• Classic Horrors Club

TV Terror Guide: Kolchak the Night Stalker (The Youth Killer)




Air Date: Mar. 14, 1975

Written by: Rudolph Borchert

Directed by: Don McDougall

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Monster of the Week: Helen of Troy

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Kolchak is supposed to be writing a swinging singles update feature.

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Kolchak suspects the supernatural when he learns that the glass eye from a dead senior citizen belongs to a young man.

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Kolchak’s theory is that Helen of Troy is alive and well in Chicago and is draining the youth from her victims, causing them to die of old age.

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He stops the threat by telling Helen one of her victims was imperfect (the glass eye.)

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Quotes:

You’re Kolchak? (Sgt. Orkin) Yeah that’s right. You’re the one the precinct captains are always talking about? (Sgt. Orkin)

Spitballing a few ideas is when you start a feature, not when you’re polishing it. (Vincenzo) No, no. That’s the way I work, Tony. See, I spit and polish at the same time.

Postscript:

The destruction would probably be ruled a result of vandalism or a faulty sprinkler system. Kolchak doesn't need any pictures of Helen of Troy; they can be found anywhere.


Comments:

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The way Kolchak’s assignments are connected with supernatural cases makes me wonder two things: either it’s awfully coincidental or there are an awful lot of supernatural murders happening of which Kolchak is not aware. I guess which one you choose depends on your tolerance for the limitations of television writing and your capacity for overlooking such restrictions to let your imagination roam.

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In The Youth Killer, Kolchak is actually doing his due diligence to write a story and doesn’t immediately realize there’s something supernatural happening. In fact, he accidentally stumbles into his adventure when he simply hears sirens after interviewing someone for his feature on swinging singles. When he meets a police sergeant that tells Kolchak he believes police and reporters should work together, I thought we were going to have a repeat of the Captain Vernon Rausch subplot from the last episode.

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Instead, the subplot turns on Sergeant Orkin’s change of attitude after telling he peers with whom he’s working. The police connection pretty much disappears after this. Kolchak is on his own and reaches his conclusion after one conversation with a former professor-turned-cab-driver who casually mentions that Helen Surtees (Cathy Lee Crosby,) the owner of an exclusive dating agency, resembles Helen of Troy… or at least every painting and statue you see of Helen of Troy.

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Unless I missed it, the story provides no explanation for how and why Helen of Troy exists in modern day Chicago and why she just now starts killing people. It might be because she moves around to different locales every so often. However, if that’s the case, there’s no focus on the details as there has been in the past when a new monster of the week appears in Chicago and Kolchak learns of similar supernatural occurrences in other cities.

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I’ve realized part of the reason I seem to be enjoying these later episodes of the series so much… the ones others call, “lesser.” It’s because they’re “original.” I mean, when the monster of the week is a vampire or werewolf, you enter them with expectations and, like I’ve said many times, expectations lead to disappointment. If you don’t know what to expect, though, it’s hard to be disappointed.

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I’m going to contradict myself now because, while the monster of the week is indeed original, at least in terms of the genre (I don’t recall ever seeing a movie or show where Helen of Troy is the big bad), the tropes of the episode are not. It borrows liberally from The Trevi Collection and Demon in Lace. At this point, I don’t care. There’s more to criticize in The Youth Killer, but I don’t enjoy it any less. I smile and I laugh, but a tear begins to form because there’s only one more episode to go.

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