When last we left our anti-hero Mr. Kolchak, he was fleeing Las Vegas in disgrace. Coincidentally, at the beginning of The Night Strangler, he finds himself in the same Seattle bar as his former boss, Tony Vincenzo, and Vincenzo for some reason gives him a job. Right away, Kolchak is on the trail of another weirdo; this time it’s another immortal, but not a vampire. This new guy kills a series of women every 21 years in order to make an elixir that keeps him permanently in his forties. Only a man would want to be permanently as old as forty, but I guess he fares better than his victims, who don’t get a chance to get old.
While not as creepy as The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler makes a worthy bridge between Stalker and the TV series. Kolchak is even more of an ass here, but doesn’t end up as humiliated, the writers having decided instead to run him and two of his accomplices/friends comedically out of town after burying the story that Kolchak solves. The police chief and the big boss at the paper just aren’t as mad at him as the powers that be in Vegas were. Of course, it helps that the big boss is played by John Carradine; if I was John Carradine I wouldn’t consider a reporter in a seersucker suit that much of a threat either.
Besides Carradine, there’s a nice cameo by Grandpa Munster as a drunk in the underground part of Seattle, and another by the Wicked Witch of the West as the intimidating college professor who knows what kind of creature the killer is. Also, the killer’s lair reveals a true horror shocker, even though the killer himself isn’t that scary. The Night Strangler is a fun watch, and I wish they had made a third movie as I believe was planned. My only complaint is the way that the butch lesbian lover of one of the victims is played for laughs as a big, scowling, unattractive, and possessive person. Not cool. Not cool at all, 70s TV.
I have to remind you now of a horror movie rule I’m not sure I covered already. If you are the villain, and you are about to kill the only person who knows the secret or can destroy you, go ahead and kill them. Don’t waste time explaining yourself, even if the screenwriter insists on placing the burden of wrapping up the story on you. I know that as an awesome villain it’s difficult to keep your ego in check, but try. It could mean the difference between getting away with it and giving the meddling reporter enough time to finish you.