Film Review: The Night Stalker (TV Movie 1972) Ecce Homo: Carl Kolchak the true journalist!

Updated: May 19


FILE PHOTO: Kolchak: the night stalker franchise (1972-1975) ©ABC/Universal Television
FILE PHOTO: Kolchak: The Night Stalker Franchise (1972-1975) ©ABC/Universal Television

FILM AND REALITY


''This nut THINKS he's a vampire!

He has killed four, maybe five women.

He has drained every drop of

blood from every one of them.

Now that is NEWS, Vincenzo,

NEWS. And we are NEWS paper!

We are supposed to print

news, not suppress it!''


- Carl Kolchak (1)


We can hardly find a ''true journalist'' like this fictional character Carl Kolchak (masterfully played by the brilliant American actor Darren McGavin; 1922-2006) in our real life under monopoly of mainstream FAKE NEWS media of today, US tech giants and crony capitalist bureaucrats. Certainly, it's almost impossible that an investigative journalist - Jiken-kisya in Japanese - like Kolchak can exist in the establishment because corporate media must sell either image advertisement or article advertisement for ad buyers in business sector. It's typical in Japanese news industry where run by national advertisement giants, Dentsu and Hakuhodo, as the result, the most of news articles in Japan are dominated and distorted to be ''stealth marketing'' advertisements of ''pro-establishment'' celebrities (e.g. TV, film, sports, pro-wrestling, model, newscasters, politicians etc.) who backed by each commercial mainstream media. This creepy gossip culture of ''professional'' journalism is obviously the death of genuine journalism in Japan and for others.


Nowadays, genuine news can only be seen in weather forecast or daily transportation news or the date of news only. Real investigative journalism is seemed to be extinct under neoliberalism thus Carl Kolchak is the visualised ideal of investigative journalism in a fictional tale and expressed by his decision making and actions. This is the function of fiction and art in the real world abstractly in terms of the use value of dramatic art production under capitalism.


At film schools, horror genre is unwelcome for timid and overcautious teachers who are basically just ''self-proclaimed film scholars'' critics without no film-TV industrial background or even lack of working experience itself outside of their comfortable educational field. They think horror genre is just a kind of pornography of violence, and it's about childish fetichism on fictional monsters. On the contrary, horror genre is like any other genres of film, all about human beings. Professional filmmakers at film schools (in general, professionals teach students in MFA filmmaking program not in PhD film studies. There is no authoritative figure in film studies globally) will teach students like this because it's common sense in the industry.


 FILE PHOTO:  “The Vampire”, lithograph by R. de Moraine (1864).  ©Public Domain
FILE PHOTO: “The Vampire”, lithograph by R. de Moraine (1864). ©Public Domain

On vampire, we should not be dragged into the swamp of fictional world to mistakenly seek a true vampire or its similar one in the real world. It does not exist at all from the beginning. We should not engage in searching vampire legends and folklores instead, we just only need to know that so called vampire is a fictional creature which feeds itself with human blood for living typical in European folklores of the 19th.century (A.D.1801-1900). The most important novels are Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873)'s Carmilla (1872) and Bram Stoker (1847-1912)'s Dracula (1897).


Film as fiction, its main function is that it depicts how the ruling class thinks the world looks like to them and how should the people act and react in the situation. From the capitalist point of view, film content must be acceptable to the ruling class under capitalism in order to produce any commercial film in the establishment. Thus, film is neither a textbook nor theoretical work. It can not be any replacement of any theoretical learning, understanding and analysis as taught by Dir. Akira Kurosawa (1910-98).


In reality, film commodities are meant to be just socially abstract exchange values like any other kinds of commodities at market economy, namely film is not superior than any other industries in terms of surplus value accumulation process. It is simply just one of them.


Vampire Legend in Real World Politics


 FILE PHOTO: Execution of three witches on 4 November 1585 in Baden (Switzerland), illustration from the Wickiana. ©Public Domain
FILE PHOTO: Execution of three witches on 4 November 1585 in Baden (Switzerland). ©Public Domain

From the view point of political economy, vampire is like witchcraft, used in real politics as ''official narrative'' for religious or other kind of oppression against targeted minorities in the past. For instance, witch hunt (a.k.a. witch plague) was a typical mass hysteria, a moral panic in Western societies during 1450-1750, ended up in false flagged mass executions. So called vampire is the same phenomenon in its nature. This is the true and real aspect of the vampire in the real world. In real human history, both ''witch hunt'' and ''vampire'' were used metaphorically as official narrative for covert counter insurgence operations against dissidents with real purpose of intimidating political opponents. This is the reality of vampire in the context of history. On the contrary, any abstract forma of vampire is purely fictional and meaningless in terms of reality. It is also why indulging in fictional characters and its fictional world of vampirism is totally a waste of time.


The Philipines provides us the best example of modern day use of ''vampire'' in real politics.


The Philippines was the America's longest-lasting and most conspicuous colony ever existed in history. US bought it with twenty million dollars after defeated Spain with the Filipinos in 1898 and transformed it into a colony for imperialism while the Filipinos already declared their own independent republic. Imperialist exploiters are real ''vampires.''


The similar tragedy repeated on their soil during the Japanese occupation of The Philippines during the World War 2 in 1945. A registance army, the Huks (abbreviation for Hukbalahap - ''People's Army Against Japan'' in Tagalog) and the Philippine Communist Party engaged in the major efforts against the Japanese invaders while the American military like KMT in China, they took many measures against the Huks and the Philippine Communist Party aimed at quashing them. Furthermore,

disparaging rumours against the Huks were spread in villages in order to erode their support and credits amongst peasants. The worst thing was that Japanese militarists were allowed to assault the Huks unmolested. This is the grand context of the political use of Filipino folk tale, superstition of local vampire ''Asuang'' against the Huks.


Asuang is an Asian vampire but it differs from the Western legend, it sucks human blood with its proboscis-like tongue, and it does not hide in tombs or coffins, it hides in deep forests or infiltrates human community in the shape of a beautiful woman. It's believed to raid villages, thus peasants are victims of the terror.


Before the use of the vampire tale Asuang against the Huks, US restored to power and positions of local Japanese occupational collaborators as part of the Cold War anti communist, anti Soviet campaign, like Japan's still ongoing Reverse Course in which US restored ex-A Class war criminals to the power and position in the establishment after 1947. The similar phenomenon was confirmed in The Philippines at that time. Such as Filipino landlords, large estate owners, police constables, and other officials were used against the Huks by US.


US conducted the anti ''communist Huk rebellion'' campaign, however the centrepiece of the political program of the Huk was land reform and it's part of bourgeois revolution not the communist one. Also industrialisation had been halted for 50 years of US occupation of The Philippines in order to provide US companies with a veritable playground in the Philippines. In fact, American occupiers were clear about the main impetus of the Huks which was not from communist doctrines but it's from actual peasant grievances. Despite GIs who were vociferous protestors of continued operation in the Philippines, US soldiers were kept in the islands.


The national election was held in April 1946. The Huks did not trust both the Filipino government and US authorities enough to surrender their arms to them like FARC. They tested the good faith of the government by taking part of the election to form democratic alliance of liberal and socialist peasant political groups. Thus a socialist challenge in a capitalist parliament election was not first appeared in Chile.


The result was pretty predictable under such circumstances, the Huks, alliance members and reformers who won the election to congress were simply banned from taking their seats under the transparent fiction and influential coercion against voters. Some of them was just allowed to discuss a ceasefire with the government. Later, pseudo-independence was given by the US after pushed through congress the controversial Bell Trade Act which yields to US bountiful privileges and concessions in the economy, including equal rights, in the development of the natural resources and the operation of its public utilities. Moreover it was gradually exceeded to every sector of the Philippine economy.


Their independence had no significant change as long as US restored its old relationships in the almost everything except in name. The Filipinos were deceived, US did not grant them any social and political advantages in return under the pseudo-independence. A 1947 agreement which was supposed to last 99 years provided sites for 23 US military bases in the Philippines, and judicial immunity of US soldiers outside of the US bases (they are only tried by US military tribunals inside the bases) like USFJ, the terms of a companion military assistance pact prohibited any arms imports from any other countries except US and its allowed arms source. It inevitably involved training, maintenance, spare parts purchase from US along with the arms purchase. This made the Filipino armed forces totally dependent on US arms control. In 1950, The Joint US Military Advisory Group reorganised the Philippine intelligence capabilities to experiment ''counter insurgency warfare'' which was thought as unconventional type of combat.


FILE PHOTO: Major General Edward Lansdale, 1963. ©Public Domain
FILE PHOTO: Major General Edward Lansdale, 1963. ©Public Domain

Unconventional type of warfare against the Muks started after inauguration of Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale (1908-87) in September 1950. Ostensively Lansdale was a military advisor attached to The Joint US Military Advisory Group yet his real identity was the head of CIA's clandestine paramilitary operations in The Philippines. ''Psychological warfare'' in CIA parlance includes the use of marketing research, motivation techniques, media and deception etc. All fall under the heading. And Lansdale was an expert of it as a former advertisement man. He led major CIA anti communist clandestine operations in the Philippines, Vietnam and anti-Castro campaign. Only the Filipino project was successful.


A vampire tale used against the Huks By CIA


CIA Lansdale instructed his men to conduct a careful study of superstitions of the Filipino peasants living in the Huks controlled areas. Their superstitious lores, taboos, and myths were broadly examined by the CIA team in order to get clues to appropriately localised appeals that hopefully wean them from backing the Huks. Its main concept was obviously instigating disinformation op. in peasants by instilling in them fear for curse after they providing the Huks with necessary foods and shelters.


The Nation's Army Against the Japanese (a.k.a. the Huks; 1942-1954) was relentlessly targeted by infamous psychological war, disinformation op. which based on dreadful superstitions among peasants. The legend of horrible vampire Asuang was used against the Huks by CIA psychological warfare squad. The team's aim was to get the Huks out of their fortress hill where the government force was quite anxious to get them out. For this military purpose, his men planted rumours that the dreadful vampire Asuang is living in their neighbouring hill where the Huks based. Then the psychological warfare squad laid an ambush in the hill by making some already frightened Huk sympathisers way up the hill two nights later. They snatched the last man and punctured his neck with two marks of ''vampire assault'', and held his body by heels til the all blood drained out of his body. Then, they put the corpse back on the trail they ambushed. The result was successful that the superstitious Huks fled from the entire region. (2)


This is the true function of vampire tale in real world politics. From religious superstition (feudalist legacy), novelisation (as a commodity) to the psychological warfare (militarisation of the fiction for intimidating class opponents), the vampire tale itself shows this dialectic movement between the two poles, fiction and reality in the general historical-capitalist context. Not only filmmakers but also film consumers must have the holistic view point like this in order to avoid falling into mass hysteria, moral crisis which instigated by ruling class for their personal interests in reality. Vampire tales in class society are used as a commodity or a psychological warfare for the class interests of capitalists politically, economically and militarily.


NARRATIVE STRUCTURE


"Vampire Killer In Las Vegas" from The Kolchak Papers


''This is the story behind one of

the greatest man-hunts in history

Maybe you read about it, or rather,

what they let you read about it...

...probably as some minor item,

buried somewhere in a back page.

However, what happened in that city,

between May 16th and May 28th of this year...

...was so incredible...

...that to this day, the facts have

been suppressed in a massive effort...

...to save certain political

careers from disaster...

...and law enforcement

officials from embarassment.''


- Carl Kolchak (3)


ACT1


FILE PHOTO: Inciting Incident at ACT1 in The Night Stalker (1972).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Inciting Incident at ACT1 in The Night Stalker (1972). ©ABC

Exposition:


The entire TV movie is a flashback of Kolchak which starts from a sleazy business hotel room out side of Las Vegas. Carl Kolchak (played by Darren McGavin) the protagonist of this film replays and listens to his own tape record of detections which about the vampire killer in the Las Vegas Strip and subsequent coverups by the authorities of the city.


The first murder happens.

Sunday, May 16th: Cheryl Hughes, a swing shift change girl at the Gold Dust Saloon, Las Vegas is suddenly struggled and thrown away to the pile of garbages at dark back street at night by monstrous maniac. Soon her corpse is found in a trash can at the near place by a garbage collector.


A senior news paper editor, boss Anthony Albert Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) assigns Kolchak to investigate the killing. (setup)


Kolchak asks his spy at morgue, Dr. John O'Brien (Jordan Rhodes) to provide information on the murder. Jordan Rhodes tells him, the victim's drained out of blood yet the official narrative implicates someone in the authorities covering the massive lose of blood of the victim. Kolchak's investigation continues.


Why does it say "Officially

Undetermined" under Cause of Death? (4)


Inciting Incident:


After Dr. John O'Brien, Kolchak inquires his own girlfriend Gail Foster (Carol Lynley)...

one of Cheryl Hughes' fellow workers. She has no clue.


The killer commits the second murder.

A corpse of Bonnie Reynolds a cocktail waitress at the Harem Room Casino found on sand at construction site. Again, Kolchak finds the victim's also killed in the same pattern with Cheryl Hughes.


If it happened, it's possible.

Cheryl Hughes lost a lot of blood, too.


The third murder at that night instills in him a growing suspicion of unusualness of the incident and possible pressure from authorities on this report.


Carol Hanichek, a swing shift cocktail waitress in the Bird of Paradise Show Lounge gets murdered by the mythterious murderer silently and swiftly at her apartment room.

Something of a pattern

had started to form...

...and it was ugly. It was then that people stopped talking. (5)


Kolchak continues his investigation.


End of ACT1:


Kolchak meets his FBI contact Bernie Jenks at his lunch sitting beside the hotel pool in order to get his support on the news report.

Well you could make some

unofficial inquiries for me?

Like?

Well like... you could check around

the country and check all the hospitals,

...and see if any of them had

corpses recently, like ours, you know?

All with a big loss of blood.

You could check all the insane asylums

across the country. The Bug Houses...

See if they've released, recently,

a nut who thinks he's Count Dracula...