Retro-Review: Kolchak’s “Werewolf” on NetFlix

If you’re looking for old shows, for the sake of nostalgia, then you’ll love my latest treasure on NetFlix’s WatchInstantly tab. Seriously. Okay, maybe a lot of you would prefer to keep the 70s as a distant memory; bell-bottoms, unthinkable music gaining unprecedented popularity, and shameful hair styles. But! There was a lot of really good TV in the 70s, and a lot of great horror movies surfaced in the 70s. Grindhouse horror, though this is a debatable subject with many, had its heyday in the 70s too. Anyway, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, sounds like its a detective show about Richard Ramirez, but it’s NOT. Actually, it’s more like the prehistoric X-Files.

It’s about Carl Kolchak, an investigative reporter, played by the dashing Darren McGavin, who gets exclusive stories on crazy paranormal shit. The Kolchak series was preceded by two made for TV movies The Night Stalker (which broke records for tv-film views), and The Night Strangler. Guess who wrote them? Richard Matheson! Can you imagine? Talk about luck in the search for the obscure. The show, the films, were all based on The Kolchak Papers, a novel by Jeff Rice, –who is almost completely unknown now. The series and films were pretty much a goldmine of talent, and the father of it is almost faceless in media history.

The fifth episode in the season is titled “The Werewolf”, and the monster in question terrorizes guest and crew of a singles cruise. The show starts out with that familiar old school TV atmosphere, accents are sharp and crisp, dialog is more realistic, and the environment is familiar. The plot moves forward, and Kolchak finds himself working on a puff piece about the cruise and its guests. But not long after, a werewolf begins running amok, attacking the crew, and its guests. He works on getting to the bottom of the mystery, but the crew is trying to keep a lid of his efforts. He does all this investigating, and meanwhile, is trying to alternately deal with the advances of a socialite named Paula. She enthusiastically tries to woo him by jabbering at him constantly, but Kolchak manages to enlist her help in getting the crew distracted long enough to sneak around and do the detective thing.

Now, I’m the honest type, so I have to tell you guys: the monster is ridiculous. It’s a guy in a suit, running around, tossing people around. His face is hairy, and he’s got a bowl cut. But! The fact that the werewolf is unconvincing doesn’t really reduce the awesomeness of the show. For one thing, the overwhelming urge to cheer Kolchak’s efforts is part of the show’s bewitching qualities, along with the Twilight-Zone music, and old-timey charm, plus, Darren McGavin’s superior acting, and honestly, I’d say the stupidity factor solely rests on the head of the monster makeup. Other than that, everything is brilliant. I suggest quickly finding the series on Netflix, and watching it. The best thing about the entire series is: it’s funny, not because it’s stupid, but because the humor almost always hits the mark. Watching it in the daytime will induce laughs, and a sentimental appreciation for 70s TV; watching it at night, will bring all that and more: the serious creeps.


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