As I noted last week, the ratings for The Night Stalker were so high (the highest at that time for any made-for-TV movie) that a sequel was pretty well inevitable. The Night Strangler was an original story this time out, written again by Richard Matheson who had adapted the first film from the then-unpublished book The Kolchak Papers by Jeff Rice. (The book was, finally, published in 1974 under the title The Night Stalker, just in time to take advantage of the upcoming television series.) Another behind-the-scenes change was that this time out Dan Curtis not only produced the movie but also directed it.
Since our protagonist, reporter Carl Kolchak, (again wonderfully played by Darren McGavin) had been kicked out of the city of Las Vegas and told never to return at the end of the first film, the action for this movie shifts to the city of Seattle, Washington where he is hired by his former boss Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland also returns, which is a terrific move, since he and McGavin have such a wonderful chemistry between them) to investigate what again appears to be a string of serial murders.
This time out, however, the murderer is not a vampire, but… something else. In the course of investigating the murders, Kolchak discovers (with the aid of newcomer Wally Cox) that there have been similar murders – the victims are all exotic dancers who are are strangled and then drained of a few ounces of blood – have been occurring every 21 years over a period of 18 days since 1889.
Of course Kolchak is again stonewalled by the authorities, but he does, inevitably, find out the truth behind the mysterious killings.
Just as with its predecessor, The Night Strangler debuted to incredibly high ratings, prompting ABC, the network behind the two movies, to decide rather than go ahead with a proposed third telefilm instead to go directly to a series, which we’ll take a look at next time.
For now, though, why not just follow Kolchak into the depths of Seattle and uncover the mystery of The Night Strangler?