• Classic Horrors Club

TV Terror Guide: Kolchak the Night Stalker (The Energy Eater)


Air Date: Dec. 13, 1974

Written by: Arthur Rowe and Rudolph Borchert

Story by: Arthur Rowe

Directed by: Alexander Grasshoff

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Monster of the Week: Matchemonedo

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Kolchak is supposed to be covering the dedication of a new hospital.

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Kolchak suspects the supernatural when strange things happen on the lower level and people start dying in connection with electrically operated equipment.

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Kolchak’s theory is that the spirit of an ancient shaman has been raised during the construction of the hospital.

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He stops the threat by driving it along a crack in the floor with a fire extinguisher.

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Quotes:

Of course people are dying. It's a hospital.

Postscript:

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Lakefront Hospital will be torn down to make room for a new marina.

Comments:

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The Energy Eater is an odd episode for a number of reasons. First, it takes some time for Kolchak to suspect supernatural forces are responsible for accidents at the newly completed Lakefront Hospital. Warm temperatures, building tremors, and cracks in the walls could simply be a result of cutting corners in its construction… which would be a story in and of itself for the suspicious reporter.

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Second, by the end of the episode, the hospital director and head engineer agree with Kolchak and believe that the cause is supernatural. Now, whether they act accordingly and share that information with the public is another story entirely. At least they act (finally) to evacuate the hospital and make efforts to destroy the monster.

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Third, this gives Kolchak no reason to try to stop the monster himself. Instead, he knowingly walks into danger simply to get a picture of it. This act does and doesn’t go with his character. Sure, he’ll do anything for a story. However, it seems out of character that he would walk through a fog of liquid nitrogen to get that story. Plus, the action he takes to repel the monster as it nears him seems silly.

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Finally, we don’t see the monster in this episode. When Kolchak is able to obtain an image, it’s by piecing together x-ray plates that were exposed during one of its attacks. The resulting image, a single eye in a swirl of mist, is scary. Likewise, the photograph that he eventually obtains is a single eye in a swirl of mist. Glimpses of it (and your imagination) are more effective than a bad looking monster.

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The Energy Eater is awfully similar to Bad Medicine, which aired two weeks before this one. I suppose I shouldn’t discount another Native American story so soon. We don’t have the ancient folklore of European countries in the United States; our regional horror comes from our indigenous people. If we want to create a horror story that’s uniquely ours, Native American superstition is our source for the stories.

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All in all, though, I enjoyed this episode the least of any I’ve watched thus far. We’re exactly halfway through the series now and I hope it isn’t an indication of those that remain. We know at some point Darren McGavin is going to become unhappy and the series will be cut short. I hope it’s not this soon and I have faith that the regular formula will return for at least several more episodes.

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