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  • Classic Horrors Club

TV Terror Guide: Kolchak the Night Stalker (Bad Medicine)


Air Date: Nov. 29, 1974

Written by: L. Ford Neale & John Huff

Directed by: Alexander Grasshoff

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Monster of the Week: Diablero

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Kolchak suspects the supernatural when the deaths of a few elderly rich women don’t fit the suicide profile that the police are peddling and when a Native American jumps from the roof during a robbery at the Gem Exchange and disappears in midair.

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Kolchak’s theory is that the Native American is a “diablero,” cursed to amass a great treasure so he can cross “the river eternal.”

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He stops the threat by forcing the diablero to gaze into a piece of broken mirror (after he temporarily stalls him with the flash on his camera.)

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Quote(s):

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "The rich are different than you and me.” They sure are. They got more money.

Postscript:

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Nothing was found on the floor where the diablero died, not even its ashes. The stolen jewels never “turned up in any market in this world.”

Comments:

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From its synopsis alone, I would not have expected to enjoy Bad Medicine as much as I did. While the story includes plenty of humor, as usual, it seemed to sacrifice some of its laughs for scares. The episode builds some genuine suspense and, a couple of times, is downright scary.

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The exception is a great moment when, because Kolchak is always tearing pages out of the phone book, he can’t find a telephone number that he needs. Both Updyke and Miss Emily are on hand to remind him of that fact. The story does a particularly good job of weaving the supporting characters into the story.

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Bad Medicine is solid and I’m not sure if that’s due to the director (Alexander Grasshoff) and writers (L. Ford Neale, John Huff). The three will direct and write future episodes, so we’ll eventually see if there’s a pattern. Grasshoff did direct The Zombie, though, and it hasn’t been a favorite episode of mine.

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There’s one plot point I may have missed. For once, Kolchak takes a clear, unobstructed photograph of the monster (and fairly early in the episode.) However, when he develops his film, the only picture of note is one of a dead dog. There’s no mention of a picture of the diablero.

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The scary moments come when the diablero, played with silent menace by Richard Kiel, appears out of nowhere following a transformation from animal form. The best example of this is when a victim rolls up the car window because a crow is trying to reach her and when it’s at the top, we see the reflection of the diablero.

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As with many of the episode I’ve watched so far, Kolchak spends a good part of the third act quietly hunting the monster, this time to the roof of a semi-vacant Chicago high rise. He’s left to defeat it on his own since the authorities don’t believe him. He doesn’t seem to have much of a plan of attack this time, though.

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Then again, that may because he had to walk up 40 flights of stairs to get to the roof. That demonstrates dedication, if not planning and organization. Eight episodes into the series, Kolchak: the Night Stalker demonstrates it all: commitment to formula and experimentation with new and unique ideas. I’m loving it.

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