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Kolchak: The Night Stalker (The Complete Series) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Series
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A beart reporter in Chicago is drawn into investigating crimes that involve the supernatural in this cult fan favorite 1974-1975 TV series reissued on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

The 1974-1975 ABC series Kolchak: The Night Stalker began life as the unpublished novel The Kolchak Papers, written by Jeff Rice. It also followed two TV movies based on the same novel, The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973).

Set in Chicago, the story follows wire service beat reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) who finds himself investigating and ultimately solving many murders in and around the city, which happen to involve supernatural and sci-fi forces that run the gamut from vampires and werewolves to murderous AI robots and ancient cannibalistic Aztec gods.

Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, counts Kolchak: The Night Stalker as one of the major influences on that series and there are many similarities one can point to, from the obvious investigations of the supernatural, to the cinematography of both series, which favor the dark and shadowy streets, graveyards, and other eerie locations.

Kolchak is not without its faults, however. The voiceover narration by McGavin can sometimes be a bit annoying and it can become too much of a stretch to believe that this straw-hat wearing reporter whom no one seems to like is going around Chicago solving all of these supernatural cases while butting heads with the police and his editor every week. Still, the series does improve over the course of its twenty episodes, but apparently it didn’t improve enough to keep it on the air. Its low ratings had it off after just one season. This, however, is very much cult favorite fan material and the kind of series you get your bowl of popcorn out and binge over a weekend.

The Video

Kolchak: The Night Stalker comes in a 1.33:1 AVC 1080p encodement from Kino Lorber. This series likely looks better than it ever has in comparison to old broadcasts, the streaming versions, and previous home video editions. That said, this HD transfer still suffers from softness and a bit of noisiness in the darker areas and one can also spot a few hints of scratches and other bits of source damage here and there.

The Audio

Kolchak: The Night Stalker comes with its original monaural audio mix in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Though the level of the audio is a bit on the low side, there isn’t much to complain about with the audio on this Blu-ray release. It seems in keeping with the sound of a mid-1970s television production. Dynamic range is narrow, the low end is somewhat non-existent, but the dialogue is clean and there isn’t much noise or clipping and sound effects sound good.

The Supplements

There are a ton of bonus features included in this release, including an audio commentary for all twenty episodes, fourteen newly remastered original episodic TV spots, and an essay. The audio commentaries are a boon to fans. I particularly enjoyed the commentaries from Mark Dawidziak and the co-commentaries by Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw.

  • Booklet with essay by Mark Dawidziak, the author of The Night Stalker Companion and Kolchak Novel, Grave Secrets
  • Audio commentary for “The Ripper” by Mark Dawidziak, the author of The Night Stalker Companion and Kolchak Novel, Grave Secrets
  • Audio commentary for “The Zombie” by author/historian David J. Schow
  • Audio commentary for “They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be…” by novelist/critic Kim Newman and writer/journalist Barry Forshaw
  • Audio commentary for “The Vampire” by film historian Tim Lucas
  • Audio commentary for “The Werewolf” by film historian Constantine Nasr
  • Interview with David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos and co-writer of eight Kolchak: The Night Stalker episodes (1080p; 00:09:03)
  • Audio commentary for “Firefall” by author/historian David J. Schow
  • Audio commentary for “The Devil’s Platform” by film historian Constantine Nasr and screenwriter/producer Rodney Barnes
  • Audio commentary for “Bad Medicine” by film historian/screenwriter Steve Haberman
  • Audio commentary for “The Spanish Moss Murders” by filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and screenwriter/producer Cyrus Voris
  • Audio commentary for “The Energy Eater” by Mike White and Chris Stachiw of The Kolchak Tapes podcast
  • Interview with Dana Gould, the creator of Stan Against Evil (1080p; 00:11:13)
  • “The Devil’s Platform” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:35)
  • “Bad Medicine” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)
  • “The Spanish Moss Murders” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)
  • “The Energy Eater” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:32)
  • Audio commentary for “Horror in the Heights” by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani
  • Audio commentary for “Mr. R.I.N.G.” by filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and screenwriter/producer Cyrus Voris
  • Audio commentary for “Primal Scream” by filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and screenwriter/producer Cyrus Voris
  • Audio commentary for “The Trevi Collection” by film historian/author Amanda Reyes
  • Audio commentary for “Chopper” by novelist/critic Kim Newman and writer/journalist Barry Forshaw
  • “Horror in the Heights” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)
  • R.I.N.G.” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)
  • “Primal Scream” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)
  • “The Trevi Collection” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)
  • “Chopper” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)
  • Audio commentary for “Demon in Lace” by novelist/critic Kim Newman and writer/journalist Barry Forshaw
  • Audio commentary for “Legacy of Terror” by film historian/author Amanda Reyes
  • Audio commentary for “The Knightly Murders” by filmmaker/historian Michael Schlesinger
  • Audio commentary for “The Youth Killer” by novelist/critic Kim Newman and writer/journalist Barry Forshaw
  • Audio commentary for “The Sentry” by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani
  • “Demon in Lace” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)
  • “Legacy of Terror” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:35)
  • “The Knightly Murders” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:33)
  • “The Youth Killer” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:33)
  • “The Sentry” TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:34)

The Final Assessment

An enjoyable Watergate era paranormal series that was ahead of its time, packed with bonus features and in a serviceable Blu-ray transfer from Kino. Fans will enjoy the hours of audio commentaries and TV spots. Recommended.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker is out on Blu-ray October 12, 2021 from Kino Lorber


  • Rating Certificate: NR
  • Studios & Distributors: Francy Productions | Universal Television | Kino Lorber
  • Show Creator: Jeffrey Grant Rice
  • Run Time: 1020 Mins.
  • Street Date: 12 October 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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