Directed by: Dan Curtis
Starring: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jo Ann Pflug, Wally Cox, Margaret Hamilton, John Carradine, Al Lewis
Since John Llewelyn Moxey’s The Night Stalker (1972) turned out to be the biggest hit the “ABC Movie of the Week” series ever had, it was inevitable that a sequel, The Night Strangler (1973), would follow (as would a TV series). Not so inevitable was that it would be as good as (and somewhat more elaborate than) the first movie. With an eye toward a foreign theatrical release, producer and director Dan Curtis made a 90-minute big-screen version to go along with the 74-minute TV version. It’s this longer version that we have today. (I’m not sure what the differences are, but I suspect the TV version is a bit less obvious about the lesbian angle with Nina Wayne and Virginia Peters.) Of course, Darren McGavin is back as Carl Kolchak—the old-style reporter hero with a penchant for running afoul of the supernatural—and so is Simon Oakland as his much put-upon editor. The pair have somehow ended up in Seattle this round—working for a paper run by a crusty John Carradine. The adversary this time is a very old killer (he goes back to the Civil War) who pops up every 21 years to get the ingredients (including, alas, human blood) for the elixir vitae that keeps him young and strong. The delight of the film lies in the playing of the leads—and the inspired casting of guest stars like Carradine, Wally Cox, Al Lewis, and the Wicked Witch of the West herself, Margaret Hamilton. The film also makes nice use of the Seattle underground ruins—though I suspect it enlarges upon them and makes them much more impressive than they are in reality. Fast-paced, sometimes eerie and a lot of fun.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Night Strangler on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.