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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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Night of the Eagle (aka Burn, Witch, Burn; 1962) – Episode 29 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“So, each day science, founded on years of research and truth, merges with feats, which put our old fashioned magicians to shame. Aladdin rubbed the lamp and the genie appeared. Today we can press a button, and the whole of mankind is obliterated.”  Professor Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde) utters this pronouncement to his students while standing in front of a classroom blackboard filled with references to the supernatural, superstition, ghosts, and witchcraft, on which he has written and underlined, “I DO NOT BELIEVE!” Eventually, Professor Taylor is convinced otherwise in Night of the Eagle (1962), released in the U.S. as Burn, Witch, Burn. Erin Miskell is still on sabbatical, flooding the world with “pineapple on pizza” memes, but you can join the rest of your regular Grue Crew – Joseph Perry, Chad Hunt, and Jeff Mohr – along with guest host Eli Mohr, as they attempt to navigate the academic politics of a university ruled by witches’ spells and talismans.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 28 – Night of the Eagle (1962)

Based on Fritz Leiber Jr.’s classic horror novel Conjure Wife (1943), Night of the Eagle is directed by Sidney Hayers and adapted for the screen by none other than Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson. The story centers around Norman Taylor and his wife Tansy (Janet Blair) who casts spells and uses talismans to advance Norman’s career and ward off evil counterspells coming from other witches, though it is not clear which witches are which. The rest of the players in this academic world of Night of the Eagle are Flora (Margaret Johnston) and Lindsay (Colin Gordon) Carr, Evelyn (Kathleen Byron) and Harvey (Anthony Nicholls) Sawtelle, Hilda (Jessica Dunning) and Harold (Reginald Beckwith) Gunnison, and students Margaret Abbott (Judith Stott) and Fred Jennings (Bill Mitchell).

Jeff goes all fanboy over Leiber, Beaumont, and Mathison; Chad proclaims his love for the scene played out in the mausoleum; Joseph points out the errant tape reel; and Eli admits you should not be sleepy when you watch Night of the Eagle or you might miss the wealth of clues, details, and foreshadowing present in the first two acts of the film. The Grue Crew en masse highlight Matheson’s and Beaumont’s seemingly slow to develop, but very tight script and highly recommend Night of the Eagle.

We plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule is Dead of Night (1945), selected by Jeff Mohr.

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 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!

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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.

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The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Episode 10 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“You’re freaks! I’m a man! The last man…” Thus screams Dr. Robert Morgan at the vampires of the post-pandemic world depicted in The Last Man on Earth (1964). Join the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era’s Grue Crew – Chad Hunt, Erin Miskell, Jeff Mohr, and Joseph Perry – for our somewhat historic 10th episode as we suit up alongside Morgan to do battle against the vampiric horde. Unfortunately, Erin Miskell, the glue that holds The Classic Era’s Grue Crew together, is on special assignment investigating Dr. Caligari’s cabinet … from the inside, and was not able to join us in this battle.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

Episode 10 – The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Based on Richard Matheson’s classic, dark, science fiction novel, I Am Legend (1954), The Last Man on Earth is a joint Italian-U.S. production, filmed in Italy and distributed by American International Pictures. Directed by Sidney Salkow on a shoestring budget, The Last Man on Earth follows Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) as he goes about his daily life as the titular character. By day, his time is spent scrounging for supplies and searching out, killing, and burning the infected vampires. By night, he fends off the still shambling remnants of the population or listens to jazz records backed with the weak cries from his infected, former colleague to “Come out Morgan … come out Morgan.”

Listen as we discuss the answers to these questions: Did the filmmakers construct a believable post-pandemic world? Since the story takes place in Los Angeles, how did they manage to create a piece of California in Italy? How does Price’s performance as Morgan in this low budget, Italian collaboration compare to his other roles? Exactly who the the heck is co-writer Logan Swanson? What did Richard Matheson think of The Last Man on Earth? How closely does this adaptation follow the plot of Matheson’s novel? How does The Last Man on Earth rank compared withThe Omega Man (1971) and I Am Legend (2007), the other adaptations of Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend? What happened to the script Matheson wrote for Hammer Films in the late 1950s? Why does The Last Man on Earth (1964) remind us so much of George Romero’s Night of the LIving Dead (1968)?

If you’re paying attention, you’ll also hear which of us makes these memorable comments:

  • “I never turn down a stake.”
  • “It’s not the garlic keeping them away; it’s the dirty underwear.”
  • “We’re coming to get you Morgan.”
  • “Everybody knows Vincent Price has Tyrannosaurus Rex hands.”

We plan to release a new episode every other week. Our upcoming schedule includes Village of the Damned (1960), Viy (1967), and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).

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 movies 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, the Horror News Radio App, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

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