The Vegas setting, with its night skyline filled with glittering lights, seems like an unlikely place for a vampire tale. But the cleverness of this location becomes clear in Kolchak’s opening narration: “In any town the size of Las Vegas, the murder of one young woman hardly causes a ripple.” And in a city where tourists outnumber the residents, the sheer turnover in population works to a vampire’s advantage, too.
Versatile horror/fantasy author Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Duel) co-wrote this fast-paced blend of chills and humor. Unlike traditional bloodsuckers, Matheson made his vampire (played by Barry Atwater) a contemporary villain with superhuman strength and the wiles to survive in modern society (e.g., he steals blood from a hospital). While The Night Stalker wasn’t the first contemporary vampire film (earlier attempts included 1970’s Count Yorga, Vampire), it was one of the best.
Still, it was popular enough to spawn a weekly TV series called "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." Unfortunately, the show's "monster of the week" format grew tiresome with mainstream viewers and it was cancelled after one season. The "Kolchak" TV series has since acquired a cult reputation; its repeats became a popular installment on The CBS Late Movie on Friday nights. A short-lived remake with Stuart Townsend as Kolchak was launched in 2005.
Dan Curtis, who brought vampires to daytime drama with his "Dark Shadows" soap (1966-72), produced the two telefilms and McGavin's weekly series.