• Classic Horrors Club

TV Terror Guide: Kolchak the Night Stalker (Horror in the Heights)


Air Date: Dec. 20, 1974

Written by: Jimmy Sangster

Directed by: Michael Caffey

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Monster of the Week: Rakshasha

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Kolchak is supposed to be writing about the plight of the elderly residents of the Roosevelt Heights neighborhood.

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Kolchak suspects the supernatural when he questions the feasibility of the theory that rats killed a man and stripped his carcass in less than a minute.

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Kolchak’s theory is that a demon that can possess the human mind is causing its victims to see it as someone they trust so that it can eat them.

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He stops the threat by using a crossbow to fire a “blessed” arrow into its stomach.

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Quotes:

Why’d he take a shot at me? (Kolchak) The chap’s actions seem understandable to me right now. (Mr. Lane-Marriott)
He will present to you as someone you trust, but you must shoot. (Ali Lakshmi) I don’t trust anyone. (Kolchak)

Postscript:

I’d have liked to have told Miss Emily that the Rakshasha appeared to me as her. According to the legend it meant that I trusted her. But then I would also have had to tell her that I shot a steel arrow straight into her. I don’t think she would have appreciated that.

Comments:

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Jimmy Sangster knows a thing or two about monsters, having written movies about them for the great Hammer Films during their heyday: The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy, and a number of their sequels. In the twilight of his career, he directed episodes of many popular American television series: Banacek, The Six Million Dollar Man, McCloud, Cannon, S.W.A.T., Wonder Woman, and this episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

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I can’t say it’s head and shoulders better than most episodes, but it's definitely solid. The monster has a compelling power that even implicates Kolchak at one point, leading to a funny scene where Vincenzo has to bail him out of jail. At the same time, it reveals a lot about the character of Kolchak, a man who claims to not trust anyone, yet is literally faced with the image of Miss Emily when the monster possesses his mind to reveal his true sentiment.

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The story is a little more complex than other episodes as well. Not only is the monster not always as it seems, but so are the plot points. For example, when swastikas begin appearing as graffiti all over the traditionally Jewish neighborhood, we assume there’s an evil Nazi hiding in plain sight. Instead, though, we learn that Nazis didn’t invent the swastika. Indians created it as a symbol to ward off evil. (Further research shows it’s actually a symbol of divinity and spirituality.)

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Horror in the Heights relies less on they tropes of the series and more on the specifics of the story. It’s the only episode of Kolchak that Michael Caffey directed, but had the series continued, I would like to have seen a second season return for the duo of Sangster and Caffey. In a way, it’s a more personal story, demonstrated by the fact that in the postscript, Kolchak talks about Miss Emily and human relationships instead of police cover-ups and destruction of evidence.

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