ITEM: Kolchak: The Night Stalker was one of the strangest series in TV history when it debuted on September 13, 1974, a bizarre hybrid of the supernatural and old-school hard-boiled detective stories — a pure embrace of pulp sensationalism that was equal parts an unnervingly scary monster mash and a gigantic, wet-grinned wink.
Starring Darren McGavin as the titular wire-service reporter, it's still one of the weirdest shows ever to hit network TV, IMHO, and considering how lurid it often was, it's still shocking that it existed alongside feel-good pablum like Little House on the Prairie and earnest, socially conscious shows like All in the Family, The Jeffersons and Maude.
However it happened, I'm glad it happened — it remains a ridiculously fun watch even if, as the episodes fly past, there is very little deviation from story to story: Bizarre thing happens, New York wire-service reporter sets out to document it, reporter realizes it's something otherworldly, reporter's boss refuses to support him, cops confiscate and destroy documentation of otherworldliness, reporter prevails in the end — but it's allllll covered up.
Part of me wonders if this show wasn't a harbinger of all the conspiracy theorists we deal with today, questioning The Official Story and The System at every turn. It certainly inspired The X-Files — as its creators have humbly acknowledged — and influenced the dubbing of real-life serial killer Richard Ramirez as the Night Stalker.
Nowhere near as popular as the two TV movies that led to its series order, Kolchak: The Night Stalker ended its short run on March 28, 1975.
Regardless, one of my favorite parts of the show, while it lasted, was its [insert chef's kiss] casting of classic character actors and former stars in brief, yet often richly hammy roles.
I took time to document almost 150 of the most memorable guest spots on Kolchak: The Night Stalker and in the two TV movies that preceded it. The show was a who's-who of what's-his-name-again? — and a treasure trove of juicy performances from old pros. Enjoy!
First, a run-down of the TV movies that preceded the series:
TV Movie #1: The Night Stalker (January 11, 1972)
Based on an unpublished novel, the first TV movie was set in Las Vegas and had a grittier, less giddily outlandish vibe. It followed Daily News reporter Kolchak and his prostitute lady-love (Carol Lynley) as he pursues serial killer Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater), whose M.O. is to drain his victims of their blood. It's a cinch for him, not because he's "high on pot or the hard stuff" (as one character suggests), but because he is a nearly immortal vampire.
Simon Oakland's hotheaded turn as Kolchak's publisher Tony Vincenzo is fully formed, even if McGavin's Kolchak is far more mellow in the TV movie than he would later present as in the series.
The TV movie is still effectively scary, with outrageously creepy music, some gripping blood-sucking and a killer finale. It's no wonder it was a ratings hit. Like many TV movies (as opposed to series), rights are nebulous and it appears free on YouTube.
TV Movie #2: The Night Strangler (January 16, 1973)
A year after striking gold with the first TV movie, ABC offered a second. Driven out of Vegas because he knew too much (about vampires), Kolchak is now working in Seattle. Coinkydinkally, his old editor Tony (Simon Oakland) is there, too, and hires him to cover the story of a series of stripper murders.
Spookily, these crimes also involve the draining of blood — but far less of it. Worse, each victim's crush neck bears small amounts of rotting human flesh.
Thanks to a crackerjack researcher (Wally Cox), Kolchak realizes similar killings have occurred in the area every 21 years over a span of 18 days. With time running out, Kolchak has to persuade the powers that be that the killer is a Civil War-era doctor (Richard Anderson) who keeps himself alive with an elixir that calls for human blood.
While not as scary as the first installment, it's still an intriguing film — and people watched it in big numbers, leading to a series order.
Episode 1: "The Ripper" (September 13, 1974)
Episode 2: "The Zombie "(September 20, 1974)
Episode 3: "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be ..." (September 27, 1974)
Episode 4: "The Vampire" (October 4, 1974)
Episode 5: "The Werewolf" (November 1, 1974)
Episode 6: "The Firefall" (November 8, 1974)
Episode 7: "The Devil's Platform" (November 15, 1974)
Episode 8: "Bad Medicine" (November 29, 1974)
Episode 9: "The Spanish Moss Murders" (December 6, 1974)
Episode 10: "The Energy Eater" (December 13, 1974)
Episode 11: "Horror in the Heights" (December 20, 1974)
Episode 12: "Mr. R.I.N.G." (January 10, 1975)
Episode 13: "Primal Scream" (January 17, 1975)
Episode 14: "The Trevi Collection" (January 24, 1975)
Episode 15: "Chopper" (January 31, 1975)
Episode 16: "Demon in Lace" (February 7, 1975)
Episode 17: "Legacy of Terror" (February 14, 1975)
Episode 18: "The Knightly Murders" (March 7, 1975)
Episode 19: "The Youth Killer" (March 14, 1975)
Episode 20: "The Sentry" (March 28, 1975)
The Series' Main & Recurring Cast (All Those Making 12 or More Appearances)
Darren McGavin (1922-2016) as Carl Kolchak — 20 episodes, both TV movies: The gristly actor got the call to see if he'd want to play a fast-talking reporter in a vampire TV movie in 1971 and, well, he bit. His bombastic Kolchak — a rabid supporter of the First Amendment — existed in two TV movies and 20 episodes of the resulting series.
The rest of his career included Broadway and the title role on TV's Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1957-1959), the latter of which might've been his best prep to play Kolchak. In fact, in 1968, he called that show such a "dummy" that, "I thought it was a comedy. In fact, I played it camp."
Hmmm, he was on an excessively violent show he played for laughs ... sound familiar?
Though he had close to 200 credits to his name before he died, and though his Kolchak is iconic, it would be hard to argue that the Emmy nominee (in 1990, for Murphy Brown) is more famous for that than as the dad in the classic movie A Christmas Story (1983). That character's persecution complex flowed naturally from Kolchak's, no?
Simon Oakland (1915-1983) as Tony Vincenzo — 20 Episodes, both TV movies: A lifelong concert violinist, Oakland's prolific work in various media included playing the psychiatrist tasked with explaining the pathology of Norman Bates at the end of Psycho (1960) and as the voice of FedEx, the guy who talked up the importance of using the service "when it absolutely has to be there overnight." I can't imagine any other actor more perfect to play the comic-book Lou Grant that is Tony Vincenzo.
Other career highlights: Broadway; I Want to Live! (1958) as a good guy; West Side Story (1961) as bad-guy Lt. Schrank; two episodes of The Twilight Zone (1961 & 1963).
Jack Grinnage (b. 1931) as Ron Updyke, 18 episodes: The only survivor of the main cast, Grinnage was a sheer delight as fussy Ron Updyke, Kolchak's rival reporter and polar opposite. Effete, lazy and always plotting to throw Kolchak under the haunted bus, Updyke is one of my all-time favorite TV characters, right up there with Lucille Bluth.
Grinnage had fewer TV and movie credits than some of the actors who graced the series in smaller parts, but having been a rebel ("Moose") in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), appeared with Elvis (1935-1977) in Kid Creole (1958) and popped up on The Twilight Zone (1961), the stage actor was more than deserving of a chance to strut as Updyke — and strut he did, bringing to life a reporter on a crime beat who felt faint at the sight of blood.
Grinnage had previously played a gay hairdresser putting the moves on Darren McGavin's character on a 1968 episode of The Outsider, and in real life became a close friend of McGavin's and his third wife, Kathie Browne, herself a Kolchak guest.
Ruth McDevitt (1895-1976) as Emily Cowles, 12 episodes: Delightfully daffy as over-the-hill columnist (and frustrated mystery novelist) Emily Cowles, Ruth McDevitt was a longtime Broadway, film and TV actor instantly identifiable for her fluttery, old-beyond-her-years air. By the time she was on Kolchak, she really was old — pushing 80 — and barely survived the series, dying the year after it was canceled.
Emily was Kolchak's most trusted confidante, which is why it was especially unsettling when he was forced to kill her in the "Horror in the Heights" episode — even though "she" was actually a shape-shifting Rakshasa.
Career highlights: Arsenic & Old Lace on Broadway (1942); "Mom Peepers" on TV's Mister Peepers (1952); movies The Parent Trap (1961) and Mame (1974).
Cast of Characters from 20 Episodes & 2 TV Movies, Alphabetically:
Julie Adams (1926-2019) as Mrs. Walker: The luscious star of Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) had a blast as the drunken, embittered widow of a murdered scientist whose idea of passion was "a hot diode" on the "Mr. R.I.N.G." episode.
The actress's career had remarkable legs, stretching from 1949 until just before her death in 2019. Along with her horror classic, she was probably best known for playing agoraphobic Paula Denning on Capitol (1984-1986) and trampy Eve Simpson on 10 episodes of Murder, She Wrote (1987-1993).
Stanley Adams (1915-1977) as Fred Hurley: Great example of how a character actor in a tiny part can rock even a short scene — in the 1972 TV movie, this roly-poly actor plays a used-car salesman decked out in cowboy duds who has firsthand information on what it's like to sell wheels to a vampire: "With them red eyes and that voice, he's enough to keep a guy from woikin' nights!" A shot from below of Hurley bleating into Kolchak's tape recorder is as close to art as it gets.
Adams did a few incredible things in his career — he was fat-faced millionaire Rusty Trawler in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and shady fight promoter Perelli in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), and played Latino in Lilies of the Field (1963) and an island native in half-hearted brownface on the last Gilligan's Island episode in 1967. Genre-wise, he was on a 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone and played Cyrano Jones on the iconic "The Trouble of Tribbles" (1967) episode of Star Trek, a series for which he also wrote a script.
Sadly, he took his own life in 1977.
Charles Aidman (1925-1993) as Capt. Leo Winwood: He played the very testy Capt. Leo Winwood on "The Zombie," bristling in his uniform as Kolchak uses a police presser to blurt out info about a victim's spine being snapped. "We hold these briefings as a courtesy," he seethes.
But my favorite line is his, "When you stop a bullet with that cabbage blossom you call a head, don't expect to ride in one of our ambulances."
With his excellent elocution, after years toiling in Hollywood, Aidman narrated two seasons of the rebooted The Twilight Zone (1985-1987). Those 30 episodes were his last work, outside of providing a voice on Garfield and Friends (1992). Among his close to 200 credits, he is often remembered for playing a sadistic commander on an episode of M*A*S*H (1977). His last movie was Innerspace (1987).
Richard Anderson (1926-2017) as Dr. Richard Malcolm: In movies from 1947 and on TV since 1950, Anderson was on the verge of being cast as Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978) and The Bionic Woman (1976-1978) when he played the key role of the 1973 TV movie's villain, the undying Jack the Ripper. He is pleasingly menacing when confronted by Kolchak, and also gets to undergo a hideous transformation once his youth elixir is nixed.
Claude Akins (1926-1994) as Sheriff Butcher: Good-guy actor Akins is very bad indeed in the Night Stalker TV movie, the aptly named fuzz who forces Kolchak outta town — and apart from his sweetheart. I probably don't have to tell you that Akins — who shockingly wasn't even 70 when he died — had a long career playing cops, western sheriffs and other authority figures, most famously Sheriff Lobo on B.J. and the Bear (1979-1981) and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo aka Lobo (1979-1981). He had worked with McGavin previously on McGavin's period-piece series Riverboat in 1960 and had worked with Barry Atwater (the TV movie's vampire) on the same episode of The Twilight Zone, 1960's iconic "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." Other highlights: Akins appeared in the classic films From Here to Eternity (1953), The Caine Mutiny (1954), Rio Bravo (1959) and Inherit the Wind (1960), and was Aldo the gorilla in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).
Frank Aletter (1926-2009) as Norman Kahill: He plays a taxi dispatcher who witnesses a beheading on the episode with the best, most appropriate title: "Chopper."
A true Broadway and especially TV veteran — he was a regular on the serial Hawkins Falls (1950-1955) and The Cara Williams Show (1964-1975) — he was once married to Miss America-turned-actress Lee Meriwether (b. 1935).
Maureen Arthur (b. 1934) as "woman speaker": She's got a bit part on "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be ..." as a loony speaker at a UFO convention, asserting she was fed something that was "not unlike ginger ale and bourbon," and she says this under the most amazing hat I can think of outside of the one Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) wears in The Mirror Crack'd (1980)! She also says an alien leader "got a little fresh with me," but in the face of her resistance "kept his extensions to himself." I have to wonder if Kate McKinnon (b. 1984) saw this episode!
Arthur is best known for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967). Still with us, she retired after 1994.
Barry Atwater (1918-1978) as vampire Janos Skorzeny: There was no better villain in the movies or the series than Barry Atwater's vampire, a hissing, animalistic creature whose "murder" earns Kolchak a banning from Las Vegas and loses him his girl in the ensuing police cover-up in the original Night Stalker TV movie. Other highlights: After appearing in a student film that went on to win an Oscar, Atwater was a rare actor who played a Vulcan on Star Trek (1969) and did time in The Twilight Zone (1960), The Outer Limits (1963) and the Night Gallery (1969 & 1973), as well as on The Alfred Hitchock Hour (1963 & 1965). He attended horror conventions before dying young of cancer.
Margaret Avery (b. 1944) as Ruth Van Galen: Playing a director of data storage on "The Sentry," Avery — later Oscar-nominated for playing Shug Avery in The Color Purple (1985) — is a portrait in patience.
Of all the people on this list, Avery is one of the few still active. She's on social media and as recently as 2019 was wrapping a 34-episode run on TV's Being Mary Jane.
Jim Backus (1913-1989) as Herb Bresson: Jack Grinnage's Rebel Without a Cause (1954) co-star Backus is effortlessly entertaining on "Chopper" as — of all things — a motorcycle dealer who really knows his stuff, but who can't seem to sell Kolchak on a bike.
Backus was nearly 30 years into his career when he showed up in this part, and was well-known as the voice of Mr. Magoo in the '60s and as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island (1964-1967), which by 1975 was already haunting him as something of an undead résumé credit. He reprised his role as Mr. Howell many times, and in fact it became his final performance, of sorts, when the rarely seen pilot episode of GI was aired in 1992 — several years after his death.
Richard Bakalyn (1931-2015) as a mob enforcer: The handsome Bakalyan got his start in teen-delinquent films (similar to Jack Grinnage) and was known for playing pocket-sized tough guys, sometimes with a comic vein. Later in his career, he showed up in Chinatown (1974).
In "The Trevi Collection," he turned in a typical shake-down role, threatening to rough up Kolchak.
Craig R. Baxley (b. 1949) as Robert Gurney: In "Primal Scream," we get our best look at Baxley, who was in four episodes as minor characters, usually because he was primarily a stunt man. Unfortunately, he gets shredded by some kind of Antarctica-borne primeval beast — but he looks good doing it.
Along with a long history of stunts and some acting credits, not to mention second-unit directing on films like Heaven Can Wait (1978) and Reds (1981) Baxley became a TV director
Fred Beir (1927-1980) as Ryder Bond: On "Firefall," Beir played a conductor with a fiery temperament whose image seems to appear at the scene of several hard-to-explain burning deaths of his associates.
With Broadway experience, he embarked on a dizzingly busy TV career that found him making so many guest appearances that he had over 100 credits by the time he died — and he was only 52 when he succumbed to cancer.
Ramon Bieri (1929-2001) as Capt. Joe Baker: On the "Bad Medicine" and "Legacy of Terror" episodes, he played Capt. Joe Baker, an appropriately highstrung, authoritarian foil for Kolchak.
He specialized in blue-collar blowhard types, including as the star of his own series, Joe's World (1979-1980) and as Elijah Crow on Bret Maverick (1981-1982). He was also Uncle Ben in the 1975 Broadway production of Death of a Salesman.
Val Bisoglio (1926-2021) as Victor Friese: His part on "The Zombie" is tiny — that of a mob henchman — but it is nice seeing him on it anyway, even if he gets crushed by the titular character. You known him as Danny on Quincy M.E. (1976-1983) and as the down-and-out dad in Saturday Night Fever (1977).
Sorrell Booke (1930-1994) as Mr. Eddy: Boss Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985), he was an effete taxidermist on "Legacy of Terror," even affecting a transatlantic accent. His accent is worth noting — Booke was actually a prolific voice actor, and spoke five languages, a skill that served him well in the armed services during the Korean War.
Tom Bosley (1927-2010) as Jack Flaherty: Oh, Howard! Bosley, a veteran of over 150 TV series and movies, played a supercilious director of operations on "The Sentry." It's a pretty run-of-the-mill role ("Precious metals do command a great deal of respect these days"), not as much fun as his indelible performance on the Steven Spielberg (b. 1946) episode of Night Gallery (1969) or — of course! — his decade-long turn as ol' softie Howard Cunningham on Happy Days (1974-1984).
Scott Brady (1924-1985) as Capt. Roscoe Schubert: The ruggedly handsome Brady was alternately a copper and a heavy in his movie career, which included playing a detective in He Walked by Night (1948) and the Dancin' Kid in Johnny Guitar (1954).
By 1973, when he played a pugnacious cop in The Night Strangler, he was bursting at the seams and weathered for 49, playing the hell out of his rageaholic character. Love when he uses the word "vituperation" and gets self-conscious about it under scrutiny by Kolchak.
Brady went on to appear on numerous other shows, and in the high-end movies The China Syndrome (1979) and Gremlins (1985) — he was Sheriff Frank in that — before dying at just 60 of a respiratory ailment.
Eric Braeden (b. 1941) as Bernhardt Steiglitz: Surely you recognize the German-born Braeden as Victor Newman, a role he's played on The Young and the Restless steadily since 1980.
It's hard to believe he had time for anything else, but his career was launched some 20 years before, and includes many TV appearances, including 58 episodes of The Rat Patrol (1966-1968) as Capt. Hans Dietrich. He did make time to appear in one of the biggest movies of all time, Titanic (1997), as John Jacob Astor IV.
On The Night Stalker, sans his signature stache, Braeden played the titular star of "The Werewolf." His werewolf is a moody bastard who fairly telegraphs his proclivities, which include murdering swingin' singles on cruise ships by tossing them over railings and devouring whole families in the countryside.
Reb Brown (b. 1948) as a young guy seeking a mate: On "The Youth Killer," Reb — later the star of Yor: The Hunter from the Future (1983) and Space Mutiny (1988) — played a nameless young stud looking to find a suitable mate via Max Match. His line was as immortal as Helen of Troy: "I'll take any chick who's on a macrobiotic diet whose into tantric yoga."
Kathie Browne (1930-2003) as Lt. Irene Lamont: Browne appeared on the final episode, "The Sentry." She was lovely Lt. Lamont, a Chicago P.D. "fast riser" whose success was apparently chalked up to her "looks and her alluring femininity." When a member of the press asks Lt. Lamont why she's holding details back, she coos, "'Lieutenant'? Why so formal?" She has them all eating out of the palm of her hand.
Kolchak is having none of it, but does soon after laundry-list all her comely attributes, waving toward her breasts and referring to his approval of "all of that."
If they had boss chemistry, it was because Browne had been McGavin's wife since 1969. She retired only five years after her dynamic performance on this episode.
Frank Campanella (1919-2006) as Ted Chapman: On the series-finale episode "The Sentry," Campanella's foreman badgers a character played by Tom Bosley over all the industrial "accidents" happening to him and his workers. "Wait'll you hear our package of demands! he barks.
Campanella — yes, the brother of Joseph Campanella (1924-2018) — specialized in playing mobsters and other toughs, so much so he was the dialogue coach for Robert De Niro (b. 1943) on The Godfather: Part II (1974). He was in everything. Probably his most widely viewed projects were Overboard (1987) and Pretty Woman (1990).
Philip Carey (1925-2009) as Sgt. Mayer: He plays a sergeant investigating the burning deaths of several people when Kolchak threatens to muck things up on "Firefall."
A western actor, he found fame as Asa Buchanan on One Life to Live (1980-2008), but not before playing an old pal of Archie's on All in the Family (1971) — an old pal who turns out to be gay.
John Carradine (1906-1988) as Llewellyn Crossbinder: Playing his newspaper's publisher who thinks, in relation to Kolchak, "It is to be regretted ... that leg irons and mouth blocks were outlawed some years back," he pops up in the '73 movie to verbally spank Kolchak. In spite of his distinguished — or at least prolific — career, Carradine is little more than a throwaway authority figure, albeit one whose ultimate decision spikes Kolchak's scoop. His children include David (1936-2009), Keith (b. 1949) and Robert (b. 1954) Carradine, and his grandchildren include Martha Plimpton (b. 1970).
Suzanne Charny (b. 1944) as Catherine Rawlins: Kolchak did vampires right, and little-known actress Charny is terrifying as a vicious vamp in "The Vampire." Vampires are usually portrayed as reserved, cold, calculating. Charny's bloodsucker is feral, violent and hangry. When she murders a woman who happens to return home a bit too soon, it's one of the most graphic, if brief, deaths on TV of the period. You won't forget it.
Charny was better known as a dancer, and can be spotted in Sweet Charity (1969). She made her last TV appearance almost 40 years ago, and her last movie appearance in 1986.
Beatrice Colen (1948-1999) as Jane Plumm: "Jane Plumm is fat. She talks a lot about water retention, big bones, but I have to believe the six or eight meals a day with snacks in-between to keep up her strength has something to do with it." With that, Kolchak's voice-over intros Beatrice Colen's tabloid reporter who, in fact, is not fat. He takes her to a diner to get a piece of evidence out of her on the very first episode, "The Ripper," and she plops down and orders "a tongue sandwich, triple-decker, a side of fries, macaroni salad, a rootbeer float (two scoops) and a piece of pecan pie." In spite of the misogynistic framing, the character is quite knowledgable about the case, which involves women being dismembered. When Kolchak, in trade for her info, suggests she frame the story as involving cannibalism, she gushes, while downing a celery stick, "Cannibalism ... I love it!" (Sadly, she meets with men claiming to be the Ripper and gets it.)
Colen, the granddaughter of George S. Kaufman (1889-1961), is best remembered as Marsha the waitress on 22 episodes of Happy Days (1974-1978), and was also Etta Candy on 13 episodes of Wonder Woman (1976-1977).
Hans Conried (1917-1982) as Mendel Boggs: On "The Knightly Murders," Conried plays a fussy expert on medieval antiquities who is mercilessly bossed by a tacky interior decorator (Lieux Dressler). A soda company is transforming a collection into "a Camelot discotheque," much to his chagrin.
The distinguished actor did incredibly voice roles — Captain Hook in Peter Pan (1953) and Snidely Whiplash in the Dudley Do-Right cartoons. He was also Dr. Terwilliker in the legendary The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953).
Elisha Cook Jr. (1903-1995) as Mickey Crawford: Cook Jr. was famous for squirrely characters, never more so than as Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon (1941), of which he was eventually the last surviving cast member. As casino loser Mickey in The Night Stalker, the TV movie, he provides key info to Kolchak — he discovers the house where the vampire is, well, let's go with "living," which directly leads to Kolchak driving home a very important point to the undead mischief-maker.
Cook Jr. had many impressive credits; most pertinent to his delicious casting in the TV movie, other than The Maltese Falcon, he also appeared in The Big Sleep (1946), House on Haunted Hill (1959), as one of those old devils in Rosemary's Baby (1968) and in the fang-tastic Blacula (1972).
Jeanne Cooper (1928-2013) as Dr. Kline: She was a doc on "The Devil's Platform," and a no-nonsense one at that. "Are you a medical journalist?" she asks a nosy Kolchak, who ain't. "Then why should I bother wasting my time explaining something technically that you obviously wouldn't grasp?" Unlike some other soap veterans — Cooper was Katherine Chancellor Murphy on over 1,400 episodes of The Young and the Restless from 1976-2013, the year she died — Cooper had a long, long history in TV and movie dramas. Still, a role as a doctor was unusual for her — she was often in westerns — and she pulls it off with aplomb.
Her fascination with medicine might have powered her '80s heavy lift: insisting that her real-life face-lift be handled on Y&R, along with footage from the procedure.
Wally Cox (1924-1973) as Mr. Titus Berry: Cox died at 48 less than a month after the '73 airing of the TV movie, in which he appeared. Just 48, he looks old beyond his years in the film, but is effective as the keeper of The Daily Chronicle's morgue. "Research. That's where the joy lies," he announces as Kolchak appears to investigate a series of strangulation murders. Thanks to Berry, Kolchak is able to connect the murders to identical murders that had taken place every 21 years since the 1880s.
Following The Night Strangler, Cox, known as the star of Mister Peepers (1952-1955) and as a Hollywood Squares regular, only appeared on an episode of the short-lived Search before his untimely death. His ashes were in the possession of his best friend and probably lover Marlon Brando (1924-2004) for years, and their ashes were dispersed together when Brando died.
Cathy Lee Crosby (b. 1944) as Helen Surtees aka Helen of Troy: The first actress to play Wonder Woman (in the 1974 TV movie of the same name) followed up that honor by portraying a woman who runs a matchmaking service called Max Match. She maintains her eternal youth and beauty by sacrificing young people to ancient Greek gods on the episode entitled "The Youth Killer."
Scatman Crothers (1910-1986): The prolific actor appeared in the episode entitled "The Zombie," playing a Haitian man who sells lucky numbers — and he had to put on a Haitian accent while doing it.
You certainly know who Crothers is, I hope. I think his career speaks for itself. Of his most iconic role, in The Shining (1980), he later said the filming process of that terror classic was ... boring. So a Night Stalker episode about a little Haitian voodoo probably didn't faze him a bit.
Sondra Currie (b. 1947) as Vicky: Played one of Pepe's (Erik Estrada) slinky groupies — his executive assistant — on "Legacy of Terror" who are more like high priestesses.
You may know her as Zach Galifianakis's mommy in the Hangover (2009-2013) movies.
William Daniels (b. 1927) as Lt. Jack Matteo: Daniels made his Broadway debut in 1939, and yet is still with us in 2022. In fact, his Kolchak episode — "The Vampire," hmmm — features the largest number of still-living cast members, among them Daniels, Larry Storch, Noel De Souza, Selma Archerd and Kathleen Nolan (all elsewhere on this list). Not bad for nearly 50 years on.
Though he has 123 credits to his name on IMDb, Daniels is most easily IDed as the voice of K.I.T.T. on Knight Rider (1982-1986), as Dr. Mark Craig on St. Elsewhere (1982-1988) and as George Feeny on Boy Meets World (1993-2000) and Girl Meets World (2014-2017).
His "The Vampire" performance is quintessential William Daniels, a condescending authoritarian who knows his stuff, running one of the series' many contentious press conferences, this one about Satan worshipers (but really, about vampires).
Noel De Souza (b. 1925) as Chandra: His résumé is wildly diverse, including everything from Sex Kittens Go to College (1960) to Wedding Crashers (2005) and his so-far swan song, The Big Bang Theory (2015).
On "The Vampire," he played a dismissive acolyte to an Indian mystic, brushing off Kolchak and all his "earthly pressures."
John Dehner (1915-1992) as Capt. Vernon Rausch: "Think of greater Chicago — six million personalities pressed together in a configuration as complex and as dynamically rigorous as it is alienating. Six million sets of needs, wants and desires, cries in the night: 'Want me. I want you. Understand me. I am a person.' Disintegration of the family, unbridled vertical mobility, a pressure cooker of human disappointments ... " with this hysterically pretentious speech, Dehner, as legendary police Capt. Vernon Rausch, utterly deadpan, steals "The Knightly Murders." Even funnier, Kolchak tapes it, and makes him start over when he fears he has missed part of it.
When asked what killed two men thought to have been murdered by swords, Capt. Rausch replies, in all seriousness, "Society."
Dehner was a Disney animator (he worked on 1940's Fantasia and 1942's Bambi!) and then a DJ before becoming an actor, making even better use of his deep baritone.
Appearing in many westerns on TV and at the movies, Dehner died with nearly 300 credits. Just a few highlights: he was Paladin on the radio version of Have Gun — Will Travel and in the films Scaramouche (1952), The Fastest Gun Alive (1957), The Left Handed Gun (1958), The Boys from Brazil (1978), Jagged Edge (1985) and Creator (1985). On TV, he was Cyril on The Doris Day Show (1971-1973).
Jeff Donnell (1921-1988) as Maura: She plays one half of a team that sells people fake coats of arms on "The Knightly Murders," urging Kolchak to spring for a $60 variety.
Jeff — she took her name from the strip Mutt and Jeff — was a lesser movie star of the '40s, appearing in films like My Sister Eileen (1942) and Nine Girls (1944), but was probably more high-profile later on, as Gidget's mom on Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and as Mrs. Bennett on Julia (1968-1971).
Robert DoQui (1934-2008) as a cop: DoQui played a confused copper on "The Devil's Platform," one who was certain he pumped a vicious dog full of lead — and yet watched it stroll away, unbothered. Little did he know, the dog in question was a shape-shifting demonic entity seeking to silence the woman the cop was trying to save. "The dog seemed to like the fire power," he tells Kolchak.
DoQui is likely a familiar face to you — he was in all three RoboCop flicks (1987-1993) and was favored by Robert Altman (1925-2006), showing up in his Nashville (1975), Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976) and Short Cuts (1993).
DoQui appeared on Picket Fences (1993) with his Night Stalker co-star Tom Skerritt.
David Doyle (1929-1997) as Mr. Cardinale: Doyle is forever known as Bosley on Charlie's Angels (1976-1981). On "Firefall," he played a product tester who gives Kolchak good info on why a series of people keep burning to death. In his opinion, it could be military-grade "super-hotfoot juice."
Tom Drake (1918-1982) as Don Kibbey: A '40s actor who was Judy's "boy next door" in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), he played a structural engineer on "The Energy Eater."
Interestingly, Drake's co-star on "The Energy Eater," William Smith, had appeared in an uncredited role as a child in Meet Me in St. Louis.
Lieux Dressler (b. 1930) as Minerva Musso: She had one of the best character names, and her character — "an interior decorator of ill repute" — was quite a character on "The Knightly Murders." When informed her attempts to decorate involves mixing centuries, she snaps, "You're telling me about continuity? Me? ... Provençal-schmovençal — that thing is blue, that thing is black. I will not tolerate a black-and-blue cocktail lounge, until someone has decided to rename the Camelot Bar the Bruise Room!" Delicious.
When Kolchak walks into her bedroom — Dressler is done up like latter-day Peggy Lee (1920-2002) — and asks him, "Robbery, or rape?" She then goes on to claim she's being considered for the job of decorating David Bowie's (1947-2016) house. She deserved an Emmy nomination for this performance.
A singer who dabbled in acting, she played a madame at a brothel in Truck Stop Women (1974) and also appeared in the outrageously entertaining Kingdom of the Spiders (1977).
Robert Emhardt (1914-1994): Almost always cast as a corrupt politician or otherwise a heavy, Emhardt was an Actors Studio original with many distinguished roles under his belt, including the Broadway production of The Seven Year Itch (1952).
On "The Knightly Murders," he got a play a kindly man who runs a rather niche business, selling people phone coats of arms with his wife (Jeff Donnell).
Erik Estrada (b. 1949) as Pepe Torres: Pink-suited Pepe on "Legacy of Terror" has to be the best character Estrada ever played. A VP at a fancy hotel, he's a major peacock. Well, or "a great, big red-and-yella chicken!"
Attached to sitting around playing his flute while his "staff" of lovelies cater to him, he has a great line when Kolchak is first obliquely interrogating him about a series of ritualistic murders: "Friend — you're bending my mind off my music," delivered with post-hippie derision.
Turns out Pepe has cut a killer deal — literally. He gets a year of nothing but excess, as long as he allows his heart to be wrenched from his chest at the end of it as part of an elaborate Aztec ritual. He spends half the episode shirtless, which is always nice.
Antonio Fargas (b. 1946) as Sweetstick Weldon: Surely Fargas, who at the time he appeared on Kolchak was two years away from playing trans tough girl Lindy in Car Wash (1976) and one year away from playing loveable Huggy Bear on Starsky and Hutch (1975-1979), walked away with the ultimate character name on "The Zombie" ... Sweetstick Weldon! Described as "the duke of the South Side numbers fiefdom and all-around civic headache," Weldon is a colorful character on an episode with many Black actors playing three-dimensional roles. Yes, the plot is about Haitian voodoo, but still, the actors have more to do than simply be Black, and that's progress for the early to mid-'70s. In fact, his character is presented as an equal with Joe Sirola's Italian mobster.
Jamie Farr (b. 1934) as Jack Burton: Who doesn't love Jamie Farr? He's been on everything, including kicking ass on Battle of the Network Stars (1977, 1979 & 1980), and proudly wore a dress on M*A*S*H (1972-1983) as Klinger for more than 200 episodes.
On The Night Stalker, he was a stodgy professor on "Primal Scream" who wants to read his travel brochures instead of talking with Kolchak about a rash of murders committed by "large apes" (or is it something else?.
Sharon Farrell (b. 1940) as Lila Morton: Underrated drama queen Farrell, unforgettable as a baby doll in the "Final Performance" episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1965) during her cheesecake period and as the hapless mom in It's Alive (1974) has a scenery-chewing part as an overripe motorcycle moll with a deadly secret on the "Chopper" episode. The character has the world's worst poker face while discussing why her husband might've been killed by a headless man on a motorcycle. Watching her dissolve into tears and then shut them off when the coast is clear is a hoot.
Fritz Feld (1900-1993) as a waiter (what else?): Feld was well-known for his dismissive, pencil-mustachioed waiters, and in fact created the gesture of smacking his "O"-shaped lips to create a punctuative popping sound. His maitre d' persons was so famous he recreated it for History of the World: Part I (1981) as a funny anachronism.
Having worked since the Silent Era, he appeared in Hello, Dolly! (1969), played himself in the legendarily nutty The Phynx (1970), showed up in a slew of late-career Disney flicks like Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) and played a surprisingly dramatic part in Barfly (1987).
John Fiedler (1928-2005) as Gordon "Gordy" Spangler: As one of Kolchak's morgue contacts, veteran character actor Fiedler is a riot. In one scene, the creepy li'l attendant lifts a sheet to reveal a grisly corpse (so we assume), and as Kolchak gazes upon it, Fielder quips, "You mind if I lower the sheet? My arms are getting tired." He was on "The Zombie," "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be" and "The Youth Killer."
Definitely one of those people you see and immediately know from everywhere, the nervous nellie's greatest claims to fame were as Juror 2 in Twelve Angry Men (1957), as the voice of Piglet for decades and as ladykiller Eddie on an episode of The Golden Girls (1989).
Shug Fisher (1907-1984) as Pop Stenvold: As one of Kolchak's tipsters on "The Knightly Murders," he was a junk dealer who tells the detective what he needs to know about a mysterious crossbow, but only in exchange for being allowed to dictate his memoirs into Carl's trusty tape recorder.
Famous for his roles in B westerns, Fisher was the go-to guy for funny faces and stuttering deliveries. He also did a lot of cowboy-style singing, including the theme song for The Searchers (1956).
Nina Foch (1924-2008) as Madame Trevi: "Welcome to the Trevi salon!" Foch says, playing a fashion maven. "And welcome to the mid-point year of the 1970s, when fashion will once again become just that: FASHION!" She also feels liberated women aren't afraid to be feminine. "No camp, no kitsch, no ... cartoon T-shirts."
An accomplished dramatic actress, she was at home in films noir and horror and on Broadway, earning an Oscar nomination for Executive Suite (1954). Other films of note: An American in Paris (1951), The Ten Commandments (1956), Spartacus (1960) and high-profile TV gigs like a thankfully murdered harridan on Columbo (1968) — the first murder we saw him solve!
She was also one of the most acclaimed acting instructors of all time, coaching everyone, including ... Julie Andrews (b. 1935).
Douglas Fowley (1911-1998) as a super: Fowley reps the kind of actor who made me wanna write this, a familiar face — he was director Roscoe Dexter in the classic Singin' in the Rain (1952) — relegated to a bit part as a tight-lipped super on "The Trevi Collection." He was also Doc Holliday for 68 episodes of TV's The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955-1961) and ended his film career after appearing in the hilarious North Avenue Irregulars (1979). When he died at 86, he'd been married eight times.
But in "The Trevi Collection," he was a super who was super scared that one of his tenants was fricasseed in one of his "first-class" showers.
Ivor Francis (1918-1986) as Dr. Webb: In the '73 TV movie, Francis played the matter-of-fact county medical examiner who conducts a presser with the authority of Dr. Fauci with Kolchak peppering him with questions.
Francis was a radio performer on things like Fibber McGee and Molly in the '40s and later ran the Ivor Francis Actors Workshop in Hollywood with star pupils like Ben Murphy (b. 1942). Interestingly, he was the father of soap star Genie Francis (b. 1962).
Steve Franken (1932-2012) as Neil: I guess John Fiedler was busy that day, because Franken played a gossipy morgue attendant on "Chopper," one who bitchily refers to a murdered man's oily hair as missing only croutons. His character is also obviously gay, flirting with Kolchak by saying, "Try a wet-razor cut with a blow dry, and a good shampoo with nucleic acids, maybe celery concentrate. I'll do it for you myself!"
The baby-faced comic actor was known for a soused waiter in The Party (1968) and for his many TV roles, especially as Chatsworth Osborne Jr. on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1960-1963).
Kathleen Freeman (1919-2011) as Bella Sarkof: The beyond-prolific character actress appeared on "The Youth Killer" as an old-fashioned Jewish yenta, the exact opposite of the episode's robotic, youthful Max Match founder played by Cathy Lee Crosby. Bella Sarkof's work ethic is such that, "Oh, when I get hold of one like him, I sink my teeth in and I don't like go until rings are exchanged!" I love when she is vetting Kolchak, thinking he is a client, and asks, "Is there something you wanted to tell me? Something you're ashamed of?" and his response is, "I'm a newspaper reporter." "Oh, well, that's not so bad — I'll find you a girl anyway."
You know Freeman as the elocution expert in Singin' in the Rain (1962) and Sister Mary Stigmata in The Blues Brothers (1980) — or from one of her countless TV appearances. They don't make 'em like her anymore.
Dick Gautier (1931-2017) as Mel Tarter: Played a loud-mouthed himbo passenger on a swinging singles cruise that was infested by the titular character in "The Werewolf." He says the passengers are "40% dee-vorced, 50% dee-ceased and 10% dee-lightful!"
In real life, Gautier was a hoot, a flirty, larger-than-life persona with an anything-that-moves air. Tony-nominated for Bye, Bye Birdie (1960), he was on a variety of TV shows and in films, but was probably most known as Hymie the robot on Get Smart (1966-1968). A stand-up comic, songwriter, singer and a real threat on game shows, Gautier was the life of the party. I think it is fitting his final performance was on Nip/Tuck (2010), a series that captured his twisted sense of humor.
Alice Ghostley (1923-2007) as Dr. Agnes Temple: The inimitable Ghostley was busy as a bee in the '70s, but usually played frazzled, daffy types, as she had when embodying Esmeralda on Bewitched (16 episodes, 1966-1972), and as she would again as Bernice on Designing Women (48 episodes, 1986-1993).
That wasn't the case on the "Bad Medicine" episode of Kolchak, on which she played against type as a fairly no-nonsense doctor at the Evanston Cultural Arts Center who specializes in Native American lore. Nonetheless, upon hearing Kolchak is tracking a man and a coyote, she quips, "A boy and his dog — oh, I love that kind of story."
Elaine Giftos (b. January 24, 1945) as Nurse Janis Eisen: She played a nurse with no shame in dismissing a series of mysterious deaths with the statement, "Well, of course people are dying — this is a hospital!" on "The Energy Eater." She comes around, though, sensing that people dying with only a tar-like substance left in their bodies might be an issue.
Giftos was a familiar face in the '70s and '80s, including as a series regular on The Interns (1970-1971) and on TV shows and in movies both major and minor. Formerly a ballerina mentored by George Balanchine (1904-1983), she had retired from acting by 2001.
Ned Glass (1906-1984) as an apartment superintendent: The venerable character actor caught Kolchak snooping around in "The Spanish Moss Murders," declaring in Brooklynese that the scene of a crime is a hot spot for kids into "neckin', smokin' cocaine." He also showed up on the "Horror in the Heights" episode.
A vaudeville and Broadway supporting player, Glass was a victim of the Blacklist who bounced back on TV, garnering Emmy nominations for appearances on Julia (1968) and Bridget Loves Bernie (1972). On the big screen, he was Doc in West Side Story (1961) and was also in Charade (1963) and The Fortune Cookie (1966).
Barry Gordon (b. 1948) as Barry: Talk about a diverse résumé! Barry Gordon sang "Nuttin' for Christmas" (1955), was Tony-nominated for A Thousand Clowns (1963) and was the president of SAG. As a TV actor, he was known for playing sweet nerds, but his timid voice won him the very cool voice role of Donatello of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987 on).
On Kolchak's "Horror in the Heights" episode, he played a gossipy waiter at an out-of-place Indian restaurant.
Sandra Gould (1916-1999) as a landlady: Not long after her run as Mrs. Kravitz on Betwitched (1966-1971), there's Gould in "Primal Scream" as another busybody, a bewigged landlady who is nagging her husband about not having used synthetics in the draperies of their building when Kolchak arrives to ask her about the murder of a photographer (Craig R. Baxley). Apropos of nothing, she announces that her husband, Mort (Charles Fogel 1886-1980), had been taking his sitz bath when a gorilla-like creature broke in and rended the photographer to bits.
Though she thinks the killer was a man and not a "gorilla," when pressed, she says of the cops, who think it's a gorilla, "They should know — they are the police," she tells Kolchak, establishing herself as the anti-Kolchak.
Along with her unforgettable Mrs. Kravitz, she was perfect on a 1951 episode of I Love Lucy, she gamely appeared in the 1977 c*nt classic Chatterbox! (I would pay to hear the conversation when she was pitched on that project) and she ended her career with a small part on Boy Meets World (1999).
Julie Gregg (1937-2016) as Susan Driscoll: On "The Devil's Platform," she played the in-over-her-head ex-lover of an aspiring state senator (Tom Skerritt) who just happens to have a devilish amount of support. Her attempt to blackmail him really goes to the dogs.
Gregg was Sandra Corleone in The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974), reprising the role for the miniseries The Godfather Saga (1977). Prior to that, she was Tony-nominated for the musical The Happy Time (1968) — her only Broadway performance.
Virginia Gregg (1916-1986) as Dr. Hollenbeck: Gregg played a botanist on "The Spanish Moss Murders."
A busy radio and TV actress with countless credits, her most famous were as the voice of Mrs. Bates in Psycho (1960) and its 1983 sequel. She said of her career, "I work steadily, but I have no identity. When casting people have a call for a woman who looks like the wrath of God, I'm notified."
James Gregory (1911-2002) as Capt. Quill: He played taciturn Capt. Quill on "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be ...," a guy who decides to use some of his stockpiled vacation days after witnessing two tons of lead ingots vanish before his very eyes.
A longtime stage and screen presence, Gregory debuted on Broadway in Key Largo in 1936, served in WWII, and became a staple of early live TV. Among his most memorable gigs, he was on The Twilight Zone's pilot episode (1959), appeared in three Matt Helm flicks (1966 & 1967) and became a Nielsen-family household name as Inspector Luger on Barney Miller (1975-1982). After his signature series wrapped, he did one voice role, appeared in one TV movie and retired after a stint on Mr. Belvedere in 1986.
James Griffith (1916-1993) as James M. Schwartz: Played a dog trainer in the "Bad Medicine" episode who indignantly informs Kolchak that the "dog" tracks he's shown him really belong to a coyote. This led Kolchak to observe, "If a man dresses up like an Indian to raid the gem exchange, I say he's strange. But if he also brings his coyote along, then I say he's an Indian."
All over the movies and TV as a villain, Griffith appeared in movies like Alaska Patrol (1949), Indian Patrol (1950) and Masterson of Kansas (1954). He was also a screenwriter, mostly famously as a co-writer on Shalako (1968), starring Sean Connery (1930-2020) and Brigitte Bardot (b. 1934).
Margaret Hamilton (1902-1985) as Prof. Crabwell: In a hilarious turn for the '73 TV movie, the most famous witch in the movies — she was, of course, the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939) — Hamilton played persnickety Prof. Crabwell, an expert on "every crazy subject in the world." Asked if a man might retain his vitality over 100 years old, she states, "If it were possible, I'd be sitting here an 80-year-old sexpot." She was merely 70.
Pat Harrington Jr. (1929-2016) as Thomas Kitzmiller: Harrington played against type as a nattily dressed, smooth-talking corporate publicist on "Primal Scream" who can't quite hide the fact that a recent oil-drilling expedition unearthed something inhuman.
At the time the episode aired, he was months away from debuting his iconic Schneider character on what became a nine-year run on One Day at a Time (1975-1984). With over 150 credits to his name, beginning when he was a youngster in 1948, he made his last-on-screen appearance on Hot in Cleveland (2012) and later attended autograph shows, dying after a short battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Bob Hastings (1925-2014) as Hallem: As a first mate on a cruise ship threatened by a werewolf on "The Werewolf," Hastings is wasted. He was a true veteran, having gotten his start on the radio on Archie Andrews, hitting TV with Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949). He had more recognition from The Phil Silvers Show (1955) and to comic-book geeks was known as Commissioner Gordon on Batman: The Animated Series (1992), Superman: The Animated Series (1996), The New Batman Adventures (1997) and Static Shock (2000).
It's hard to pin him down as one character, but if that's the goal, I'd go with Kelsey on All in the Family (1971-1976).
Dwayne Hickman (1934-2022) as Sgt. Orkin: Hickman was a long way from his teenybopper days as the star of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963) when he popped up on "The Youth Killer." He was about to seriously dial back his TV guest spots in favor of directing, producing and working as a CBS programming director. As Orkin, he was a nice cop who at first likes Kolchak, but then realizes the journalist is just a "pinwheel."
John Hoyt (1905-1991) as Dr. Beckwith: He played a coroner doing an autopsy on a victim who seems to have been bitten to death by an animal.
The esteemed actor's career stretched back to the '30s. He was in such films as The Conqueror (1956) and Spartacus (1960), was on both Star Trek (1966) and Battlestar Galactica (1978) and gained a whole new level of recognition as Grandpa Stanley Kanisky on Gimme a Break! (1982-1987).
Lois January (1912-2006) as Rhonda June Markay aka Adele Sapperstein: Playing a member of "Chicago's upper crust" who made her fortune as a bra-ntrepreneur, January appeared in the "Bad Medicine" episode sporting some of her character's giant diamonds. She was the first society lady killed by the not-so-mythical Native American Diablero (Richard Kiel). When Kiel grabbed her, I'm telling you, she looked grabbed.
January had appeared in numerous films in the '30s — that was her doing Dorothy's (Judy Garland, 1924-1969) nails in the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz (1939)! — and made B westerns, appeared on the stage and hosted a radio show. Kolchak was one of several late-career TV gigs before her retirement in 1987.
Joyce Jillson (1945-2004) as Diana Lanier: On the episode entitled "The Energy Eater," she played a perky neighbor to sexy medicine man/construction dude William Smith, one who has a problem with her muffins getting stuck in her toaster. Miffed, she decides to eat oatmeal instead.
Initially a bubbly movie and TV actress known for Peyton Place (1968), she became a mega-successful astrologer with a syndicated column in the '80s ... one who claimed to be advising the Reagans! (The Reagans, not too convincingly, denied they used her.) In fact, she claimed she advised campaign aides to select George H.W. Bush (1924-2018) as Reagan's (1911-2004) running mate. Oddly, for an astrologist, she was born a Capricorn but identified as a Libra. She died very young — age 58 — of kidney failure.
Carolyn Jones (1930-1983) as the registrar: Playing a pencil pusher at a college, Jones made the most of a slight role as a businesslike bureaucrat on "Demon in Lace."
She was, of course, iconic from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and as Morticia on The Addams Family (1964-1966), played the Queen of Diamonds on Batman (1966-1967) and was Queen Hippolyta on Wonder Woman (1976-1977). She ended her career, by which time she was dying of cancer, as Myrna Clegg on the soap Capitol (1982-1983).
Henry Jones (1912-1999) as Capt. Julian Wells: On "The Werewolf," Jones — who you undoubtedly recognize as Judge Jonathan Dexter on all 48 episodes of Phyllis (1975-1977) — was mostly a no-nonsense captain of an ocean liner. Kolchak pretends to be the captain's son, and it doesn't go well, not even when "some animal thing" rips the crew from limb to limb.
With over 200 credits to his name. I think Jones's best work that I've seen is as the cretinous handyman in The Bad Seed (1956), which he reprised from the Broadway smash of the same name. (He was a staple on Broadway, and a Tony winner to boot.) In that role, he is a creepy menace to the little murderess, who is herself no prize. Movie classic! Speaking of which, he was also the unforgettable coroner in Vertigo (1958).
Other roles in such movies as: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), 3:10 Yuma (1957), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Grifters (1990) and Dick Tracy (1990).
Victor Jory (1902-1982) as Chief Rolling Thunder: Playing a Native American on the "Bad Medicine" episode, Jory, famous for his burly physique and menacing glare, explains to Kolchak exactly what a Diablero spirit is. It is preposterous seeing him gussied up as something he is not, but Jory's work here is a departure from his villainous résumé, which included playing field overseer Jonas Wilkerson in Gone with the Wind (1939).
Milt Kamen (1921-1977) as Gingrich: The longtime stand-up veteran (he discovered Woody Allen, b. 1935) palled around with Groucho Marx (1890-1977), Sid Caesar (1922-2014) and Mel Brooks (b. 1926), and was known for his shtick of "spontaneous film reviews." He was funny as hell on a episode of the game show Tattletales (1975) less than two years before his sudden death from a heart attack at 55.
On "The Vampire," he played the manager ... and the painter ... and the plumber ... of an apartment building who helps Kolchak by gossiping about a lady tenant who goes missing. He thinks she is an entertainer ("my wife overheard her talking about doing some stunts") but doesn't seem to understand she was really a lady of the evening. Not stunts, tricks.
Marvin Kaplan (1927-2016) as Albert Delgado: Playing a reformed "cutter of stolen gems" who was "more recently a graduate of the Joliet State College of Barbering, where he had studied for seven years," Kaplan was a hoot as Delgado on the "Bad Medicine" episode. While offering Kolchak some gossip about the jewels being stolen in the wake of a series of society lady deaths, Kaplan's Delgado turns Kolchak on to the idea that whoever is stealing gems is a collector, not someone looking to chop them up for resale.
Kaplan had worked in Hollywood since the late '40s, playing Alfred Prinzmetal on Meet Millie (1952-1955), appearing in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1962) and playing Henry on over 80 episodes of Alice (1978-1985).
Richard Kiel (1939-2014) as the Diablero: At over 7' tall, Kiel's opportunities in Hollywood were limited. However, he was often the go-to for roles of his type. For the "Bad Medicine" episode, he played a Native American supernatural entity called a Diablero with brownface and a wig. Cultural sensitivities aside, his gigantic hands were put to good use murdering society matrons.
He actually appeared again, this time in "The Spanish Moss Murders" as the monster, but was completely unseen under the costume.
His most famous roles were as a Kanamit on the 1962 "To Serve Mankind" episode of The Twilight Zone, Voltaire on The Wild Wild West (1965-1966), Eddie in the comedy So Fine (1981) and — of course — as Jaws, I believe the only villain to appear in two Bond flicks, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). His autobiography was called Making It BIG in the Movies (2002).
Bernie Kopell (b. 1933) as Doctor Gravanites: On "The Trevi Collection," TV veteran Kopell, who has always seemed to be about the same age, plays the concerned doctor of an ailing fashionista (Nina Foch). Asked if he believes in voodoo, Kopell admits, "It couldn't hoit."
Kopell is that rare character actor with more than one iconic TV role — he was Siegfried on Get Smart (1966-1969) and randy Doc on The Love Boat (1977-1987).
Phil Leeds (1916-1998) as Howard Gough: On "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be ...," Leeds plays a funny little man who is part of a UFO group who informs Kolchak about an "OPUS" — one-party unverified sightings.
You may not know his name, but you know Leeds's bulging eyes and big schnozz. This stand-up opened for the likes of Barbra Streisand (b. 1942) and made in impression as Dr. Shand in Rosemary's Baby (1968), among over 100 other credits, often on sitcoms.
Len Lesser (1922-2011) as Crowley: It's always fun to spot Seinfeld's Uncle Leo in a bit part! In "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be ...," he plays a copper who watches two tons of lead ingots vanish as Kolchak snaps photos on his crappy camera. Prior to The Night Stalker, he never had any recurring roles, but also never stopped working. Post-Seinfeld (1991-1998), he recurred on Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2004), making his final appearance on a 2009 episode of Castle.
Al Lewis (1923-2006) as a tramp: The TV veteran best known as Grandpa Munster on The Munsters (1964-1966) had a colorful bit part as a tramp or hobo or whatever we call those guys today in the 1973 TV movie. His character loved in the remnants of Old Seattle under the streets, where he complained of arthritis, a bad stomach, corns, a charley horse, varicose veins and a migraine on his way to scoring $5 ("I could live three months on that!") just for promising to tell Kolchak if he sees anything unusual.
David Lewis (1916-2000) as Mr. Beloit: He was a stuffy auctioneer on the "Bad Medicine" episode, presiding over "the largest gem transaction in Chicago history." TV veteran who wound up best known for his last role, as Edward Quartermaine on 128 episodes of General Hospital (1979-1993).
Larry Linville (1939-2000) as Dr. Robert Makurji: One of the few authorities not willing to dismiss Kolchak out of hand in the telemovie The Night Stalker is Linville's coroner, who can't bring himself to say the possibility that the Vegas serial killer could be drinking women's blood is dead-wrong. Linville returned for the episode "Chopper," about a headless motorcycle rider who wants some company. Linville, only a few years into his career when the TV movie was shot, is of course unforgettable as icky Frank Burns on M*A*S*H (1972-1977), a long-running gig that started the same year The Night Stalker aired.
Carol Lynley (1942-2019) as Gail Foster: Lynley, a well-known model, had already distinguished herself on TV and in films, including playing leads in big films like Harlow (1965) and good films like Blue Jean (1959) and the suitably mysterious Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), by the time she was playing Kolchak's 20-years-younger squeeze in the original TV movie. In the '70s, she was immersed in episodic TV, including appearing on an episode of the thematically similar Night Gallery (1972) two weeks after the splash she made with The Night Stalker. Later the same year, she would appear in her most famous role, as the (dubbed) singer Nonnie in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Big year to be blonde and scared! She worked through the '90s, eventually falling on hard times, but was anyone ever as icy-pretty as Carol Lynley in The Night Stalker?
John Marley (1907-1984) as Capt. Maurice Molnar: Craggy-faced character actor Marley was on "Primal Scream" as a police captain who doesn't want Kolchak to know what he already knows — that some kind of an ape man is on a rampage, killing researchers and others with connections to an arctic expedition.
Long a Broadway and dramatic-TV staple, Marley only became more successful as he aged, including appearing in Cat Ballou (1965), Faces (1968), Love Story (1970) and playing the guy who at first refused that offer in The Godfather (1972) ... and woke up next to a horse's head.
Charles McGraw (1914-1980) as Police Chief Edward Masterson: In the '72 TV movie, we are treated to a long stretch of McGraw's famous gravelly voice as his character, a police chief, dispassionately rattles off details of the (vampire) suspect. The longtime stage actor was immediately recognizable as one of the hitmen in the beginning of The Killers (1946). Often a movie heavy, he was also a good copper.
His other best-remembered work was as the trainer in Spartacus (1960) — yes, lots of people who appeared on Stalker worked for Kubrick (1928-1999) — and as the preacher in the sci-fi cult classic A Boy and His Dog (1975).
Ralph Meeker (1920-1988) as Bernie Jenks: As G-man Bernie Jenks, Meeker warns Kolchak not to nose around, for fear of being "86ed," in the 1972 TV movie. He's also there in the end, trying to get Kolchak to submit to the unfair deal — leave town, or be committed to an insane asylum for life. His plea of "Carl — there's nothing I can do" in the end seems sincere ... for a fed.
The actor was famous for Broadway (including Mister Roberts noncontinuously from '48-'51, stepping into A Streetcar Named Desire in '49 and Picnic in '53) but was best known as Mike Hammer, a role McGavin also played, in the noir masterpiece Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Another example of how the Night Stalker movies and the series loved hiring actors who'd cut their teeth on tough-guy roles, giving the proceedings more heft — and nostalgia.
Other career highlights: Paths of Glory (1957); The Dirty Dozen (1967); The Anderson Tapes (1971).
Art Metrano (1936-2021) as Henry "Studs" Spake: On "Chopper," he played a telephone repairman pursued by a headless motorcycle rider, one who wants to claim his head to add to a vindictive collection.
Metrano found his greatest fam as Mauser in Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985) and Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986). A TV staple, he was on Bewitched (1968-1970), Mod Squad (1968), Mannix (1969), Adam-12 (1969), Ironside (1969-1974), Nanny and the Professor (1970), Bonanza (1970), That Girl (1970), The Partridge Family (1971), Kojak (1973), Barney Miller (1975), Starsky and Hutch (1976), Charlie's Angels (1977), All in the Family (1978), Wonder Woman (1978), The Incredible Hulk (1978), Benson (1979-1980), Fantasy Island (1982-1983), Punky Brewster (1984), The A-Team (1985), The Golden Girls (1992) and many others.
Marvin Miller (1913-1985) as lecturer: He was perfectly cast as a lecturer on the episode entitled "The Trevi Collection," considering Miller was considered one of the premier narrators/announcers on the radio and also on TV. He was a Grammy winner for reading Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) stories, too.
His most famous gig was on TV's The Millionaire (1955-1960).
"If you believe witches exist, then they do exist!" he booms in "The Trevi Collection," advising Kolchak that witches can't be drowned and that they must be publicly accused of witchcraft — then burned.
Priscilla Morrill (1927-1994) as Griselda: You likely remember Ms. Morrill as Lou Grant's (Ed Asner, 1929-2021) wife — and then ex-wife — Edie on Mary Tyler Moore (1973-1975), and I hope you recall her memorable speech on a Golden Girls episode!
On "The Trevi Collection," she bumps into Kolchak at a speech about witchcraft. She hates the speaker (Marvin Miller), accusing him of fraud, but, "Big business and free speech is what this country's all about, right?"
Barbara Morrison (1907-1992) as Lucy LaPont Addison: In the "Bad Medicine" epsiode, this regal grande dame played an opera buff who "supplied the opera house." She "accumulated fortunes like she accumulated husbands" and was called "the Steel Butterfly," and Lucy LaPont Addison also had a will to live. When she arrived home to find her dog slain, seeing a damn coyote come out of nowhere barely phased her! She merely removed a hair pin and prepped for battle. Sadly, the Native American Diablero (Richard Kiel) didn't play fair, using supernatural powers of hypnosis. At least her funeral was "S.R.O."
Morrison had almost 100 TV and movie credits to her name, including appearing in From Here to Eternity (1953) and Papillon (1973).
Jan Murray (1916-2006) as Ichabod Grace: On "The Vampire," Murray played a skeevy pimp in a loud jacket who Kolchak notes "was about to make an investment ... more of a takeover than a merger" in a scene that finds him muscling into a seat at a gorgeous woman's table, not realizing she (Suzanne Charny) is a vampire. For this "entrepreneur," this is what we call a bat investment.
One of the most famous of all the Borscht Belt stand-ups, Murray graduated to hosting, and was noted for fast-talking ethnic humor. As such, he was an MVP at any celeb roast, though I personally love him for Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965), the sex-crime thriller starring Sal Mineo (1939-1976).
Kate Murtagh (1920-2017) as Janie Watkins: As one of Kolchak's snarky co-workers in the '73 movie, she got the honors of revealing to the reporter that his planned exposé on a 144-year-old killer had been spiked. She is best known as Libby the waitress on Supertramp's 1979 album Breakfast in America. She lived to be 96 years old.
Paulene Myers (1913-1996) as Marie Juliette "Mamalois" Edmonds: She makes "leetle medicines to cure leetle sicknesses" on "The Zombie" as Mamalois, a voodoo practitioner whose son sure gets around in spite of being recently killed. When Kolchak asks about how the body was disposed, she says he was burned. Where? "Do not be rude, sonnnnny!" she chirps.
Later, she casts a spell against Kolchak, chanting his name as she invokes it. It's all pretty over the top, as is her old-age makeup.
A Broadway and TV actress with much catchet in the Black community, Myers was on soaps and appeared in such prestige films as Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and The Sting (1973). I also remember her from a 1975 episode of The Jeffersons, on which she played a housekeeper named Diane.
Kellye Nakahara (1948-2020) as a lecture guest: It wasn't even a part — Kellye was merely seen in the crowd at a lecture about witchcraft on "The Trevi Collection." Roles for Asian-American women were few and far between, but she'd already begun her 170-episode run on M*A*S*H (1973-1983) as Lt. Kellye Yamato, and she was also much-loved as the Cook in Clue (1985).
Katheen Nolan (b. 1933) as Faye Kruger: In "The Vampire," Nolan makes a great match for Kolchak, a realtor who is a frustrated (and not great) journalist — and is therefore all the easier for him to manipulate into helping him for free. But they have a nice romantic chemistry, too, even if it's ignored.
On TV from the '50s until 2008, Nolan is best known as Kate McCoy on 185 episodes of The Real McCoys (1957-1962). From 1975-1979, she was SAG's first female prez, and she last appeared on-screen in the interesting film The Last Movie Star (2017), one of movie star Burt Reynolds's (1936-2018) last movies.
Maidie Norman (1911-1998) as a Miss Durrell: "He was just throwing things every which way!" With that, Norman kicked off a glorified cameo as a shaken librarian on the "Mr. R.I.N.G." episode. When asked if the human robot she saw tearing up her library was looking for anything, she unironically noted he was "in philosophy and humanities."
Likely one of the best-educated actors ever to appear on the series, Norman achieved a Master's degree from Columbia. She was held in high regard in Black theater circles, having founded the American Negro Theater West and worked on her craft in the Actors Lab. Rarely offered roles worthy of her skill, she was nonetheless memorable in Written on the Wind (1956) and, especially, as Elvira in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).
Cliff Norton (1918-2003) as Arnie Wisemore: "If God had wanted crocodiles to stand upright, he'd have given 'em alligator shoes! Come on, these are the jokes!" With that, Norton, helps smuggle Kolchak into the danger zone on the finale episode, "The Sentry."
A DJ and comic, Norton was closely affiliated with the appreciation of silent movies, hosting a syndicated series devoted to them in the '60s. He also popped up in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Harry and Tonto (1974) and on countless sitcoms. He began his TV career hosting his own series The Public Life of Cliff Norton (1950) and ended it guesting on Murphy Brown (1994). Not half bad.
Bryan O'Byrne (1931-2009) as Charles: He played the butler (who didn't do it) on "The Knightly Murders." When asked by Kolchak if anything was stolen during his boss's murder, he dryly declares, "No. This is the age of senseless violence."
He had something like 200 commercial credits, and was a sought-after acting teacher. Among his students: Forest Whitaker (b. 1961), Jimmy Smits (b. 1955), Lou Diamond Phillips (b. 1962), Pam Dawber (b. 1951), Christopher MacDonald (b. 1955) and Bonnie Bedelia (b. 1948).
J. Pat O'Malley (1904-1985) as a cemetery caretaker: The kindly Irish-English character actor lent his voice to several Disney classics, among them Alice in Wonderland (1951), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) and The Jungle Book (1967) ,and had over 200 credits on TV, such as on the three Spin and Marty series (1955-1957) and My Favorite Martian (1963-1964).
On "The Zombie," he appears as a frazzled cemetery caretaker who informs Kolchak the coppers are stacking bodies "like they would be in a highrise — to save money!"
Lara Parker (b. 1938) as Madelaine: Parker is so much fun as an ambitious, self-described "beautiful fashion model" so greedy for some PR she presents herself to Kolchak as a witness to a murder involving the theft of fashion designs on "The Trevi Collection." While pushing herself for a feature, she gushes to Kolchak that she has "a whole string of titles: Miss Teen Queen, State Baton-Twirling Champion, 4-H Club competition winner!" She raised a prize goat, yet casts aspersions on the models who date "rough types" as being "chic" but "kinky."
Parker was in her late 30s, but pulled off the part with, well, style.
She was somewhat typecast in the part (which starts out innocently), in that her character is actually a witch. One of her very first roles was as Catherine Collins on creepy Dark Shadows (1967-1971). She returned for a part in the 2012 film, too. On Kolchak, her hair turns blue when he attempts to drown her, leaving McGavin's hands covered in blue dye.
Milton Parsons (1904-1980) as Mozart: As a campus priest, Parsons had a small role on "Demon in Lace," at the end of which he narcoleptically falls asleep on Kolchak. It was a nice addition to his collection of morbid performances in movies and on TV.
Dick Patterson (1929-1999) as Stephan Wald: On "The Devil's Platform," Patterson played the ill-fated campaign manager of a diabolical candidate (Tom Skerritt) who murders him and some hapless bystanders via elevator crash. It's handled more believably than the one in Earthquake (1974)!
Patterson was a reliable Broadway performer who popped up on quite a few episodes of The Carol Burnett Show (1974-1976) and was in both Grease (1978) as Mr. Rudie and Grease 2 (1982) as Mr. Spears.
Albert Paulsen (1925-2004) as Dr. James Verhyden: Paulsen has a bombastic role as a scientist on "The Sentry," ranting and raving about paranoia. "Paranoid? Paranoid? Is that what you're trying to say? There are no paranoids in Soviet Union — do you know why? Because everybody there is being watched and plotted against. Only the insane man feels secure!"
Born in Ecuador, he was often used for villainous ethnic roles, including playing Eastern Europeans. He did so humorously as a high-strung Russian singer on an episode of The Odd Couple (1975).
Virginia Peters (1924-1998) as Wilma Krankheimer: Peters should get credit for playing one of TV's first explicitly IDed lesbians, the butch-as-hell Wilma, whose squeeze, Charisma (Nina Wayne), is a stripper in immediately danger of being strangled and having her blood drained by an immortal Ripper in the 1973 TV movie. Their gay relationship is not simply suggested — Kolchak dryly refers to Wilma as Charisma's "husband." Alas, Wilma is unable to protect Charisma in the end.
Peters was relegated to parts like "Hilda" on Laverne & Shirley (1977), "Angry Customer" on The Waltons (1981) and "Large Woman #2" on Highway to Heaven (1984). She did get to play a waitress in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). She died
Jo Ann Pflug (b. 1940) as Louise Harper: Pflug, now deeply religion and unlikely to be keen to reminisce about her dabbling in the occult waters of this milieu, was a love interest for Kolchak in the '73 TV movie. She played a student supplementing her income as an exotic dancer whose "hips could move as fast as her mouth." Louise takes a series of murders about as seriously as a televangelist takes COVID-19. When Kolchak asks if she is aware there is a murderer on the loose, she chirps, "Seattle is the Northwest's largest seaport! Men come and go with the tide! The murderer is probably in Yokohama by now!" One of Pflug's best parts, and she probably drew from her experience being married to Chuck Woolery (1972-1982) to play horror convincingly.
Andrew Prine (b. 1936) as Prof. C. Evan Spate: The handsome actor appeared on the "Demon in Lace" episode as a professor doing research on ancient hieroglyphics that are directly tied to the demon infesting young women's bodies in order to feast on young men. His belief in his archaeological talents and not in the walking dead did him no favors.
He came to prominence in The Miracle Worker (1962) and wound up appearing in many westerns and, later, horror films. I like to think of him as the man who married the same woman (actress Brenda Scott, b. 1943) three times. He was also the husband of actress Sharon Farrell (b. 1940) and posed naked in the mag Viva in the '70s, donating his fee to Save the Children.
Peggy Rea (1921-2011) as Helen O'Brien: This zaftig character actress appeared in the 1972 TV movie as a switchboard operator at the county courthouse who is bribed with ... a sampler of chocolates because, ha-ha, she's fat! Just one of many now-dated jokes at the expense of large-and-in-charge actresses on the series that give away its '70s sell-by date. When she resists the candy and "sadist" Kolchak tries to remove it, she replies, "Over my dead, plump body! Bribed again."
Rea had a long and colorful career on TV, including as one of the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League matrons (in her early 30s!) on I Love Lucy (1953) and playing Rose Burton on The Waltons (1978-1981, plus the 1993 Thanksgiving TV movie), Lulu Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985), Ivy Baker on Step by Step (1991-1992) and mother-in-law Jean Kelly on Grace Under Fire (1993-1998), her final work before her 2011 death.
Barbara Rhoades (b. 1946) as a secretary: The redheaded bombshell first acted on a 1967 Ironside episode, and made a splash in the Don Knotts (1924-2006) comedy The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968). She was on so, so many TV series, probably used most effectively on the short-lived (but talent-saturated) Busting Loose (1977), was Maggie on Soap (1980-1981) and dabbled in soaps in-between other gigs, her last job so far being as Irene Manning on One Life to Live in 2011.
Rhoades had a bit part as an over-it receptionist (to Pat Harrington's PR exec) on "Primal Scream" who remains unflappable even as Kolchak invades her personal-secretary space. When she informs him officiously that her boss, Mr. Kitzmiller, is "a vice president, you know," Kolchak snarks, "Some of our biggest headaches have come from vice presidents," a then-topical Spiro Agnew (1918-1996) zinger.
Madlyn Rhue (1935-2004) as Maria: Rhue was a hell of an actress, and unique to boot. On "Firefall," she played a "gypsy girl" who finds it hysterical that Kolchak thinks an envious doppelgänger might be after him. She thinks it's possible since her grandma once told her something like that, but notes, "Then again, she claimed that tight pants made someone sterile."
Her work included guest appearances on Have Gun - Will Travel (1958 & 1959), Cheyenne (1959), Perry Mason (1960), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1963) and played a secretary in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). She was a regular on Bracken's World (1969-1970) and Days of Our Lives (1982-1984), recurred on Fame (1982-1985) and finished her career recurring on Murder, She Wrote (1993-1996). She retired only when MS — which she'd fought since 1977 — made it impossible to work anymore.
Davis Roberts (1917-1993) as the coroner: On the "Demon in Lace" episode, Roberts was a no-nonsense coroner whose job was complicated by the mysterious deaths of young, healthy jocks.
Roberts did as well as possible on TV and in some films, considering the era was unkind to Black men. In 1967, he was a presenter at the first-ever NAACP Image Awards, and among his most recognizable jobs, he was in Westworld (1973), on What's Happening!! (1976) and played Dr. Ozaba on the Star Trek episode "The Empath" (1968).
Jay Robinson (1930-2013) as Prof. Eli Strig: So innately evil were Robinson's features and delivery that he was cast as Caligula in The Robe (1953). That and The Virgin Queen (1955) and similar roles made him a big deal as a character actor, but an arrest for methadone and ensuing prison time set him back to square one.
Over time, Robinson rebuilt his career. He was Julius Caesar on Bewitched (1964) and had fun movie roles in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Shampoo (1975) and Big Top Pee-wee (1988). I, of course, remember him as malevolent Dr. Shrinker on The Krofft Supershow (1976)!
On "Chopper," he is a total camp as the director of a museum exhibition on the history of the guillotine. (His assistant is called Louis!)
Riza Royce (1903-1980) as Charlotte Elaine Van Piet: On the "Bad Medicine" episode, Royce's character was killed by a supernaturally powerful Diablero (Richard Kiel) after a successful game of bridge.
Royce dabbled in acting in the Silent Era, appearing in Sacred Silence (1919), The Other Woman's Story (1925) and, though uncredited, in A Woman of the Sea (1926). She was assistant director of the latter, quite rare for a woman in the '20s, thanks to a leg up she had as the director's wife. The director? Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969). She was far more active on TV from the '50s on, and in the occasional film, like 1959's The Bat. Kolchak was her penultimate appearance in any medium.
Benny Rubin (1899-1996) as Julius "Buck" Fineman: It makes sense Rubin would find his way to Kolchak, seeing as how he had a 70-year career in the business and hundreds of credited appearances. His mastery of dialects almost won him an unfortunate role as a Black porter that wound up going instead to Eddie Anderson (1905-1977) — yes, the part was Rochester.
On the "Horror in the Heights" episode, Rubin kicked things off by kicking off. He played a night watchman who is devoured by a monster that can shape-shift, but whose poker buddies assume he was beset upon by ravenous rats.
George Savalas (1924-1985): On "The Youth Killer," Savalas — Telly's (1922-1994) kid brother and co-star on Kojak (1973-1978) — played an expert on all things Greek who casually mentions he's glad he's no longer a teacher due to all the temptingly cute students. He also IDs a picture of Cathy Lee Crosby as resembling every statue of Helen of Troy he's ever seen.
Pippa Scott (b. 1935) as Tillie Jones: Playing a public relations consultant for a hotel, Scott's Tillie Jones got all caught up with Kolchak in a gruesome series of murders in "Legacy of Terror." She hopes a reuben sandwich will buy Kolchak's silence, but is mistaken. Still, she knows that "pretty boy" Pepe (Erik Estrada) is a "monumental dummy" who does not deserve a job over her.
Scott is most familiar from her prolific '70s TV work, but she made her film debut auspiciously — in The Searchers (1956), often cited on lists of the best films of all time. She bagged another classic by appearing in Auntie Mame (1958), and a cult classic as a player in the TV horror flick Bad Ronald (1974).
Phil Silvers (1911-1985) as Harry Starman: The TV legend and "King of Chutzpah" appeared on the "Horror in the Heights" episode at the beginning, as one of a group of grouchy poker players. He makes a good witness after one of their crew gets gobbled up by what they think is a pack of rats but is actually a monster.
He was an Emmy winner for The Phil Silvers Show (1955-1959), appeared in both A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962) and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and won Tonys for the latter and for Top Banana (1951).
Joe Sirola (1929-2019) as Benjamin Sposato: Oddly, Sirola's IMDb asserts he was on 600+ TV shows, yet he only has 65 credits. I think the truth is somewhere in-between, as he definitely is "that guy" when you see him. More prolifically, he did countless (they said 10,000+) commercial voice-overs, and along with acting on the stage he became Tony-winning producer for his work on A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (2013).
On "The Zombie," Sirola played a mafioso trying to make sense of murders that involve his men. When he demands 25% of the Black numbers racket for a year, he is told, "I wouldn't bet my granddaughter's ballet slippers on that, if I was you," by Antonio Fargas's steel-spined crook.
Hilariously, when he catches Kolchak recording his showdown with Fargas's character, it turns out he remembers Kolchak crashed a family wedding to get pictures of him — which he remembers because of Kolchak's $2 hat.
Tom Skerritt (b. 1933) as Robert W. Palmer: On "The Devil's Platform," he played "the people's candidate" Robert W. Palmer, odds-on fave for Illinois state senator out of nowhere. (Well, nowhere good, since he is really a Devil-backed shape-shifter who keeps turning into a dog and killing his rivals.) Kolchak describes Palmer's image as "fearless, independent and energetic."
It's crazy to me that Skerritt is currently celebrating his 60th year in show biz, but he was very active on TV throughout the '60s and made memorable impressions in films like M*A*S*H (1970), Alien (1979) and The Dead Zone (1983), playing a cop after a serial killer in the latter, which, like his Night Stalker episode, also featured a pretty terrible politician!
Skerritt is maybe best known for TV's Picket Fences (1992-1996), for which he won his Emmy in 1993. He's one of the few actors on this list who is legitimately still busy today.
Mews Small (b. 1942) as a masseuse/hooker: The One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) actress played a sex worker (there are worse things she could do) on "The Ripper," one who gets ripped fairly early on. You may also remember Small as the original Frenchy in the first Broadway production of Grease (1972), in case you didn't take my hint.
Kent Smith (1907-1985) as D.A. Thomas Paine: Boy, was a district attorney ever more appropriately named? In the 1972 TV movie, Smith was a regular Paine in the ass as the legal eagle who snaps hard at the coroner who mentions victims' blood may have been extracted by human bites. He's also the first authority figure (of many) to insist that Kolchak toss his recording of their meeting to avoid a panic among the general public. "Kolchak, you're becoming a real pest!" he says with mock collegiality. "Stay out of other people's business — heh-heh — it's healthier that way." Paine is the prick who gleefully informs Kolchak he faces prison or commitment to an asylum if he doesn't leave Vegas. Most unforgivably, he refers to Kolchak's sweetheart as "an undesirable element" while informing him she has been asked to leave the city — meaning he'll likely never see her again.
A Broadway actor, Smith was a familiar face in such films as Cat People (1942), The Fountainhead (1949), The Damned Don't Cry (1950), Sayonara (1957) and The Trouble with Angels (1966). On TV, he was dickish Dr. Morton on Peyton Place (1964-1966) and a regular on the sci-fi series The Invaders (1967-1968).
William Smith (1933-2021) as Jim Elkhorn: His role as a Native American medicine man who doesn't practice it "ever since we got Blue Cross in our last union negotiation" on "The Energy Eater" was a meaty one for Smith, a true Hollywood veteran whose work as a kid actor placed him in classics like The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Song of Bernadette (1943), Going My Way (1944), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Gilda (1946) and The Boy with Green Hair (1948) — albeit all uncredited.
Later, Smith was a musclebound physique model ahead of steady TV work, in particular as Joe Riley on Laredo (1965-1967).
He ended his career with nearly 300 credits to his name, enough to establish him as one of the most recognizable on-screen heavies in the biz.
Naomi Stevens (1925-2018) as Mrs. Miriam Goldstein: I think one of the most interesting and heart-breaking killings in the whole series is that of the Goldsteins on "Horror in the Heights." After a touching exchange in which they talk about a racy movie they've seen and muse about their modesty in the bedroom, Mr. Goldstein (Herb Vigran) urges his wife (Stevens) to accompany him through an alley shortcut. There, a monster — which is able to mimic the form of a nonthreatening human being in order to gobble up unwitting victims — appears in the form of a policeman, right after they've discussed swastikas appearing in the neighborhood. Sadly, they're devoured, and it feels like a comment on big-city decay and resurgent Nazism (even if the swastikas wind up being of the good-luck Hindu variety).
Stevens was a veteran of ethnic roles, and appeared in The Apartment (1960), Valley of the Dolls (1967) and as Juanita on 18 episodes of The Doris Day Show (1968-1969).
Carol Ann Susi (1952-2014) as Monique Marmelstein: Carol Ann Susi was a welcome addition to Kolchak's "awffice," appearing on "The Zombie," "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be" and "Firefall," and bringing with her that outer-boroughs charm ... and her character's befuddling incompetence. So sad for Kolchak, he has to take Monique under his wing thanks to her being the daughter of Uncle Abe, a VIP.
Susi made her debut on Kolchak, and was probably most famous as the voice of Debbie Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory (2007-2017). She also played the daughter of George Costanza's unemployment officer who endures a date with him on Seinfeld, exclaiming (can't you hear her saying this?), "Thank you for a wonderful time, George. I haven't had a Big Mac in a long time." She died after a brief cancer battle at 62.
Nita Talbot (b. 1930) as Paula Griffin: On The Night Stalker, Talbot played a woman traveling on a doomed singles cruise on "The Werewolf." Early on, she's set up with Kolchak, and is presented as sort of a man-hungry Rhoda type, in spite of being a total knockout who would have had men tripping over the Lido Deck to view her Acapulco Lounge.
A rambling movie buff, Tablot's character references vintage movie stars while Kolchak wishes she'd get to the point. Best line on the werewolf-themed episode is when her Paula exclaims, "I don't know what's gotten into everybody!" and Kolchak replies, "Claws and fangs."
A close second is when she realizes Kolchak is trying to manipulate her into assisting him. "Okay," she allows. "But next time, don't con me — just lay it on me."
Not too long before she was avoiding lycanthropes with Kolchak, she was Emmy-nominated for her stellar work on Hogan's Heroes (1966-1971), on which she appeared seven times. Somewhat earlier, she was a model making her Hollywood debut in Caged (1950). She had more substantial roles in A Very Special Favor (1965), Buck and the Preacher (1972) and The Day of the Locust (1975). She was quite good in the "A Stitch in Crime" episode of Columbo (1973). Her final work was doing voices for Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1997).
Dick Van Patten (1928-2015) as Alfred Brindle: One of America's dads for his performance as Tom Bradford on Eight Is Enough (1977-1981), Van Patten is so much more fun when he plays against type. On "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be ..." he plays a frothy-mouthed concerned citizen angry about the black goop all over his lawn (clueless as to its nefarious origins). Venting to Kolchak, he seethes, "What a bunch of idiots! ... I tell you, this whole city is going right down the toilet! And it's not just the street department, it's everybody — police included. Did you know that the crime rate in this neighborhood has gone straight up?!"
Van Patten grew up on TV, appearing on 169 episodes of Mama from 1949-1957 and racking up more than 160 credits, most on television.
Carol Veazie (1895-1984) as Mrs. Sherman: On the "Firefall" episode, Veazie plays a neighbor lady from whom no details escape, making her a good witness when a man seemingly spontaneously combusts. She's able to provide an exact time of ignition based on her religious "nighty-night" strolls with her pampered pooch Randolph.
Veazie was a late bloomer, launching on TV in the '50s, almost always playing society ladies and other memorable matrons. She also popped up in Auntie Mame (1958). Sadly, she never acted after "Firefall."
Jackie Vernon (1924-1987) as Coach Toomey: Vernon played the coach at a college whose strapping young jocks are dying of heart attacks — but they're really being consumed by a demon. The coach points out one of the swimmers had a butterfly stroke "like an effeminate moth" and also says the young men are dying because "playboys ... pay the price," an allusion to V.D. Outrageously, while talking about the young guys being pussy hounds, he says there are only two choices in life, "Absolute physical hygiene and tuna fish." (!!!)
A popular stand-up, Vernon's voice should be instantly identifiable as Frosty from the animated classics Frosty the Snowman (1969) and Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976).
Virginia Vincent (1918-2013) as Mrs. Markoff: She's a hoot on "Firefall" as the widow of a man who may have been murdered and become a doppelgänger, one who is killing off associates and threatening Kolchak. She's also gorgeous in her mid-50s, and has her hands full with a young son who I believe is played by an uncredited Patrick Labyorteaux (b. 1965):
What do you think?
Vincent was a busy character actress from the '50s on, and appeared in such films as The Hills Have Eyes (1977) after racking up dozens of TV credits, including as Betty on The Joey Bishop Show (1961).
Nina Wayne (b. 1943) as Charisma Beauty aka Gladys Weams: Wayne, the look-alike younger sister of the late Tonight Show actress Carol Wayne (1942-1985), gave her last-ever performance in the 1973 TV movie — and it's a doozy! Her Charisma is a ditzy exotic dancer who is under the iron fist of manager/lover Wilma Krankheimer (Virginia Peters). Their lesbian union is blatant for 1973, and quite unusual, if marked by the cliché of a femme (Charisma) and butch (Wilma) arrangement. Wayne is perfect as a daft ecdysiast; it's a shame she gave up the craft. Also a shame the movie's blood-thirsty Ripper (Richard Anderson) is able to add her to his body count.
Jesse White (1917-1997) as Security Guard: In the "Chopper" episode, White — who from 1968-1989 was the Maytag Repairman — has a hilarious bit part as a guard who deals with the sight of a headless motorcycle rider by swigging from a bottle of booze.
He had a long Hollywood career, appearing in classics like The Bad Seed (1956), Designing Woman (1957) and in a bit part, for his last-ever performance, on Seinfeld (1996). He was the dad of Big Rosie Greenbaum from Laverne & Shirley (1976-1982), Carole Ita White (b. 1949).
Anne Whitfield (b. 1938) as a call girl: A TV actress who also appeared in such films as White Christmas (1954), she gave a really interesting performance on "The Vampire" as a hooker who doesn't even warrant a name. Kolchak greets her with a cross, mistaking her for the female vampire (Suzanne Charny) he's pursuing. "You're not Catherine Rawlins!" he exclaims, to which she drily replies, "You're not Marcello Mastroianni, but you don't hear me crying about it."
BTW, her fee was $200, not too shabby for 50 years ago, "sweet cheeks."
Whitfield retired and became an environmental activist.
Mary Wickes (1910-1995) as Dr. Bess Winestock: In probably the least obvious role of her career, Wickes played a veterinarian at a zoo whose animals are dropping dead of heart attacks. "I don't know where we're gonna get another panda," she says. "They come from Tibet — the commies have 'em all. Most people think the panda's a bear. Actually, it's a raccoon." Her character's conversation skills leave a lot to be desired.
Later, Kolchak tells her, "There's only one thing that puts that kind of sparkle in a woman's eyes." She retorts, "Bologna," to which he replies, "Yeah, well, some people call it that."
If you don't know who Wickes is, you should look her up on Wickesipedia. Acting since the '30s, she specialized in nervy crones and snarky sidekicks, all with a lovable streak, both in movies and on TV. She was in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942); Now, Voyager (1942); June Bride (1948), White Christmas (1954), The Trouble with Angels (1966), Where Angels Go Trouble Follows! (1968) and on such series as Annette (1958), The Danny Thomas Show (1956-1958), Dennis the Menace (1959-1962), Julia (1969-1971), Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (1973-1974). In all her years in the biz, her steadiest gig was one of her last, as Maggie on Father Dowling Mysteries (1989-1991). Before she retired, she went out with a bang in Postcards from the Edge (1990), the Sister Act movies (1992 & 1993), Little Women (1994), and as the voice of Laverne in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). When she died with one voice session left for Hunchback, her pal Jane Withers (1926-2021) imitated her voice.
Katherine Woodville (1938-2013) as Dr. Helen Lynch: As an assistant research scientist whose boss is killed on "Primal Scream," Woodville spent her short appearance in a hospital bed — her character was recovering from a mysterious car crash.
She is immortal as High Priestess Natira on Star Trek (1968) and was also the first person killed on The Avengers (1961) — but married its star, Patrick Macnee (1922-2015) as a consolation prize. She was also married to actor Jerrold Freedman (1941) and to actor Edward Albert (1951-2006), who she was with until his untimely death from cancer. She, too, died of the scourge.
Keenan Wynn (1916-1989) as Capt. Joe "Mad Dog" Siska: Wynn first appeared on "The Spanish Moss Murders" playing one of the shoutiest cops of the entire series. "The people in group therapy didn't tell me I was ever gonna meet anybody as un-okay as you are!" he screams at Kolchak, a reference to the 1967 book I'm OK, You're OK, which was on The New York Times Best Seller list in 1972, not too long before the episode aired in 1974. He recurred as the same character on "Demon in Lace."
The son of gifted actor Ed Wynn (1886-1966), Wynn appeared in a number of Hollywood classics, among them For Me and My Gal (1942), The Great Man (1956) and Disney fare like The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963). The year after his Kolchak work, he was Emmy-nominated for a spot on Police Woman (1975)
Carmen Zapata (1927-2014) as a grieving Hispanic mother: A towering presence in the Latin acting community, she was on Broadway in the '40s and later excelled in a slew of supporting roles on TV, elevating those that called for offensively facile clichés. Still later, she was a teacher and lecturer, and was a major supporter of Hispanic arts on the West Coast. Often rewarded for it, she was also granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
For Kolchak, she played a mother who finds her healthy young daughter dead as a doornail on the "Demon in Lace" episode.