TV Terror Guide 10-25-19: Kolchak the Night Stalker (The Devil's Platform)
Air Date: Nov. 15, 1974
Written by: Donn Mullally (teleplay), Tim Maschler (story)
Directed by: Allen Baron
Monster of the Week: Evil politician
Kolchak is supposed to be interviewing senatorial candidate Robert Palmer. .
Kolchak suspects the supernatural when a dog that survives an elevator crash disappears from a photograph.
Kolchak’s theory is that senatorial candidate Robert Palmer sold his soul to the devil and is using his power to eliminate his opposition.
He stops the threat by accident. He throws a bottle of holy water at the devil dog and when its amulet drops into the puddle, the dog becomes docile.
Listen, the… the Titanic was full of authorities, look what happened. Neville Chamberlain was an authority, look where we… the second world war.
The people’s candidate: fearless, energetic, and independent. Why can’t the people’s candidate be like the rest of us: timid, insecure, and lazy?
I was a young man when I started waiting for the elevator…
(Vincenzo to Kolchak) Are you trying to tell me you’re concerned how you look?
I gave my copy on Palmer to Vincenzo for his editorial comment. It was the way that he crumpled it up that gave me the distinct impression he wasn’t going to print it.
Palmer’s disappearance was explained as either he was kidnapped or killed by radicals. Mrs. Palmer drove off, never to be seen again.
In a way, The Devil’s Platform is a change of pace episode. For one thing, Kolchak is actually supposed to be writing about the subject that he then investigates. He’s not distracted from his primary assignment by a non-related supernatural force. Also, he spends quite a bit of time at INS with Tony and his co-workers, Updyke and Miss Emily. Their interactions always enhance episodes of Kolchak.
Yes, some of these office interactions have a heavy-handed purpose. When Miss Emily returns from a trip to Italy with a bottle of holy water, you know it’s a calculated plot point. Nevertheless, she also brings Tony some artichoke pasta and Kolchak a new hat. These souvenirs don’t serve the main story, but provide some funny moments when the receivers react to their gifts.
The Devil’s Platform predates The Omen by a couple years, yet the frequent appearance of a “devil dog” is reminiscent of Richard Donner’s 1976 masterpiece. (It also predates Dracula’s Dog aka Zoltan, Hound of Hell by three years.) The twist here is that senatorial candidate Robert Palmer (Tom Skerritt) has the power to transform himself into this “devil dog.”
As happens sometimes, but not always, the monster of the week sets its target on Kolchak. Here, the dog attacks him, but only to retrieve its tag, an amulet with a pentagram on it. Later, though, Palmer needs to get him out of his way. Besides shape shifting, Palmer has a knack for reading someone’s inner thoughts and feelings. Through him, we learn that Kolchak secretly covets the Pulitzer Prize.
It’s not my favorite, but The Devil’s Platform is a very good episode. It’s fun to see Skerritt in a genre appearance prior to Alien (1979.) It features kind of an original concept that predates any number of occult movies in the “supernatural seventies.” The dog part is a little silly. It doesn’t add much that Palmer can transform; it may as well have just been his pet.
After this week's edition of TV Terror Guide, we'll be taking a break. It's only a pause, not a stop, so we'll be back in January better than ever!
This weeks notable television guest appearances (October 25-November 1 Early AM, 2019):
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Cloris Leachman, Chill Wills (26th), Norman Lloyd, Elizabeth Montgomery (29th), Peggy Cass (1st)
The Invaders: William Windom, Diana Hyland (26th)
The Outer Limits: Michael Constantine (29th), Grant Williams (30th)
Planet of the Apes: Sondra Locke (27th)
Star Trek: Eleanor Donahue (19th)
Thriller: Robert Webber, Leo G. Carroll, Otto Kruger, Joyce Bulifant (28th)
The Twilight Zone: Wally Cox, Roger Davis (27th), Joan Blondell, William Demarest, Sterling Holloway (29th), Virginia Gregg, Alan Sues (30th), Michael Constantine, George Lindsey (31st)
Wonder Woman: Roger Davis (26th)