Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.15 “Chopper” (dir by Bruce Kessler)

Tonight on Kolchak….

There’s a headless man riding a motorcycle, using a sword to behead members of a rival motorcycle gang!  And …. well, really what else do you need to know?  When a headless cyclists start killing people, you don’t worry about why.  There is a reason however and everyone’s favorite nervous journalist is going to find out what it is!

This episode originally aired on January 31st, 1975!


Horror on the Lens: The Night Stalker (dir by John Llewelyn Moxey)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have a real treat!  (We’ll get to the tricks later…)

Long before he achieved holiday immortality by playing the father in A Christmas Story, Darren McGavin played journalist Carl Kolchak in the 1972 made-for-TV movie, The Night Stalker.  Kolchak is investigating a series of murders in Las Vegas, all of which involve victims being drained of their blood.  Kolchak thinks that the murderer might be a vampire.  Everyone else thinks that he’s crazy.

When this movie first aired, it was the highest rated made-for-TV movie of all time.  Eventually, it led to a weekly TV series in which Kolchak investigated various paranormal happenings.  Though the TV series did not last long, it’s still regularly cited as one of the most influential shows ever made.

Anyway, The Night Stalker is an effective little vampire movie and Darren McGavin gives a great performance as Carl Kolchak.


Embracing the Melodrama Part II #43: The Stepmother (dir by Howard Avedis)

stepmotherJust looking at the poster for the 1972 film The Stepmother, I bet you think it’s a pretty scandalous and sordid film.  I mean, there’s a picture of a woman wearing a black bra and there’s a tagline that reads, “She forced her husband’s son to commit the ultimate sin!”


Well, perhaps not surprisingly considering that this is a Crown International film, The Stepmother‘s poster and tagline have very little do with the actual film.  Yes, the film does feature a stepmother and, during the final 20 or so minutes of the film, her stepson does finally show up and she does end up sleeping with him.  It’s consensual.  There’s no forcing involved.  And, as far as the ultimate sin part is concerned — well, her husband has been doing a lot worse.

The film itself is actually about the husband.  Frank Delgado (Alejandro Rey) is a wealthy architect who is also insanely jealous of his new wife, Margo (Katherine Justice).  Whenever he suspects that Margo is cheating on him, he ends up killing someone.  And, as a matter of fact, even when he doesn’t think Margo is cheating on him, he ends up killing someone.  Frank, of course, has to find a way to cover up all of his various murders.  It doesn’t help that Inspector Darnezi (John Anderson) is constantly snooping around.  And then, once he discovers that his stepson actually has slept with Margo (as opposed to all the people he killed just because he assumed they had slept with Margo), Frank is forced to decide whether or not to kill his own son.

The Stepmother is available in about a dozen Mill Creek boxsets and it’s fun in a 1972 sort of way.  Frank and all of his friends are decadent rich people so you could argue that the film is meant to be a portrait of the immorality of the 1%.  (That would actually be a pretty stupid argument but it’s one that you could make if you’re trying to impress someone who hasn’t read this review.)  Director Howard Avedis tries to liven up the plot by including a lot of artsy touches that don’t really add up to much but which are still fun to watch.  Occasionally, he’ll toss in a freeze frame for no particular reason.  As well, Frank has a habit of hallucinating.  He continually sees his first victim running across the beach in slow motion.  Make a drinking game out of it.  Every time it’s obvious that The Stepmother was trying to fool people into thinking it was a European art film, take a drink.

To be honest, the most interesting thing about The Stepmother is that it is the only Crown International film to have received an Oscar nomination!  That’s right!  The Stepmother was nominated for Best Original Song.  The name of the song was Strange Are The Ways Of Love.  You can listen to it below if you want.  Feel free to dance.

Anyway, that’s The Stepmother for you.  It’s not my favorite Crown International film but, as a historical oddity, it’s still worth watching.