PICTURE OF THE DAY: THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)

The superhuman vampire Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater) attacks reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) in THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)

The superhuman vampire Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater) attacks reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) in THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)

PICTURE OF THE DAY:  THE NIGHT STALKER (1972)

Here’s a still from one of the all-time best vampire movies, THE NIGHT STALKER (1972), starring Darren McGavin as reporter Carl Kolchak, and Barry Atwater as Janos Skorzeny, the superhuman vampire terrorizing the streets of 1970s Las Vegas.  Both actors are pictured here, in a scene from the film’s exciting conclusion.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating:  it’s easy to forget based on the quality of this movie that it was originally a made-for-TV movie.  It was actually released to theaters after it had premiered on television.  That’s how popular it was!

It has an ultra-tight script by Richard Matheson, spot on direction by John Llewellyn Moxey, and a topnotch cast led by Darren McGavin in the role which would become his signature role.  McGavin would reprise the role in the sequel, THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1973) and again in the weekly television series THE NIGHT STALKER (1974).  Also in the cast is Simon Oakland as Kolchak’s tormented editor Vincenzo, and Carol Lynley as Kolchak’s girlfriend Gail Foster.

THE NIGHT STALKER is quite the scary little film (it clocks in at a swift 74 minutes) and it remains frightening throughout, saving some of its most chilling sequences for its ending, part of which is pictured here.

Kolchak has received a lead on where the vampire lives, and while searching the house he discovers one of the missing women tied to a bed with an intravenous needle pumped into her arm, as Skorzeny (dig that name!  One of the all-time best movie vampire names:  Janos Skorzeny!) is keeping her prisoner to serve as his own private blood bank.

Kolchak attempts to release the woman, but Skorzeny returns, trapping Kolchak inside.  In today’s Picture of the Day, we see Kolchak defending himself from Skorzeny with a crucifix.

Barry Atwater only played a vampire once, in this movie, but he’s so damned scary. It’s a shame he never returned for a NIGHT STALKER sequel.

Darren McGavin did return of course, taking on a supernatural strangler in THE NIGHT STRANGLER, and all sorts of ghouls and monsters in the short-lived TV series THE NIGHT STALKER.

But the best of the lot is this first film, THE NIGHT STALKER.

The other fun thing about THE NIGHT STALKER is that there aren’t too many movie vampires like Janos Skorzeny.  He’s rather unique when you think about it, as he possesses supernatural physical strength not often seen in a movie vampire.  He fights off a dozen police officers at one point, outruns a police car in another, and pushes away a police motorcycle like it’s made of paper.

But of course the best part of THE NIGHT STALKER, really, is Darren McGavin’s performance as Carl Kolchak. There’s a reason he’s remembered most for this role.

THE NIGHT STALKER is one of the scariest vampire movies ever made, and it’s still as powerful today as it was back in 1972.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

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