Greetings, Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World. As I sit here, contemplating the whiskey sour I’ve mixed up, my mind drifts back to the events of the past few days. A few weeks ago, when I’d met author C.J. Henderson, never would I have imagined what I would find lurking at his table. I’m no stranger, you see, to vampires, werewolves, and your standard-issue Things That Go Bump In The Night™, but that day I saw something that made the short hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. A few days ago, I’d managed to make my way through some obligated reading and was able to settle in with the large, heavy tome I’d carefully slipped into my bag after passing a rumpled portrait of Andrew Jackson to Mr. Henderson.
Sorry about that, Brothers and Sisters. I was trying to give you my best approximation of Darren McGavin’s trademark introductory monologue, with which each episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker opened back in 1974-75. Lacking Mr. McGavin’s magnificently rumpled charisma (and a porkpie hat and seersucker suit of my own), perhaps it’s best I slip back into my own voice. Yeah, in summary, I gave C.J. Henderson $20 and walked away with a copy of Kolchak: The Night Stalker Compendium from Moonstone Books, collecting a whopping 43 short stories chronicling the further adventures of one Carl Kolchak, previously published in two volumes as Kolchak: The Night Stalker Chronicles and Kolchak: The Night Stalker Casebook. 43 stories! That’s like two additional seasons of the best paranormal investigator ever put on TV! My only quibble is that most of the stories have moved forward in time to the present — or at least the mid-aughts, meaning Kolchak and Tony Vincenzo have been working at INS for over forty years without apparently aging in the slightest. But hey, it’s paranormal fiction, who can say…
Unlike Star Trek, while Kolchak: The Night Stalker was popular in its time (the original TV movie THE NIGHT STALKER got the kind of market shares that only the Super Bowl gets today) it never really spun off that much in terms of franchise material — no series of sequel films, no novel tie-ins, etc. It would seem, when Kolchak went off the air in 1975, that Carl Kolchak had turned in his last assignment.
Kolchak’s work lived on however, and as we’re ever so fond of saying around here, “that is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”
When Chris Carter was developing what would become The X-Files, his main source of inspiration was his most immediate predecessor in terms of high-quality paranormal investigation — Kolchak: The Night Stalker. While Carter originally wanted McGavin to reprise his role in a few episodes, McGavin declined to do so, and instead played a fresh character, a retired FBI agent named Arthur Dales, credited as being the “father of the X-Files.” Personally, I like to think “Arthur Dales” was Carl Kolchak living under an assumed identity to escape persecution from the undead.
In 2001, Moonstone Books acquired the Kolchak license and began to produce comic books, graphic novels (including adaptations of two scripted but unfilmed episodes) and fiction collections featuring Carl Kolchak. I haven’t gotten the opportunity to check out their ongoing Kolchak comic series yet, but maybe with next paycheck…
In 2005, Carl Kolchak would be resurrected for television, played by Stuart Townsend, whom I only really know as playing Dorian Gray in 2003’s lousy LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN movie. This show lasted an even shorter span of time than the original, with just six episodes aired and ten filmed overall. I haven’t seen it and am honestly in no hurry to.
Now there’s word that a new cinematic NIGHT STALKER is possibly forthcoming, with Johnny Depp taking on the mantle of porkpie hat and rumpled suit, with Edgar Wright at the helm. Well, it can’t be any worse than Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins…right?