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) when Warner Brothers Television decided to adapt ‘Salem’s Lot, King’s second novel, to the TV miniseries format. Horror icon Tobe Hooper was enlisted to direct as was Paul Monash to provide the screenplay adaptation of King’s novel for an all star cast that includes James Mason, David Soul, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Reggie Nalder, Geoffrey Lewis, George Dzundza, Julie Cobb, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Fred Willard, Ed Flanders, Kenneth McMillan, and more. The result was Salem’s Lot, a now legendary, 2-part miniseries first broadcast November 1979 on CBS.

Each of this episode’s Grue Crew viewed Salem’s Lot during its premiere broadcast. Joey proclaims Salem’s Lot as one of his all time favorite horror films. Bill also loved it, but was a little put out by specific scenes present in King’s novel that are not included in the miniseries. David Soul (Starsky and Hutch, 1975-79) as the star gave Jeff some misgivings prior to seeing the film and he was annoyed at first by the changes made in the transformation of his beloved ‘Salem’s Lot (the book) into Salem’s Lot (the movie). It didn’t take long, however, for him to be won over by what was, in truth, an excellent horror film. Chad, along with Joey and Bill, in hindsight, saw definite similarities between Salem’s Lot and Fright Night (1985).

The film’s over 3-hour runtime is surprisingly even-paced and despite the length, the viewer is never caught wondering how much time is left. Scenes that have been frozen in your grue Crew’s nightmares are discussed, including, but not limited to, the floating Glick boys and Geoffrey Lewis in a rocking chair. The story is so well told, there are several unscary scenes that are memorable for their dialogue or visual impact alone. Salem’s Lot gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the whole Crew.

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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House on Haunted Hill (1959) – Episode 17 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“Whatever got her wasn’t human.” That is not what you want to hear while locked overnight in a haunted house. Join the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era crew – Erin Miskell, Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr – as we brave an overnight in the House on Haunted Hill (1959). William Castle, Robb White, and Vincent Price? What’s not to like.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 17 – House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Directed by legendary gimmick-meister William Castle, House on Haunted Hill is a standard story about folks challenged to stay the night in a haunted house, but with a few twists provided by writer Robb White. Millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) carefully chooses five guests for his invitation only event — Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum), and Watson Prichard (Elisha Cook Jr.) — and offers them each $10,000 if they survive the night. Also in attendance are Frederick’s wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), caretaker Jonas Slydes (Howard Hoffman), and his wife (Leona Anderson).

House on Haunted Hill is great fun and has some legitimate scares, but don’t spend too much time thinking about the plot. If you do, you might become obsessed with its holes and miss all the fun. The music by Von Dexter is suitably chill-inducing and is as good at setting the atmosphere as it is at setting the standard for horror films of its period.

Chad Hunt recounts his experience watching this in a theater that tried to duplicate Castle’s gimmick for this picture, which he called “Emergo.” Erin Miskell’s first memories of watching House on Haunted Hill are during a sleepover as a 10-year-old. Imagine the shrieks!

House on Haunted Hill treats its guests to the usual haunted house fare, including floating apparitions, mysteriously slamming doors, a hanging body, an unattached head, secret passages, a seriously scary old woman, an animated skeleton, blood dripping from the ceiling, and a conveniently placed vat of acid in the basement.

We also send out a hearty handclasp to our steadfast listener, saltyessentials for calling Decades of Horror: The Classic Era a podcast “you can’t do without.” Check out salty’s blog, which he calls Dead Man’s Brain or, what I watched last night.

We plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule is The Univited (1944), hosted by Chad Hunt.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era and what films you’d like to hear us cover! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email  (chadhunt@gruesomemagazine.com, erinmiskell@gruesomemagazine.com, jeffmohr@gruesomemagazine.com, or josephperry@gruesomemagazine.com) or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, the Horror News Radio App, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you for listening!