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STUDIO: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 426 Minutes
• Commentary by show creators on episodes Pilot and The Sea
• 4 episodes never seen on TV
• A conversation with Frank Spotnitz
• Deleted scenes
• Script printer (DVD ROM) – final episodes never produced
The heir apparent to The X-Files has arrived, and was snuffed quicker than Deep Throat.
Stuart Townsend, Gabrielle (please sex me) Union, Eric Jungmann, Cotter Smith.
Nice to see William Hickey still getting work….
Carl Kolchak (Townsend) is a talented but eccentric crime reporter who emerges on the LA scene to work at the local paper, the Beacon, and investigate mysterious stories in the hopes of getting a bead on what it was that killed his wife. His partner / Scully is Perri Reed [Union (I mean it, I’d eat your leftovers…out of the garbage disposal)], another reporter who is usually along on the odd stories that Kolchak is running down. Together and with their photographer, Jain (Jungmann), they find themselves investigating everything from animals that kill pregnant women for their fetuses to people who commit murders because dead people told them to do it to people who seem to be dying of extreme fear to…zombie bikers? Yep, zombie bikers.
"Did I ever mention that you’ve always been my favortie X-Man?"
"That’s Nightcrawler, dimwit."
Calling Night Stalker the heir apparent to The X-Files is more than apt because it seems as if Frank Spotnitz, who was the co-executive producer of the Spooky Show and the force behind bringing this show back to TV, brought a good chunk of the trustno1 crew over to Stalker with him. This includes writer Thomas Schnauz, executive producers Michelle McLaren and Daniel Sackheim, cinematographer Robert Primes, editor Christopher Cooke, ole’ Flukeman and X-Files god Darin Morgan as a consulting producer, and hell, probably even the craft service people to boot. It’s also appropriate because the original Carl Kolchak, the late Darren McGavin of course made a couple of appearances on X-Files and Chris Carter has stated before that he was heavily influenced by McGavin’s 1970s adventures when creating the ‘90s phenomenon. However, rather than being a crusty old newshound who investigates the paranormal in a $14 powder blue leisure suit, Kolchak is now a young widower donned in hip threads, sporting a butterscotch ’05 Mustang and appearing the guise of Stuart Townsend…you know, the guy currently getting a piece of Kate Bosworth.
Most unusual prop? A night vision photo from Michael Jackson’s guest bedroom…
What Spotnitz and company have succeeded in doing is replicating the eerie atmosphere of some of the darkest X-Files episodes and hauled out some pretty interesting phenomena (did I mention the zombie bikers?). What they’ve also done is recreated some of the more maddening aspects of X-Files in that there’s more often than not no concrete explanation of exactly what goings-on are going on. Prime examples of this are the pilot episode (conveniently titled Pilot) where there are some sort of animals, or creatures, or things or whatever that have killed a pregnant woman and removed her fetus, and vanished a young girl. All you get are a couple of split second open-mouth shots of the things and never a clear explanation of what it is or what they want, besides a fetal snack of course (that is unless you check out one of the deleted scene for this episode). Also, in Burning Man, dudes are being human torched from the inside out simply by touching a wax figurine that may or may not contain an untraceable bio-weapon. You never know for sure.
"Hi David, I read the review and well…I’m free tonight…"
But what the Stalkers have also done is brought the sharp writing that punctuated some of the best episodes of X-Files. With talent like Darin Morgan (Humbug, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space) on as a consulting producer, this is to be expected. Not sure how much influence or time he put into the show, but I doubt I’m alone when I say it’s good to see him doing something. This guy has way too much ability to not be somewhere churning out some kind of content. Writers Thomas Schnauz (The Five People You Meet in Hell), Adam Sussman (Three), Noah Baylin (Burning Man) and Spotnitz himself turn out some great material in the show’s criminally short run.
"Damn now that’s scary…it’s gonna take me hours to get home with that traffic…"
One thing that also strikes me about this show is the simply excellent second unit shots of LA, particularly at night. I’ve lived in this wonderful dump for 10 years and I’m telling you I ain’t hardly ever seen it look this good. The other elements of the look of the show are solid also, with the creepiness looking appropriately creepy and the brightness looking appropriately, well bright. This in part to the show being shot on 24p Hi-Def. Of course the best looking thing on the show is Gabs (I must have you).
Lastly but not leastly, Townsend acquits himself quite nicely from Queen of the Damned, which admittedly wasn’t his fault by a long shot, but certainly not his best work. Checking him out I was also surprised to discover that he was Dorian Gray in LXG, a piece of guilty trash I usually find myself catching if it happens to be on cable. Don’t let the Calvin Klein poster boy looks fool you. I dug him in that role and he’s showing a fairly decent range as the tortured Kolchak here. I’ve always liked Union (do to me what you did for that guy in Cradle to the Grave, you know what I mean…red lingerie…), not only for her stunning looks but how she can portray a bitchy or tough-minded chick well. She not as Scully as Scully was but she puts in good work here as well.
Luckily, the producers were able to save on the makeup budget for one episode by getting Joan Rivers to guest star…
I would rail against ABC for pulling this show after only six episodes, but what can I say? The Nielsens just weren’t there and I’m just as much to blame as the next schlub. I didn’t discover Night Stalker until I picked up this disc. If it had been on the WB, Fox or UPN, it might have had a chance. Although admittedly if it were on UPN, Kolchak probably would have been a brother, let’s face it; or if on the WB he would have been some fresh twentysomething probably writing for the school paper while dealing with the girl next door that he’s been in love with since the 3rd grade and trying to escape his Christian parents’ expectations…
As I previously mentioned, the show just looks fantastic. Some of the best shots of LA you’re likely to see, certainly the best on TV. And it’s also 1.78:1 which just always beats TV standard hands down. The transfer is pristine and you’re going to see the all things that you don’t know exactly what you’re seeing clear as a bell. The sound is also good in Dolby Digital, particularly the music, which is also suitably moody. The cover art never particularly floored me however, looking like some kind of male takeoff of the Mona Lisa.
…but they really got lucky when Star Jones suddenly became available…
As for features, there’s commentary by Spotnitz and other show creators on the episodes Pilot and The Sea. There’s also a Conversation with Frank Spotnitz and you can see through both features that he was a committed fan of the original material. There’s also three deleted scenes for episodes, Into Night, Three and a great extension of the attack by the creatures in Pilot. There’s also two scripts for the two unproduced episodes, Ascendant and The M Word, written by none other than Darin Morgan himself. But the real feature is the four never-before-seen episodes that rounded out the first season production, including the second half of the last aired episode, The Sea called The Source, which shows more on the zombie bikers. ABC had to cancel the show? Fine, whatever. But don’t cancel it on a cliffhanger, which is what The Sea was. Fans of the show had to wait all these months to see how that episode wrapped up. One should never be kept waiting for a zombie fix. That’s just wrong, man.
My vote for the next Chud Man.