Updated: Oct 14
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.
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
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.
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.
"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)
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)
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?
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...
...even if he's done nothing to prove it.
Do you believe in vampires, little boy?
That's funny. That's very funny.
Say, if you want to hear that special report,
meet me at the Sheriff's office. It starts at 6:30. (6)
Although Kolchack still doesn't believe the killer is a real vampire, he expects the special report can solve some mystery around the serial murders. He decides to attend the press conference at the sheriff's office.
His strong desire for clues drives him to the next action. Kolchak did everything he could do to get clues solely on his efforts and network at the town without any experts at this phase. The incident is beyond his ordinary capabilities, this incident is something special, at least he realised this now. The entire ACT1 sets up questions on the killing and the invitation to the special report is a temporary solution to the ACT1. It can consolidate or confirm some of his speculations. Kolchak even sees possibility of cooperation with authorities on this at this time. Simultaneously this plot psychologically synchronises desire for answers between the protagonist and audience. This is what suspense meant to be yet suspense itself is a creation of decision making and actions of the protagonist. Suspense itself is not a structure.
At the press conference,
Warren Butcher (Claude Akins) of the Sheriff's Office, Thomas Paine (Kent Smith) of the District Attorney's Office, Captain Edward Masterson (Charles McGraw) of the Las Vegas Police Department, ...and old buddy, Bernie Jenks.
One of the attendees, Dr. Robert Makurji (Larry Linville) testifies:
A rather interesting point is that we found another substance
mixed in with the traces of blood in the throat wounds.
What do you mean, "saliva"?
I mean saliva, Sheriff Butcher.
HUMAN saliva... (7)
Dr. Robert Makurji's testimony is provocative for the timid authorities however it's supportive of Kolchak's theory.
Now the oppressive district attorney Thomas Paine threatens journalists, then he soon after the conference personally threatens Kolchak to prevent the vampire gossip from spreading. Thomas Paine is the real and ultimate antagonist like the Mayer in JAWS (1975).
Now this, uh "vampire stuff"...
is to STAY right in this room.
Until we have the assailant in custody,
we say nothing about these, uh...
...women being drained of blood.
There'll be no rumors,
no reports in the paper...
The official opinion at this time is
that the cause of death is "undetermined".
We don't want to cause a panic.
It's bad for police operations.
It's bad for the people.
And it's bad for business... (8)
Kolchak's friend Bernie Jenks warns Kolchak,
Will you watch what you're
saying? You know these guys...
...you could find yourself out
of a job and 86'd all over town.
Does that go for you too, Jenks?
Oh boy. Who can talk to
you when you get like this. (9)
This press conference established all the major contradictions and introduced all main characters thus this scene is part of ACT1 in terms of dramatic function.
Someone calls Kolchak at night to inform him the forth murder.
The killer's done it again... (this is a beat in the hotel conversation scene following the previous press conference scene at the end of ACT1; it changed the dramatic tone, tension and atmosphere, even it drives the protagonist to take the next action)
Only this time...
...he was seen.
Victim number four:
Mary Brandon, show girl. (10)
This time Kolchak gets two clues that one is his facial information; the other is his car information.
Kolchak bribes Helen O'Brien (Peggy Rea) to intercept police communication to track police investigation on the suspect's car.
She's the switchboard operator at the County Courthouse
The DMV is checking on the suspect's car. Now,
you couldn't help me in that area-could you? (11)
Bernie Jenks finds Kolchak to publish drawing of the face of the suspect on their Daily News. The killer commits assaults, a woman Shelly Forbes at parking lot of Casino. And she is missing.
Sherman Duffy of the Chicago Globe
once described a reporter as follows:
Socially, he fits in somewhere
between a hooker and a bartender.
Spiritually, he stands beside Galileo,
because he knows the world is round.
...not that it does much good, of
course, when his editor knows it's flat. (12)
Kolchak confronts disbelief of Tony Vincenzo who duly holds the shocking news in order to avoid mass panic as he told.
The Police. The D.A.
The Coroner's Office.
Every reporter on every paper in
Las Vegas knows what's going on.
...the only people who
don't know are the PEOPLE.
At last you got the point, Kolchak.
The people in Las Vegas don't know.
Because the people of Las Vegas'd
come unglued if they did know.
Even more than they're coming
unglued already. Capeesh? (13)
The killer's car is identified soon after the heated argument between two of them.
Tuesday, May 25th, 7:30PM.
Helen O'Brien had told me that the
DMV'd come up with 16 possibles...
...the car owner's name: Martin Luben.
Address on Spring Mountain road.
Name and address both phoney.
Name of salesman who sold car:
Fred Hurley. (14)
At this point, Kolchak gets both clues (facial info. and car info.). The first half of ACT2 ends here. The first half of ACT2 established questions ''two clues'' and solved them.
Kolchak finds solutions to end the vampire killer due to suggestion from his girlfriend Gail Foster.
All my life I've waited for a
story like this. All my life!
And when it finally comes,
I can't get it printed.
Aw c'mon, honey. I'm serious.
That weirdo's hit 5 girls,
and they were all nightworkers.
Well he's done everything that's in this book...
You're GOING to read it!
Yes, yes... alright. I'll read it...
Oh c'mon now. You're
a big, tough reporter.
You can take it. You might even get
a good feature article out of it.
Since the beginning
of man's existence...
...there have been
creatures of the night.
Crazed monsters that track the bloody prints
through the pages of fact and fiction...
...of them all, the vampire seems to have
accumulated the largest body of documentation.
...by night, the vampire is virtually
indestructible, fearing only the sign of the cross...
...before daybreak, he must return to his coffin, otherwise
he will be destroyed by the purifying rays of the sun...
...it is then, while he lies
dormant, he can be destroyed...
...by hammering a wooden
stake through his heart...
According to the legend,
...the victim of the vampire will
ultimately rise again as the living dead.
...and must be destroyed
in a similar manner.
From any source available,
the vampire must have blood. (15)
A protagonist finds solution to end the entire conflict at midpoint. On the other hand, it is also a moment of truth that the vampire killer's finally identified in detail. The vampire stole blood bottles from the blood bank at hospital, and Kolchak closely witnessed the overwhelming power of the killer shown against police encirclement in front of the hospital. Even Kolchak instantly took some photos of the scene this time. It enhances his position in the argument with the authorities.
Bernie Jenks publishes the real identification of the suspect at the 2nd. press conference,
...A wild brawl
at the Old Town Hospital.
Thursday, May 27th, 8:20am...
and things were rolling. (16)
The maniac had been identified.
Janos Skorzeny (played by Barry Atwater)
Born in Criesti, Romania, 1899.
Now wait just a minute.
You tryin' to tell me that
this guy's over 70 years old?
Come on, Bernie. Your boys
have come up with the wrong man.
Like hell we have!
These facts have been
triple checked and confirmed!
Skorzeny's father died in 1923.
He left somewhere between
75 and 100 million dollars.
At this time he began to travel,
...and he became known throughout Eastern
Europe as a big lover of nightlife.
And we don't have a lot more
on him from before World War II.
However, Scotland Yard reports that he showed
up in England just in time for the German Blitz.
While in England, he passed
himself off as Dr. Paul Belasco.
A specialist in Haematology Research,
...his work involved freshly killed air raid
victims from various London Emergency Rooms.
As a matter of fact, at his
residence at Chaftle Court,
...he installed several kinds of sumps, tubs
and an extremely large commercial meat freezer.
By 1948, he turned up in
Canada... still as Dr. Belasco...
...and further checking, he made his
presence known in almost every place...
...along the US-Canadian Border where rioting and
violence and a number of dead bodies were found.
We believe he left Canada
for Vegas on April 19th,
...under the name of
Detective-Constable Allen Hensley.
Now because of his British citizenship,
he is an international fugitive.
The one constant that has shown
up in all of our reports is...
That Skorzeny's travels have always been
accompanied by a number of unexplained killings.
Many of which have one thing in common:
...a massive loss of blood.
So-if Skorzeny is not the vampire
of Mr. Kolchak's theories...
...he is certainly the suspect of multiple
homicides extending back some 30 years. (17)
This evidence also persuades Koclchak to believe Skorzeny is a real vampire.
So far he has killed
4, probably 5 women.
Now the coroner said that
those bite marks on the throat
...were made by human teeth.
He practically confirmed the fact
that he actually drank their blood.
Now, now, now... now wait...
Whatever this Skorzeny may be,
He seemed to be functioning
as if he were a vampire.
Now you can go on operating
as if he were an ordinary man.
That's up to you.
But I know that the only way
you're going to get him...
...is if you proceed under the
assumption that he's a real, live vampire. (18)
This is definitely the midpoint because the protagonist reached the thorough resolution to end the entire contradiction of the film. Now the real antagonists oppose him. This is the core of the dramatic contradiction between the protagonist and the antagonists. Skorzeny is just a second important antagonist in comparison with District Attorney Tom Paine, Sheriff Warren A. Butcher and Police Chief Ed Masterson.
Boy, I really can't believe that you
guys are so afraid of appearing stupid,
...that you'll ignore the only
possible way of nailing him!
I don't care what's been
printed in the newspapers.
This man is still classified
as an ORDINARY maniac...
...and he'll be settled by
standard police procedures.
And you'd better start cooperating
with that fact, Kolchak,
...or you're gonna get your
pushy-tushy kicked right outta town!
Yes. I dig. (19)
The dramatic situation further complicated while their direct conflicts and frictions are heated up regarding the vampire stuff. Meanwhile all major characters and conflicts are fully connected and unified into one firmly. There are only one major contradiction between Kolchak and authorities, and one sub contradiction between citizens and the vampire. Which contradiction is the dominant factor? Both dramatic contradictions are in fact interchangeable and at some point, the vampire one is dominant, especially at ACT1. At this point, audience realise that those corrupted authorities are more threatening the protagonist than the vampire itself.
End of ACT2:
Kolchak asks his old fellow Mickey Crawford to locate Skorzeny's house.
Show every real estate agent in town
the picture of this guy's puss...
...and ask them if they sold a
house to anybody that looks like him!
After Skorzeny successfully steals blood bottles again from hospital despite of massive police raid, another attempt to capture Skorzeny with overwhelming police forces suddenly starts when patrolling police identifies him,
Two ladies, downtown on Casino drive...
Code 1033! Code 1033!
All units! All units!
Janos Skorzeny spotted in 1969
green, unpanelled station wagon.
Intersection Ocane and Husselt.
Postive visual contact made. (20)
The attempt is failed. The authorities don't know what should they do now. No proper method is seemed to be effective for arresting the extraordinarily powerful suspect. The negotiation between Kolchak and the authorities begins.
At the hospital and a third was harbouring on the edge...
Reports on them were still coming in as the greatest
manhunt in the history of Las Vegas continued in vane.
Oh. Thanks, Bernie. Yeah.
What're we gonna do?
NOW are you willing to
listen to my insane ideas?
Kolchak! Get outta here!
Now Warren, hold it, hold it...
...either he was shot,
...or your entire police
department is BLIND.
ED! Let's admit it. We had the man-had
him cornered, and we couldn't hold him!
Let Kolchak have his say...
Oh, uh... before I do...
...is it agreed that
in return for my help,
...you will grant me the exclusive
rights to the entire story?
Well, let's say it's agreeable if...
...we decide to follow your
suggestions regarding the suspect.
Okay, Kolchak. You've
got yourself a deal.
- What's that?
Butcher here will issue the
crosses, the mallets, the stakes,
...but one thing he won't do is depart
from established police procedures.
If feasible, Skorzeny is to be
taken alive and held for trial.
That's right. Trial.
Alright. In return for what?
- You'll get the exclusive rights to the story.
Ahhh... WHEN the blackout is lifted.
Uh-Huh. Yeah. Any other conditions?
- One more...
If it turns out you're wrong,
you're to be out of town in 12 hours.
...take it or leave it.
Alright I'll take it!
...because I know I'm right.
And uh... you know I'm right.
This is the bottom point of the drama and the most dangerous moment for the protagonist because he makes a critical decision that most likely risks himself simultaneously when he gets what he wanted from them. The promise for granting the exclusive rights to report the truth. Getting rid of Skorzeny is not their final goal at all. For authorities, their ultimate aim is to get Kolchak out of the town. This deal is not physically risky for Kolchak but it's socially risky for him.
It's me, Crawford!
What're ya doin' drivin'
off with me in the back seat?
What're ya doin' in my back seat?
I wanted to talk to ya...
I saw your car parked here, so
I got in to wait for
ya, and I got sleepy!
You got sleepy...
I think I've found the house. (22)
The Skorzeny's safe house is detected thus it will be the main stage for ACT3.
Kolchak arrives at Skorzeny's safe house before dawn.
I'd told Crawford to give me 30 minutes
before telling Jenks where I was.
That way, I could get to see
the house alone for a while,
...and also keep the police
from arriving before dawn. (23)
Kolchak trespasses on Skorzeny's property and takes snapshots of Skorzeny's clothes, disguise kit, refrigerator in which stolen blood bottles are stored, and also Skorzeny's coffin. Then, he finds Shelly Forbes, a missing person suspected as a Skorzeny's victim.
Shhhh! I heard a sound.
His own private blood bank. (24)
Skorzeny returned with his car.
Kolchak quickly hides and seeks a chance to get Skorzeny yet the vampire suddenly breaks the door and finds him at a room where Shelly Forbes's tied to the bed. Kolchak struggles to escape from the vampire but Skorzeny soon overpowers Kolchak. Then Bernie Jenks suddenly joins the battle when Kolchak is almost killed by Skorzeny on the first floor. Kolchak realises the dawn has broken, and he opens the shielded window to light up the vampire. Then weakened Skorzeny has no place to hide. Finally Kolchak stakes the vampire on the sun-drenched staircase while Bernie Jenks holding the crucifix against the vampire.
The authorities bust thought the front door just after that.
End of ACT3:
Kolchak types his draft for the exclusive news report on Skorzeny and meanwhile proposes his girlfriend. This is the happiest moment for the protagonist in the entire story but this is still not the ending. In ordinary horror films, a female protagonist will be kidnapped or endangered by the antagonist. On this case, Gail Foster is not endangered by Skorzeny because Skorzeny is not a real antagonist of this story. This plot arrangement itself indicates this. It's a genuinely
professional structural work on screenplay.
Do you think they'll print it?
I know they will.
We've got an agreement.
Hey why don't you stop working nights?
Oh Carl-not that again?
...and marry me?
Yeah, well... you're a good
cooker and a good kisser.
Oh baby! You're gonna
love New York City!
Honey, after this story hits the
news services with my byline...
- Us? Married?
- Yes. Us!
Then, Kolchak returns to his workplace to submit the draft and images to his boss. This is another positive result, a reward for the protagonist that his almost broken working relationship with Tony Vincenzo dramatically improved. Now Tony Vincenzo accepts his story and even rarely praises him.
There you are, Vincenzo.
...and if I do say so
myself, it's sensational.
I'm sure it is, Carl.
- You're gonna put it in the special edition?
- With Pictures?
...and the news services?
What's got into you, Vincenzo?
You sick or somethin'?
Nothing. This is all fine, Carl. Fine.
Uh. Jenks has been tryin' to reach you.
Yeah? What'd he want?
He wants to see you over
at the D.A.'s office.
Why don't you run over there? NOW.
You're one hell of a reporter.
Thank you, sir. (26)
Kolchak comes to the D.A.'s office as he called. Now the real antagonists finally have their reward.
Carl Kolchak, you're under
arrest on the charge of murder...
The state requires that you be informed
that you have the right to remain silent,
- anything you say...
- Oh ho ho... NO CHANCE!
You're not gonna pull that one on me.
You ARE under arrest.
Alright, Paine. What kind
of a dirty deal is this?
You have a very short memory, Kolchak.
A few hours ago, Sheriff
Butcher himself saw you
...actually pound a wooden
stake through a man's heart.
...with this mallet.
...a man wanted for questioning,
QUESTIONING, mind you...
He hadn't been arrested.
He hadn't even been charged.
You broke up our stakeout. And after we
were kind enough to invite you to go along.
You just charged in there in front of us and killed
Janos Skorzeny before we had a chance to do anything.
You were even ranting and raving about this
Skorzeny being some kind of a "vampire" and
...you had to save the world.
You're gonna stop yourself, Kolchak.
Because if you open your mouth,
we'll find you, bring you back,
...USE this warrant,
and put you away forever.
Pick 'em up, Kolchak.
Pick 'em up and get outta town. NOW.
We'll take care of your back rent.
I want to call Gail.
She's not there, Carl.
What've you done with her?
We just asked the young lady if
she'd be good enough to leave town.
She's an "undesirable element" Kolchak, and we
don't want undesirable elements in Las Vegas.
The dirty deal is that the authorities unwillingly and unofficially admit the vampire stuff, but Kolchak can only print their official narrative version of the incident, and most importantly, Kolchak must leave the town quietly otherwise the authorities will use the warrant to silence Kolchak anytime. Additionally, his girlfriend has been ousted from the town by police before he has a chance to call her.
Time reverts to the first hotel room scene,
After I left town, I began putting notices in the personal
columns of newspapers from San Francisco to St. Louis.
...until I ran out of money, that is...
So far, I've received no answers.
But I'll keep trying, even though I don't
think I'll ever find Gail Foster again.
Maybe it's just as well...
I haven't had a decent night's
sleep since all this happened.
...and now you might
find it difficult too.
Because there is still one
fact that cannot be buried:
After the death of Janos Skorzeny,
...he, and all of his victims
were immediately cremated.
Remember the legend?
"All those who die from
the bite of the vampire...
...will return as a vampire,
unless destroyed first."
So think about it, and try to tell
yourself, where ever you may be,
In the quiet of your home,
in the safety of your bed,
Try to tell yourself: "It
couldn't happen here." (27)
This is obviously a tragedy if we simply and one-sidedly see this unhappy ending, a victory of the antagonists, a failure of the protagonist. In fact, it is just said from the traditional dualist Dracula film's point of view. For them, getting rid of the monster, Dracula is the final goal. On the contrary, The Night Stalker (1972) has its holistic, dialectic story structure like JAWS (1975) in which the real and ultimate antagonists are neither a vampire nor a shark but it is the bureaucratically corrupted authorities in society. This socially minded structural feature is only found in genuine film masterpieces just I mentioned above.
In practice, the producers and the author did not ultimately approve the social character of Kolchak by this unhappy ending thus it's totally acceptable for the ruling class to maintain their social order. For working class audience, the true journalistic character and heroic social role of Kolchak are unconditionally attractive as rarely seen in the real society.
As we analysed here, so called plot is essentially proactive decision making by the protagonist. And Every major plot point is at least a sequence not a moment or a scene if we translate the originally literal terms of story structure to editorial units of film structure. And this kind of translation is necessary for practice. An ACT or each plot point must be scenes as a sequence or a sequence shot. The basic film unit is actions, beats (turning points as shifts in action), shots, scenes, sequences, Acts, and the entire film. Plot points are sequences in the three ACT structure and its timetable (time arrangement, time management).
Film editing is to make cuts among them. It is not just only cutting shots, it even cuts sequences and ACTs in general in order to compose the entire film. For editing, plot or plot point is still a literal term, it must be translated into film unit like a sequence in order to reconstruct the film with concrete elements, such as actions, beats(turning points as shifts in action), shots, scenes, sequences and Acts.
TECHNICAL ASPECTS AND AESTHETICS
''Made for TV movie'' was once seemed to be obsolete or extinct but nowadays it got revitalised by online movie watching sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Youtube etc. which are also available via digital television or DCP home theatre at home via internet connection.
The Night Stalker (1972) was budgeted with $450,000 and aired on January 11, 1972 via ABC as a program for ABC Movie of the Week which is also famous for Steven Spielberg's Duel (1971 TV film; the budget was the same $450,000). This TVM was a gigantic success at that time that it achieved 58% of all US TV viewers watched upon its debut, and even it was later rated as the highest TVM on US television with 33.2 rating and 48 share. It notably influenced Chris Carter's The X-Files (1993-2002; 2016-2018; total 218 episodes in 11 seasons), moreover Darren McGavin played similar role -originally Chris Carter wanted him to reprise Kolchak - Arthur Dales in two of its episodes, "Travelers" (season 5, episode 15, 1998) and "Agua Mala"(season 6 episode 13, 1999). (28)
There is no doubt that The Night Stalker (1972) is the greatest TV movie ever made in history, and its depiction of mass hysteria, coverups by corrupted bureaucrats and oppression on freedom of press are timeless. Maybe it's more real and threatening lives of people than 1972 in 2020 in social context. Mass hysteria is sophistically marketed and stealthily astroturfed by mainstream corporate media which are consciously equalised with advertisement companies to push political and economic agendas of the billionaires despite governmental actors, moreover it is harmoniously supported by mass surveillance and borderless censorship by tech giants against different voices and genuine journalism.
If we simplify this TVM's core thought, it must be freedom of press which charismatically personified by the protagonist, an investigative journalist, a lovable rogue character Carl Kolchak. The image of protagonist in vampire fictional tales changed from time to time. First, Baron Vordenburg in the classical gothic novella Carmilla (1872) is a strange looking aristocrat who is a descendant of the hero who vanquished vampires from the region around the ruined Karnstein estate. He helps Laura’s father and General Spielsdorf to locate Carmilla’s tomb and defeat the vampire. He is more like a scholar. The second, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula (1897) is a Dutch doctor, lawyer and professor who helps his student John Seward to destroy the vampire count. Both of them are acting like investigative journalists in their pursue for the clues and process of tracking the vampires. In modern capitalist era, they are obsolete, stoic and commonly lack of humour. Baron Vordenbug and Van Helsing are reflections of zeitgeist of late feudalistic era. This is why endless remake of Dracula is meaningless for today's world. Like Akira Kurosawa said, we must dream new one not old one. Thus, creation of the modern day protagonist Carl Kolchak was perfectly achieved by talented author Jeffrey Grant Rice (1944-2015), screenplay Richard Matheson (1926-2013) and the TV film director John Llewellyn Moxey (1925-2019).
1. Zeitgeist and the characteristic evolution of the vampire
Barry Atwater's interview of 1975 is the most important document to track the production process from the actor's point of view. His major role the vampire Janos Skorzeny is evolution and update for old Dracula or Carmilla imageries. Janos Skorzeny is the modernised vampire who obviously generated from vast influence of the killer with dissociative identity disorder Norman Bates from Psycho (1960), and further affected William Lustig's Maniac (1980 film). The modern day vampire is a psychopath, a maniac which is completely socially alienated and becomes a pure blood sucking beast.Thus he had no spoken lines, only actions throughout the entire film.
Barry Atwater's own testimony backs this theory. This talented character actor consciously modernised and even localised Dracula since then the cliched image of Dracula by the Hammer Film Production became obsolete. We should make a film about where we are now.
The Collinsport Historical Society interviewed Barry Atwater,
COF: How did you feel about interpreting, about getting into the character?
BA: I felt he was very lonely. He has no friends. He's all alone, so he doesn't talk to people. I'm sure he's not a happy man, but he's stuck. He's like a heroin addict; he's stuck. And I took that attitude. I've never taken heroin and never intend to, but what I heard about it is that a guy has to have it. If Skorzeny didn't have blood, what would happen to him? it must be really hell not to have blood. So, I simply took the absolute necessity to have blood, and if I have to kill people, I'm "sorry." I don't want to kill anyone. I don't get kicks by killing people. I simply have to have it. And if people don't understand it, it's not my fault — and they chase me and they do awful to me and they shoot bullets at me and I'm furious with them.
COF: If they re-made DRACULA and did it according to the book, do you have any ambition to portray the famous Count, the classic Vampire?
BA: No way, no way. Look, DRACULA was written in 1898. That style of presentation of a story is old hat for us now. We really know it's a classic when we see it. In the recent version with Palance, we've had it—we've really had it. So, we cannot go and keep doing that over and over and over again. Here's what happened: take THE EXORCIST — you see, that is where we are now — where DRACULA was when it came out with Lugosi in the early 30's. It scared the heck out of us, and so did the first FRANKENSTEIN. Now, today in 1974, it's THE EXORCIST that's scaring people and making them sick. We cannot go back from the level of THE EXORCIST in terms of story, of treatment, of realism and honesty and candor. We're doing things, saying things and we're admitting things that we never did before. We are far more honest and candid a people than we ever were. I remember when sex movies started showing in theatres I couldn't believe it, because I was brought up in Denver, Colorado in a very square, Republican, Protestant society. And all this stuff Was where you wouldn't even think about it, much less talk about it. But we knew about it. Now we're all saying out loud what we're thinking in our heads. And I think this is marvelous. I think we're being honest and I think when we're honest we'll be healthy. When we start lying, then we get sick. (29)
There is no more aristocratic image of vampire from Transylvania, from 19th century Romania. Mechanical adaptation of old European characters from gothic novella is a fatal mistake due to its lack of modernisation and localisation efforts, it's rather a proof of laziness if compares it with this remarkable innovation done by Barry Atwater. He did not ignore the modern day image of killers in real social context. This is critically important.
Barry Atwater also referred to various technical aspects of the film production. For cinematography, the director of photography Michel Hugo (1930-2010) actually used two cameras, the one mentioned by Barry Atwater is Arriflex 35 which manufactured in 1937, the first reflex 35mm motion picture camera to get hand-held shots.
COF: Was all of the hissing and growling overdubbed.
BA: No, this is what happened: Sometimes when they shoot they use an Arriflex camera which makes a lot of noise. It's a hand-held camera. In the end, where the sunlight comes in and I try to go up the stairs and the sunlight hits me and finally I fall, and Kolchak kills me with a stake — all that was shot with an Arriflex which made a terrible racket. So, all the noises had to be dubbed. We went into an adjacent sound stage and I tried to go through the business to make it as consistent as possible with the hissing and the growling and the snarling to cover that sequence where they were using the noisy Arriflex camera. (30)
This kind of noisy camera issue is resurfaced when we use automatic zoom function of digital single-lens reflex cameras that used in ordinary situations. The automatic censor moving around the objects to put focus on them is quite noisy. Sound recording is the biggest issue in the almost all kinds of video-making in both amateur and professional jobs. For TV location shooting, it's the same.
Barry Atwater further mentioned film editing and style that attract audience.
COF: You were the co-star of the most successful made-for-TV movie. To what do you attribute your personal effectiveness in THE NIGHT STALKER?
BA: That's due to the way it was photographed and the way it was cut. I'm not trying to give false modesty. I think if you like films it’s important for you to know what it is in the film that makes you like it, so you can appreciate it all the more. There are a lot of things to watch in the film aside from the actors. You watch the way the shot's done — how it's cut, the camera angle. Those are the things in a film that can really be exciting as film. The way it was cut and edited together.
In THE NIGHT STALKER you would be watching scene A and hearing the dialogue and sound from scene A. As you got to the end of that, we would suddenly hear the sound from scene B — then the visual would switch to scene B. This kind of overlapping — it would pull us through, rather than jerk, jerk, jerk like that. It would kind of ease us through into the next sequence and make the pacing very much faster. It's a neat technique and it's exciting to watch. It feels good to watch. (31)
What he mentioned here is sound cut. It is a kind of cut that sound from the previous shot continues and overlaps with the next shot vice versa. In this film, it is mainly done by narration voice over by Kolchak. For instance,
When Kolchak's narration starts mentioning the victim's corpse in the next scene, the narration continues from the previous scene in Casino smoothly enters into the exterior construction site.
Sound cut can more accelerate the pace of the film movement. It fits TV film production. Now we see various techniques used in the film one by one.
2. Reframing and Documentary or TV report style of Location Shooting
The tendency of shot construction in THE NIGHT STALKER is quite obvious in the opening sequence. Like ordinary TV works require speedy solutions to each scene they shot, it is almost done by single camera work and one reporter on the site of shooting, whether it's interior or exterior. The first hotel room scene was done by one shot with reframing, from the close up of the tape recorder, zoom off to take wide angle in which Kolchak takes a beer from the refrigerator, then he gets on the bed to start narration voice over, finally camera zooms in to take a close up of him. In this reframing solution, one shot equals with one scene.
This example proved that a long take with flexible and speedy reframing is acceptable for television production if it is really economical. The next example is from location shooting that every location points are solved by one shot with panning and following movement. This is also practice of reframing.
The lighting is based on ambience light and only one shot for each location point. In this way, the film crew and the cast economically and swiftly finished the location shooting on the street in the Las Vegas Strip. Single camera op., a long take, one shot solution is apparently effective in television production. The TV film director John Llewellyn Moxey took this kind of minimalist approach to the almost all action sequences. And the most of sequences were shot in single camera work. This opening sequence embodies and crystallises his aesthetics on this film. Simple and edgy.
3. POV of the dead
Another stylistically memorable solution is the point of view shot of the corpse of Cheryl Hughes which overlapped by the opening title credit. This is a morgue scene in which Dr. Robert Makurji and other two coroners are performing autopsy of her dead body. It is an example of defamiliarization in the Russian formalist terms.
4. Frequent changes of positioning in reverse cuts
During arguments between Anthony Albert Vincenzo and Kolchak, they do not just sit or stand on the same position calmly. On the contrary, the director and actors fully used the space within the shot by switching positions of two speakers in the flow of reverse cut without violating the 180 degree
rule of any establishment shot. The imaginary line for a reverse cut is movable when they intermittently change their positions during dialogue in continuous shot. This kind of staging technique is almost ignored in contemporary films.
In ordinary films, this sort of staging is rarely seen. It shows John Llewellyn Moxey's craftsmanship. Switching positions in reverse cut is possible when it is bridged by continuous establishing shot without breaking the 180 degree rule.
5. Interruptive Fade in & out in TVM
In television movies or theatrical movies aired on television are inevitably interrupted by commercials made for sponsors of the program as everybody knows. However this interruption from outside factors can be dealt in very aesthetically satisfactory manner like this timeless master piece. Of course, this is a matter of editing. The cut points are equalised with turning points within the scene. For instance, when Dr. Robert Makurji reveals shocking detail that indicates vampirism, the editor Desmond Marquette (1908-1999) made a fade out for the commercial break with a echoing percussion sound. And then it fades in to continue the drama.
Another one is fade out from the extreme close up of the eyes of Janos Skorzeny in his assault on Shelly Forbes, then fades in from the commercial break to the conversation between Kolchak and Vincenzo on the missing Shelly Forbes.
Both instances not only surprisingly fit the commercial break, but also those cut points are regularly suitable for making fade out and fade in transitions in theatrical feature films.
6. Seamlessness: Frame in & out between different scenes
This is similar to sound cut but it is done via actor's movement ''frame in and out''. It aimed at accelerating film pacing while perfectly securing seamlessness between different scenes. Alternatively, nowadays some blockbusters use layered actions as transitional effects between scenes yet this frame in and out are traditional and should be fully applied before taking CGI effects.
For instance, after warning from his friend Bernie Jenks, Kolchak frames out from the attorney's office, then Kolchak frames in from the left side within the framework of action match cutting. This continuity editing is mainly done by the actor himself.
7. Beat, Cut-point and Tonal Sound Effect
Beat is a turning point in action in one scene or shot. Cut point means a when and how we cut shots. Sound effect means translation of visual image into sound layer in order to enhance the visual impact and transmit dramatic meaning. It must find psychological equilibrium of dramatic action in sound. In this film, the simplest example is that when Kochak finds solution to end the vampire, the film music composer Bob Cobert (1924-2020) only used echoing percussion sounds to express Kolchak's ''inspiration''. The percussion sound is only audible for audience not the character but it actually makes his ''inspiration'' audible by synchronising and overlapping itself to the exact moment. Sound has psychological colours thus editor and composer must find the same colour or opposite colour to enhance the dramatic actions (moving visuals).
8. Stunt Performance and Cutting
Action scenes of this film were basically supported by stunt performers. From rough driving scenes, battles in hospital, pool, and Janos Skorzeny's safe house etc.. Unlike King Hu (1932-1997) who used both actors and his stunt performer simultaneously at fight sequences, the use of stunt performers in The Night Stalker (1972) is relatively traditional. It's simply done by cross cutting within the same scene by different setups in single camera operation. Thus the cutting followed the 30 degree rule and the blurring effect of long distance perspective in order to relieve the discontinuity between shots. Tips of single camera editing were applied on this. For example, after Janos Skorzeny stole blood bottles from the hospital, he fights hospital staffs and police breaking through the encirclement, then gets out from the hospital, finally he continues his escape attempt by throwing away police officers. The wide shots are stunt performances, and the closer and acutely different angle shots (setups) are done by Barry Atwater himself.
9. Staging: Mise-en-scène and Mise en shot
Mise-en-scène means how to stage the scene in drama. And Mise en shot is how to construct each shot including its all elements in order to make a cut. The TV film director John Llewellyn Moxey was good at staging that he outstandingly used foreground-middle layer-background, furthermore he switched positioning and pausing of actors among the three layers of the visual image frame in order to create the thematic image and atmosphere of each shot and scene. Staging is a construction work made by collective efforts of the entire cast and crew. We can feel high extent of consciousness from his Mise en shot in following examples on this master work.
a. Deep construction of a shot in which it indicates there is still the last hope for the incompetent authorities. The authorities are put in foreground and Kolchak in the unproportionately distanced background position.
b. Horizontal construction in which the key items such as a mallet and stick are positioned in the golden ratio (3.14159). The classical principle for framing was beautifully practiced in this television movie.
c. A switch between foreground and background. The witness and police are positioned in foreground in the Fig.1 but it's switched into background when Kochak's car frames in later.
d. Multiplying visual impacts by deep construction. In ordinary films, this could have been a single close up shot of Sheriff Butcher yet the director added another two police officers in the close up.
e. Bernie Jenks' sympathy and apology toward Kolchak and cruelness of district attorney Thomas Paine are highly contrasted in deep structure. Emphasising contradicted psychological status of characters within a frame.
This is my favourite film in my entire life without own film, video and television works. If I have to choose only one favourite film among billions of countless TV, video and film works in entire human history (In fact, no one can see literally all TV, video and film works made in human history. Only we can see more TV, video and film works made by others than our own works.) , I must choose The Night Stalker (1972) without any hesitation. Carl Kolchak is my ideal character found in this fictional world on screen. Society needs him desperately now.
"The Night Stalker"Scripts.com.STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 11 Aug. 2020. p.1 <https://www.scripts.com/script/the_night_stalker_14792>.
Edward G. Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars (New York, 1972) passim; Stephen Shalom, ''Counter-Insurgency in the Philippines'' in Daniel Schirmer, Stephen Shalom, eds., The Philippine Reader (Boston, 1987) pp.112-3.
"The Night Stalker"Scripts.com.STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 11 Aug. 2020. <https://www.scripts.com/script/the_night_stalker_14792>.
X-files.fandom.com, Arthur Dales (Agent), https://x-files.fandom.com/wiki/Arthur_Dales_(Agent) accessed August 15, 2020.
Collinsporthistoricalsociety.com, An Interview with Kolchak's Vampire, 1975, Monday, January 11, 2016, http://www.collinsporthistoricalsociety.com/2016/01/an-interview-with-kolchaks-vampire-1975.html?m=1
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to the professional film writer Ryota Nakanishi as author and a link to www.ryotanakanishi.com is provided.
This film article is for the educational purpose only.