[[caption-width-right:350:IntrepidReporter Carl Kolchak and Mr. R.I.N.G.]]

->''"If you want a job done right, you just have to foul it up yourself."''
-->-- '''Carl Kolchak'''

A 1974–75 Creator/{{ABC}} series starring Darren [=McGavin=] as IntrepidReporter turned OccultDetective Carl Kolchak. Preceded by two {{Made for TV Movie}}s, ''The Night Stalker'' (1972) and ''The Night Strangler'' (1973).

The character of Carl Kolchak was the protagonist in an unpublished novel by Jeffrey Grant Rice, ''The Kolchak Papers'', a thriller in which Las Vegas newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak tracks down a serial killer, only to discover that the serial killer is really a vampire. ABC optioned the unpublished novel for production into a MadeForTVMovie, and the resulting adaptation (''The Night Stalker'') scripted by Creator/RichardMatheson (''The Incredible Shrinking Man'', ''I Am Legend'') became a surprise hit, earning the highest ratings of any TV movie up until its January, 1972 airing (reportedly a 33.2 rating/54 share.) It was so well-received that some of the producers later said that they wish they had taken the movie and gone with a theatrical release instead. The production also earned the 1973 Edgar Award for Best TV Feature/Miniseries Teleplay.

Impressed by this success, ABC arranged for Matheson to write the screenplay for a followup TV movie, ''The Night Strangler'', which aired about a year later, about a century-plus old serial killer who [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin strangled his victims]] and then used their blood to prolong his life through alchemy. ''The Night Strangler'' carried over the star and several of the supporting cast from the earlier TV movie, while transferring the venue from Las Vegas to UsefulNotes/{{Seattle}} (the better to use the scenic beauty of the Seattle Underground as locations). This sequel did well enough in the ratings that Pocket Books proceeded to publish ''The Kolchak Papers'' as a "Night Stalker" tie-in, changing the title of the novel to ''The Night Stalker'' and featuring a picture of star Darren [=McGavin=] on the cover. Reasoning that nothing succeeds like success, Pocket Books then commissioned Rice to write a novelization of Richard Matheson's script of the second movie, which Pocket Books published as ''The Night Strangler''.

[[caption-width-right:230:Behind every successful IntrepidReporter is DaEditor. Kolchak's is Tony Vincenzo]]

The success of ''The Night Stalker'' and ''The Night Strangler'' caused ABC to reconsider plans for a third movie installment (early plans included the possibility of marketing the three movies in syndication as "The Trilogy of Terror") and the network decided to produce a weekly "Kolchak" series instead. Darren [=McGavin=] and co-star Simon Oakland (playing DaEditor, Tony Vincenzo) signed on to reprise their roles from the two movies, while the venue changed again to UsefulNotes/{{Chicago}}, where Kolchak and Vincenzo were employees of a wire service, the Independent News Service (INS). The series also featured a set of memorable office denizens (INS became something of the office version of a QuirkyHousehold), and several other [[RecurringCharacter recurring characters]] (including a wacky morgue attendant and the statutorily required contact in the Chicago Police Department, a police captain ultimately driven into group therapy in order to deal with anger issues arising from his frustrations in dealing with Kolchak).

The series failed to garner the success of the two movies, and Darren [=McGavin=], who was not only the star but also acted as executive producer (credited as such for at least 4 episodes), began to become disappointed in the series, which had started to degenerate into a MonsterOfTheWeek show. [=McGavin=] therefore began to negotiate with ABC to be released from his contract. ABC, having noticed the series's dwindling ratings, decided to cancel it with two of the planned 22 episodes unproduced, and granted [=McGavin's=] request. While ratings for the series were disappointing (especially in the light of the success of the predecessor movies), the series's quirky blend of horror and black comedy struck enough of a chord with enough fans that it became something of a [[CultClassic cult hit]], retaining enough drawing power to warrant the production of two [[CompilationMovie compilation movies]], to earn substantial airtime in syndication, to inspire the publication of [[ExpandedUniverse a series of novels featuring the characters]], and eventually to earn a complete series DVD release ''and'' a less-than-successful remake series - ''Night Stalker'' (2005).

It may not have hurt the series' reputation that subsequent credits for the show's writers included ''Series/TheSopranos'' (David Chase was the ''de facto'' story editor), ''Series/HillStreetBlues'' and... ''Film/BackToTheFuture'' ("Chopper" has story credit for Creator/RobertZemeckis and Bob Gale)!

A [[TheFilmOfTheSeries theatrical film update]], starring Creator/JohnnyDepp as Kolchak, has been [[http://www.aintitcool.com/node/50337 planned]].


!!This show provides examples of:

* AbsurdlySpaciousSewer: "The Spanish Moss Murders." And lit at regular intervals, yet!
* TheAce: Jim Elkhorn, who in addition to being a MagicalNativeAmerican shaman, also has an MBA, speaks French fluently, can dig up Matchemonedo's entire history (with references) in less than a day and has [[TheCasanova great success with the ladies]]. He is the single-most useful ally Kolchak comes across in the entire series.
* ActionSurvivor: Kolchak. [[Series/{{Supernatural}} His mother wasn't killed by a demon]]. [[Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer He wasn't Chosen by the Powers That Be]]. [[Series/TheXFiles Heck, he doesn't even work for the FBI]]. Yet time and again he throws himself into danger to get the truth and help people, armed with little more than a few old legends, and comes up victorious every time.
* AgentMulder: Carl Kolchak is always quick to make the leap to supernatural explanations. Even though he is often right, it's still noticeable that he doesn't even try more mundane theories first.
* AgentScully: Tony Vincenzo hardly ever believes any of Kolchak's theories, to say nothing of the police.
* AmbiguouslyGay: Updyke has all the stereotypical mannerism associated at the time with gays, but his personal life is never touched upon on the show.
* AnimatedArmor: In the episode "The Knightly Murders." The ghost of an evil knight animates his old suit of armor to kill everyone responsible for the desecration of his burial site.
* AssholeVictim: The mobsters in "The Zombie" amply deserve the gruesome deaths that they are dealt.
* BalefulPolymorph: At the end of "The Devil's Platform" [[spoiler:the destruction of his amulet prevents Palmer from transforming back into a human, leaving him stuck as a dog]].
* BerserkButton: The one thing guaranteed to piss off Miss Emily is discrimination or condescension towards the elderly.
* CandlelitRitual: In "The Zombie". In order to lay the title monster to rest, Kolchak must fill its mouth with salt, sew its lips together, and surround it with burning candles, all while it is currently inactive. Unfortunately for him, the zombie wakes up while he's performing the ritual.
* CannotDream: A scientific test subject is denied the ability to dream in "The Spanish Moss Murders", and the same energy is diverted into creating a homicidal PlantPerson.
* CarCushion: "The Trevi Collection"
* CatsAreMean: A cat claws a fashion model's face in "The Trevi Collection."
* ClassicalMovieVampire: the eponymous Night Stalker in the original TV movie.
* ClosestThingWeGot:
** A double serving in "The Werewolf". When Kolchak needs a priest to bless the silver he is using to make bullets, he ends up resorting to a fellow passenger on the cruise ship who flunked out of the seminary. And once he gets the guy, he doesn't know any Latin blessings for that, so they end up using the Last Rites prayer, hoping it's close enough to get the job done.
** Given the absence of a stepped pyramid in Chicago, an Aztec cult makes due with the seats of a stadium for their HumanSacrifice.
* CompilationMovie: ''Crackle of Death'' and ''The Demon and the Mummy''
* CoolCar: Kolchak's yellow '65 Mustang convertible.
* CoolOldLady: Miss Emily, the elderly puzzles and advice columnist at INS. She is the only coworker Kolchak actually likes and she's always ready to help him. [[spoiler:"Rakshasa" reveals that she is the one person in the world Kolchak completely trusts]].
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: The Vicepresident of Public Relations for the oil company in "Primal Scream" prides himself of his ability to put a positive spin to any and all the horrible crap his company does.
* CraniumChase: Episode "Chopper". The skull and body of a dead man are separated. The man's ghost animates his dead body as a HeadlessHorseman and goes on a search for his head, killing the people who murdered him along the way.
* CreepyMortician: "Gordy the Ghoul" Spangler, who isn't so much creepy (although he does run a gambling pool based on the corpses' statistics) as preternaturally cheerful. Did we mention he's played by John Fiedler, [[Franchise/WinnieThePooh the voice of Piglet?]]
* DaEditor: Tony Vincenzo's job description.
* DarkerAndEdgier: The remake was this, as a) it lacked a lot of the humor, and b) Kolchak was motivated in his investigations by the death of his wife at the hands of something unknown. As Creator/WarrenEllis put it, "It's like ''Series/{{Ironside 1967}}'', only he loses the use of his legs in a PrisonRape incident."
* DealWithTheDevil: In "The Devil's Platform" a politician makes one of these in return for wealth and power.
* ADegreeInUseless: How Jim Elkhorn views his MBA, since he makes far more money as foreman of a specialized construction crew than he ever could putting his degree to use. [[note]]Since Elkhorn claims to be making US$ 40,000 a year in 1974 as foreman, the equivalent of almost '''US$ 195,000''' in 2016 money, he may have a point[[/note]]
* DownerEnding: The first movie. [[spoiler:The vampire serial-killer is defeated, but Kolchak's story gets heavily altered by the corrupt city government, he loses his girlfriend and nearly gets arrested for murder, and an episode of the series would reveal that one of the victims became a vampire herself and continued killing. After being told to leave Las Vegas, he ends up expanding his original story into a novel.]]
* DugTooDeep: In "The Sentry", subterranean workers discover a clutch of eggs underground which they steal. This causes the [[MonsterIsAMommy eggs' mother]] to hunt them down and kill them.
* EldritchAbomination: "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be" invokes this with explicitly alien visitors who use Earth as a trucker does a pit stop, completely ignoring humanity as anything other than a nuisance or a food source. Then there's Matchemonedo, the "Bear God" in "The Energy Eater" which only visible to the X-Ray Spectrum, [[CaptainObvious feeds on energy]] and likes it hot. When an X-Ray picture is taken of it, the being looks like a malevolent hurricane of energy.
** It was stated in the episode that it was referred to as the Bear God not because of its appearance, but because of its habits: it fed in the summer and rested in the winter, as it could not function in the cold.
* EvilDetectingDog: "Firefall". An evil pyromaniac ghost kills a man in his apartment through SpontaneousHumanCombustion. When the ghost leaves the apartment, a dog in the corridor outside detects his presence and starts barking like crazy.
* EvilElevator: The bad guy in "The Devil's Platform" kills and entire elevator full of people to silence a single person.
* EvilTwin: A homicidal spirit takes on the form of a symphony conductor it adulates in "Firefall." Disturbingly, the Rakshasa in "Horror in the Heights" takes on the form of Kolchak himself to kill one victim.
* EvilVersusEvil: In "The Zombie" you have a ruthless voodoo priestess seeking revenge against a bunch of mobsters and a corrupt police captain.
* ExpandedUniverse: The series has inspired a number of novels featuring Carl Kolchak, Tony Vincenzo, and other series characters, the latest being published as late as 2007! There is also a series of comic books by Moonstone Comics with new adventures, including crossovers with Sherlock Holmes, Honey West, and Cthulhu.
* ExtraStrengthMasquerade: Given the sheer number of supernatural phenomena that Kolchak goes up against in Chicago alone, it is remarkable that TheMasquerade has remained in place. It is implied that this is due to the active efforts from the authorities to suppress any an all evidence that Kolchak might come up with.
* EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys: Or not, in the case of "Primal Scream."
* FailureIsTheOnlyOption: No matter how many monsters and paranormal happenings Kolchak gets involved with, he never has enough evidence left at the end of an episode to prove it, although in one episode he and Vincenzo actually get the story onto the wire before their management kills it.
* FakeStatic: In the episode "The Vampire", IntrepidReporter Kolchak is sent to Los Angeles to get a story. While talking on the phone to his editor in Chicago, he puts a towel over the phone and uses an electric razor near the phone. He wants to make it seem like the line is full of static to he doesn't have to answer the editor's questions. When he gets tired of this he hangs up, assuming that the editor will think they were cut off.
* {{Fauxreigner}}: Pepe [=LaRue=], the French street musician that gives Kolchak information in "The Spanish Moss Murders" turns out to really be Morris Shapiro from Brooklyn.
* FinaglesLaw. Whatever Kolchak needs to destroy the monster, he often drops, breaks, or loses the item required. "The Vampire," "The Devil's Platform," "Bad Medicine," "The Spanish Moss Murders," and "The Trevi Collection."
* FireForgedFriends: {{Subverted}} with Louise in "The Night Strangler", who spends the entire movie as Kolchak's only ally and risks her live to help him stop the killer. But by the end of the movie she hates his guts, since her association with him resulted in her losing her job, her home and getting run out of Seattle by the police before she could complete her degree. She correctly points out that meeting him and joining in his adventure ''ruined her life''.
* TheFriendNobodyLikes: It's a complete mystery why the rest of the staff at INS puts up with Kolchak, considering he routinely treats everyone like crap, and with the exception of Miss Emily, none of them seems to particularly like him.
* GlamourFailure: The Rakshasa in one episode.
* HeadlessHorseman: The MonsterOfTheWeek in "Chopper", although he happens to ride a motorcycle.
* HiddenDepths: Miss Emily is writing a detective novel. She only took the INS job to get more life experience... and to steal office supplies for the book.
* HighVoltageDeath: In the episode "The Ripper" Kolchak manages to destroy the spirit of Jack the Ripper by electrocuting him.
* HollywoodDarkness: Averted. In ''Kolchak: The Night Stalker'' dark scenes are really dark, so much so that all one can see are highlights, reflections, and the occasional flashlight blotting out the entire screen.
* HolyBurnsEvil: "The Devil's Platform". A Satan worshipper uses a magical medallion emblazoned with an inverted pentacle (the symbol of black magic) to transform himself into a dog and back into a human being. When Kolchak throws it into a pool of holy water, the medallion smokes and dissolves as if the holy water were acid.
* HornyDevils: Ugly as Sin in its true form, the succubus from "Demon In Lace" kills people with its visage alone.
* HumanSacrifice: In the episode titled "Legacy of Terror," an ancient Aztec cult is performing HumanSacrifice to bring back their deity.
* IconicOutfit: He really wouldn't be Kolchak without the blue seersucker suit and straw [[NiceHat porkpie hat]].
* IgnoredExpert: Carl Kolchak, who in both movies and the series is usually the only person who notices the unusual happenings which drive the episode. This trope is played with in some episodes where the people in charge actually do believe him or knew the truth all along, but are still determined to avoid having to admit it to the world.
* ImperfectRitual: Episode "The Youth Killer". Helen of Troy (yes, the one from Myth/GreekMythology) has retained her youth down to the present day through the HumanSacrifice of perfect physical specimens to the goddess Hecate. Kolchak points out to Hecate that one of Helen's recent sacrifices had a glass eye, causing Hecate to curse her by being TakenForGranite.
* ImplacableMan: Lots of the monsters, but the zombie in "[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin The Zombie]]" is the most obvious, and the most frightening.
* IntrepidReporter: Carl Kolchak
* InvisibleMonsters: Several. One an Alien, the other an EldritchAbomination.
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Kolchak is a very sarcastic and not very personable guy. But whenever he finds out a monster's on the loose and people are dying, stopping it is his only priority.
* JurisdictionFriction: Played straight in ''The Night Stalker'' where Kolchak is able to leverage the differences between the Las Vegas FBI office and the local law enforcement to gain access to the case, but {{Averted}} in every single story afterwards, with all levels of local, state and federal government and law enforcement working in flawless cooperation with the sole purpose of screwing over Kolchak.
* LargeHam: Quite a few of the guest stars, Keenan Wynn as Chicago PD Captain "Mad Dog" Siska, plus Kolchak and Vincenzo themselves. It can verge on a WorldOfHam sometimes.
* LifeDrinker: In the episode "The Youth Killer". Helen of Troy has survived to the present day by sacrificing perfect human victims to the goddess Hecate. The sacrifice is made by magically causing Rapid Aging in the victims, which in turn gives Helen eternal youth.
* LimitedWardrobe: Kolchak's seersucker suit and ratty old hat. Considering how much abuse it goes through during the series, Carl's dry cleaner must be very talented, and very rich.
* LizardFolk: "The Sentry"
* TheMafia: "The Zombie," written by none other than [[Series/TheSopranos David Chase]], features a Haitian ''mamaloi'' killing off the ''mafiosi'' who ordered a hit on her son.
* MagicalNativeAmerican: Subverted in one episode when Kolchak meets a "shaman" who is the only one who has the old knowledge about the monster of the week. He's a construction foreman and ladies' man more than anything else. He's also one of the only helpful people Kolchak ever meets. Another episode plays this only slightly straighter, when an elderly Navajo relays some vital information to him, but isn't portrayed as anything other than someone who actually believes the monster exists.
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident: The killing spree in "The Devil's Platform" is composed entirely of these, although by the end the person responsible stopped caring about plausibility as the accidents themselves featured glaring holes in logic.
* {{Mayincatec}}: "Legacy of Terror" centers on an Aztec cult, complete with bird masks and feathered headdresses. The cult is cutting out the hearts of sacrificial victims in service of their mummified god, Nanauatzin. Lacking a step pyramid, their final sacrifice is staged at the top of a long flight of stairs at the sports stadium.
* MissingTheGoodStuff: "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be..." begins with Kolchak happily preparing to go see the Cubs play in the World Series. Not only doesn't he make it to the game, even his attempts to pick it up on his car radio are repeatedly foiled.
* MonsterIsAMommy: "The Sentry"
* MonsterMisogyny: Found in both TV movies. In the series, usually only when it's justified, such as in the obvious case of "The Ripper." Other times it's averted.
* MonsterOfTheWeek: Sufficiently so in its death spiral to cause series star Darren [=McGavin=] to ask for early release.
* MurderousMannequin: The first clue that something supernatural is going on in a fashion house in "The Trevi Collection".
* MyHorseIsAMotorbike: "Chopper" features a Hell's Angel riff on the classic Headless Horseman myth.
* NeverSleepAgain: In "The Spanish Moss Murders," Inverted when a walking-weed swamp monster turned out to be a psychic projection from a young man undergoing an experimental sleep-drug therapy. He had grown up hearing ghost stories about such a creature, and the drug gave him the ability to manifest his childhood fear.
* NiceHat: Kolchak's iconic straw porkpie hat is practically synonymous with the character. Funnily enough it's {{Inverted}} InUniverse, since ''everyone'' Kolchak knows hates the hat.
* NonNaziSwastika: In the "Rakshasa" episode, Kolchak sought wisdom from an emigrant from India, who had swastikas. The man explained that in his culture they were holy symbols.
* NoSwastikas: Justified aversion; swastikas appeared in "Horror of the Heights" as protective talismans. Painted by a Hindu man in a Jewish neighborhood, so... yeah.
* NounVerber: The very title (or portion thereof) ''The Night Stalker''.
* OccultDetective: Even though he is a reporter by trade, Carl Kolchak ends up filling this role by default, since the authorities' refusal to act on his discoveries leave him as the only one who can defeat the monsters.
* OurDemonsAreDifferent: Featuring a FantasyKitchenSink of [[{{Hellhound}} Hellhounds]] ("The Devil's Platform"), Rakshashas ("Horror in the Heights").
* OurGhostsAreDifferent: "Firefall," "Bad Medicine," "The Knightly Murders"; the headless head-chopper in "Chopper" updates "Literature/TheLegendOfSleepyHollow" by replacing the horse with a Motorcycle.
%%* OurMonstersAreDifferent:
* OurVampiresAreDifferent: The Film/HammerHorror variety.
* OurWerewolvesAreDifferent: WolfMan variety.
* OurZombiesAreDifferent: The eponymous beastie of "The Zombie" is the original Haitian variety. It's [[ImplacableMan far tougher]] than your average zombie, and requires an elaborate ritual to kill it.
* ParanormalInvestigation: Both the original series and the later remake.
* PoliceBrutality: While they never go as far as beating him up, the police have no trouble manhandling Kolchak all the time and often illegally confiscate and destroy his camera and recorder in order to get rid of any evidence regarding the unexplained creatures they’re trying to cover up.
* PulledFromYourDayOff: The first movie begins with Kolchak being called back from vacation by Vincenzo.
* PunBasedTitle: "Chopper" features an undead motorcyclist riding a chopper, chopping people's heads off. In "The Knightly Murders," the murders take place nightly.
* RippedFromThePhoneBook: Carl does this a lot. In one episode it comes back to bite him.
* RoomDisservice: Inversion in one episode, where a pimp substitutes another hooker for the vampiress call-girl Kolchak is hunting. Her reaction to Carl's wooden stake and crucifix is priceless.
* ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney: The oil company in "Primal Scream" is able to stonewall Kolchak's investigation by virtue of all the money they throw around, specially to universities.
* ScrewThisImOuttaHere: Jim Elkhorn, the Native American shaman who proves so helpful in assisting Kolchak in "The Energy Eater", wisely refuses to risk his neck trying to stop [[EldritchAbomination Matchemonedo]] once the true scale of the threat becomes apparent.
* SealedEvilInACan: Matchemonedo, an EldritchAbomination Native American deity was put in permanent hibernation when its nesting place was covered by the cold waters of Lake Michigan. By the end of the episode, it is decided to demolish the hospital built on top of it and flood the area again to make a marina.
* SequelEpisode: "The Vampire" is a sequel to the first TV movie, with an overlooked victim of the Vegas vampire resurfacing.
* ShoutOut: In episode 12, "Mr. R.I.N.G.", the company that was creating an android was casually mentioned as being the Tyrell Institute, in reference to the Philip K Dick novel Literature/DoAndroidsDreamOfElectricSheep. This was a few years ''before'' the release of ''Film/BladeRunner'', too.
* SilverBullet: Kolchak has a hard time coming up with one in "The Werewolf" because he is on a cruise ship. He ends up [[spoiler:stealing the silver buttons from the captain's dress uniform]].
* SpontaneousHumanCombustion: In the episode "Firefall", an evil pyromaniac ghost kills several people by causing them to be instantly incinerated and reduced to ashes.
* SuitWithVestedInterests: The main reason the authorities in both Las Vegas and Seattle refuse to act on Kolchak's advice, even after it becomes clear that he is completely right, is because both cities are dependent on tourism and any hint of the truth would have catastrophic effects on both towns' economies.
* SwordCane: In "The Ripper", Jack the Ripper carries a sword cane that he uses to kill and mutilate his female victims.
* UltimateJobSecurity: No matter how much property he destroys, no matter how many times and how badly he pisses off the police and other people in authority, no matter how many times he ducks out of his real assignment to chase a monster and ends up with no evidence to prove what he was doing, Kolchak will always be welcome at the office the next day.
* UncomfortableElevatorMoment: In "the Night Strangler" Kolchak fills in Louise about the events of "The Night Stalker" and how he barely beat a murder charge for killing a vampire by hammering a stake through its heart. He does this in an elevator full of people, all of which are listening in on the conversation and look progressively more panicked as the story goes on. By the time they reach the top floor all the other passengers are looking at him funny and refusing to leave the elevator.
* UrbanFantasy: One of the most influential examples in television.
* VainSorceress: In "The Youth Killer", Helen of Troy returns to drain the youth out of unsuspecting perfect victims, sacrifices for the goddess Hecate, in her quest for immortality.
* WholePlotReference: The final episode of the series, "The Sentry", is a blatant copy of ''[[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries Star Trek's]]'' "Devil in the Dark". It has a monster hiding underground, trying to protect its egg (because MonsterIsAMommy).
* WhoYouGonnaCall: Carl Kolchak, who fits the "concerned but average citizen" variant.
* WitchSpecies: Kolchak was a run-in with one of its members in "The Trevi Collection".