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Film Review: The Night Strangler (TV Movie 1973) The Cost of Carl Kolchak's Genuine Journalism

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

FILE PHOTO: Carl Kolchak in The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC; composite ©Ryota Nakanishi
FILE PHOTO: Carl Kolchak in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC; composite ©Ryota Nakanishi



First of all, it's all about journalism in reality not about an ''elixir of life''. The 144 year-old strangler Dr. Malcolm/Richards (played by Richard Anderson) who commits groups of killings of girls within 18 days in 21 year-cycle since 1889 in Seattle is totally fictional. Thus it's meaningless to search for any resemblance between Dr. Malcolm and real serial stranglers in US on this. We should directly stick to the theme when analysing the valuable content for our reality. In other words, allegorically we should look at Plato's fire itself not the shadow casted on the wall of a cave in the famous allegory of the cave. The essence is the fire, reality, real social context; the shadow is the fiction, superfluous phenomenon, the film. The fire itself is the only reality. Therefore, film analysis or film review is supposed to point it out to the public.

As we know today, so called ''investigative journalists'' (''jiken-kisya'' in Japanese) are almost extinct under the global monopoly of political agenda-driven ''advertising'' mainstream corporate media and their best corroborators BIG TECH social media giants. In fact, ''advertising'' industry and real ''journalism'' are fundamentally contradicted and even unable to coexist with each other. What we can see in platform market can only be almost results of a concession between them if it has any better quality as some kind of ''journalist work''.

The term ''journalism'' means that the social functions of the third party ''media'' who investigate facts and monitor the policies of governments with independent thought and highly critical stance for the best benefits of the people. Meanwhile it will take actions against misdeeds of governments or capitalists or any criminals if it's necessary. Thus it is also activism to certain extent. Real journalists are not critics but they are activists who seek social solutions to issues. It's originally not just selling writings to media. For the new era, filmmakers and film critics should be more consciously ''journalistic'' toward their society instead of indulging in their fictional world, film style and selfish career opportunist social activities with political blindness. I should briefly introduce such instances here.

For example, Matthew Kadish, a novelist, pop culture critic, and filmmaker from the US wrote a brilliant film article on career opportunism in the industry in relation to the real political context in US. The title The Rock may back Biden, but most celebrity endorsements are career opportunism… which is why they NEVER come out for Republicans published by RT on October 4, 2020. It's genuinely a ''journalistic'' filmmaker's writing job as a social commentary not like a scholastic pedantism at film schools. True criticism must be made with critical attitude toward all political tendencies and biases that camouflage class war behind cultural phenomena.

His film review is also very progressive as a ''journalistic'' approach toward film and its cultural phenomena simultaneously. He wrote the article titled ‘Tenet’: How does a bad movie trick you into believing it’s good? By confusing the heck out of you! which also published by RT on September 9, 2020.

Tenet, at its core, is a convoluted movie that is more in love with its ideas than with telling a good story. (1)

This is also a point to this discussion on The Night Strangler (TV Movie 1973) as the producer/ director Dan Curtis told in his rare interview which can be seen on YouTube.

''It's all about story now.'' Good ''story-telling''(a good story skilfully told by creative teams) is everything for being a good and everlasting film masterpiece even though technical conditions of each work are inevitably different by time and place. It is still universal truth. However, ''story-telling'' (art of fictional fabrication) is not journalism at all. On the contrary, journalism must strictly stick to only facts and truth thus it should be called ''fact-telling'' or ''truth-telling.'' At this moment, we realised the dialectic contradiction between ''story-telling'' (fiction) and ''fact-telling'' (reality).

A film is Aufheben, synthesis of the contradiction. ''Truth-telling'' is synthesised into ''story-telling'' by artists thus it becomes fictional reality. In which, the truth exists as a form of enlightenment, realisation of truth, right decision, personal development of the protagonist in the imaginary reality.

For analytical work or review, the process of dialectics is quite reversed. "Story-telling" is synthesised into ''fact-telling''. In which, dialectical elements of the fictional work is abstracted and reconstructed into ''truth-telling.'' Status of being fiction is seen as a sheer fact. Thus, creating a fictional work and analysing the fictional work are all dialectical processes in the opposite direction.

From this point of view, what is the fake news? It's mainly produced by PR companies=advertising companies=marketing companies=almost all corporate mainstream media of today according to their ''political correctness'' which instructed by their ad clients and bureaucrats. It forms ''McCarthyism''; ''Red-purge'' like-social atmosphere, Gestapo-like social justice warriors and tendency of management teams. Such as cancel woke culture of today. Of course, not only it is blithely promoted but also it is total denial of basic ''fact-telling'', a death of journalism. ''Political correctness''(a.k.a. fabricated stories) replaced ''facts''. Nowadays even intelligence textbooks are based on ''political correctness'' and fabricated official narratives instead of factual truth unfortunately. This is why professional intelligence analysis is also dying.

One of respected RT writers Lee Camp wrote the best article on the issue which titled Lee Camp: Two massive new leaks show dirty underbelly of the empire republished on October 13, 2020.

Well, according to the leaked documents – “These UK-funded firms functioned as full-time PR flacks for the extremist dominated Syrian armed opposition. One contractor, called InCoStrat, said it was in constant contact with a network of more than 1,600 international journalists and influencers, and used them to push pro-opposition talking points.”

Sixteen hundred media people, many calling themselves “journalists,” were simply printing hack stories by pro-war government cut-outs?! Compare that number to those of us reporting the truth... I count, um, seven. Nine if you include the two who only do their 'reporting' on the telephone to telemarketers who are unlucky enough to accidentally call them. A single PR company used 1,600 people and millions of dollars pouring in from the US and UK. With that kind of money, they should’ve won a goddamn Oscar – like 'Schindler’s List'.

...Wait. I now remember. They DID win an Oscar. A documentary about the White Helmets in Syria won an Oscar!

You recall the White Helmets – the amazing people in Syria who just rescue children from rubble. And America – which bombs children all over the world – happens to care about these particular children. Nothing to see here. Nothing unusual. We Americans just really care about Syrian children. Don’t give a tip of a turd about any other children crushed by our wars (hot, cold or lukewarm) around the world. Only Syrians caught in rubble rescued by the White Helmets pull at heartstrings.

Perhaps this next part won’t shock you. The new leaks confirm earlier reporting by The Grayzone and others showing the White Helmets were funded by Western governments, and claimed to be saving innocent civilians while also trying to get America to bomb more. They literally called for more air strikes. It’s not so dissimilar from all those emergency room doctors who spend their days trying desperately to save lives and then run around at night trying to start gang wars by making fun of Li’l Boom-Boom’s swastika tattoo before yelling “WEST SIDE!” and running away. That’s super common among doctors.

“The White Helmets were founded in collaboration with USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives – the wing that has promoted regime change around the world – and have been provided with $23 million in funding from the department.” (2)

This is the aftermath of infodemic. In which, mainstream media circulate ''fictional news'' and ''official narrative'' at the cost of ''fact-telling.'' They are self-denying journalism by this irresponsible PR marketing activities. Indeed, telling the truth and manipulating public opinions are completely different things. Only the former is journalism. Hence, marketing or advertising is not journalism at all.

In this film, the protagonist Carl Kolchak insists telling the truth to the public yet the news release gets blocked at the end by his editor Tony Vincenzo (played by Simon Oakland); Capt. Roscoe Schubert (Scott Brady) and Kolchak's employer Llewellyn Crossbinder (John Carradine) in order to prevent a panic among people of Seattle.

Curiously, the legendary investigative journalist at Washington Post who exposed Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, Bob Woodward showed similar journalistic stance of Carl Kolchak on Trump's mishandling of COVID-19 pandemic in USA in his new book RAGE.

The Guardian published his interview on September 20, 2020.

The biggest headline from the book concerns the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans, the highest toll in the world. It opens with a top secret briefing – regarded by Woodward as “probably one of the most important meetings in American history, this century anyway” – on the afternoon of 28 January. Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, warned Trump: “This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.”

In Woodward’s telling, Trump’s head popped up.

The president would tell Woodward in early February the virus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus”. Yet publicly he continued minimising the risk, comparing it to the flu and insisting it would go away while holding rallies and refusing to wear a mask. He tried to rationalise this to Woodward on 19 March: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.(3)

''Journalism versus panic prevention'' is antagonistic contradiction in both fiction and reality. It can only be solved by power politics not by gentle reasoning in society. Although RAGE won't bring down the US president Trump like the Watergate scandal while the book was based on Trump's friendly cooperation, Bob Woodward reinstated his genuine journalistic attitude on this and criticised Trump. For him, the border between fact and opinion is sacrosanct. The antithesis to journalism is someone who flooding social media with hot takes.

Woodward is puzzled by Trump’s cooperation. Unlike Nixon when Frost came calling, the president was not paid to be a witness against himself.

Rage comes with a definite viewpoint. Woodward contends that a “president must be willing to share the worst with the people, the bad the news with the good”. Instead of “truth-telling”, Woodward writes, Trump has “enshrined personal impulse as a governing principal”.

When Trump’s “performance is taken in its entirety”, he concludes, history will show that he was “the wrong man for the job”. (4)

His stance in the entire political context will serve Biden, Harris and democrats in the upcoming November election. Bob's publication of the new book is in fact pro-democrat undoubtedly. However his definition of genuine journalism is unbiased. He said:

You have to tell the truth and you can’t dodge that if that’s what you believe the truth to be. As a reporter, one plus one equals two: you can say that. And this is factual. It’s overwhelming. It’s incontrovertible and, as people are saying, it’s bulletproof. So I left it in.” (5)

Simply, it means that the best panic prevention or crisis prevention is to sincerely tell the truth to the public instead of fabricating a story or mitigating the real threat. This is the genuine journalism embraced by the fictional protagonist Carl Kolchak and the legendary US investigative journalist Bob Woodward. Moreover I have to additionally point out the more important principle that

''Truth-telling'' without class conciseness is still blind. Ongoing cultural war and identity politics by ruling class are all distractions from class war. Dr Lisa McKenzie from UK wrote a brilliant article in terms of the class interests of the working class people on this issue.

Rather than judging an unfair system that (and yes, I will say it again) advantages the middle class and disadvantages the working class, those who benefit from it continue to thrive. They fill the political and social space with their moral judgments, measuring not only what we do, but also how we think on cultural scales to divide us up into neat piles of the deserving and the undeserving.

Fight your culture wars if you wish. I’m fighting the only war that will emancipate the ‘undeserving’ – the Class War. (6)

In other words, the only war that really will represent the working class people is class war not any others under capitalism.

Besides this, I have to fairly mention that even Bob Woodward is criticised on his biased ‘Military Messiah Syndrome’ narrative for justifying generals who false flagged the Syrian government for the groundless chemical attack allegation with help from ''anti-Assad'' Al-Qaeda cells in Khan Shaykhun in April 2017. One of talented RT writers, a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer, ''pro-Trump'' Scott Ritter pointed out that Bob Woodward's Rage is built on a lie about Syria for the vested interests of military industrial complex and generals.

There was no confirmed use of chemical weapons by Syria at Khan Shaykhun. Indeed, the forensic evidence available about the attack points to the incident being a false flag effort – a successful one, it turns out – on the part of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamists to provoke a US military strike against Syria. No targets related to either the production, storage or handling of chemical weapons were hit by the US cruise missiles, if for no other reason than no such targets could exist if Syria did not possess and/or use a chemical weapon against Khan Shaykhun.

Moreover, the US failed to produce a narrative of causality which provided some underlying logic to the targets that were struck at Khan Shaykhun – “Here is where the chemical weapons were stored, here is where the chemical weapons were filled, here is where the chemical weapons were loaded onto the aircraft.” Instead, 59 cruise missiles struck empty aircraft hangars, destroying derelict aircraft, and killing at least four Syrian soldiers and up to nine civilians.

The next morning, the same Su-22 aircraft that were alleged to have bombed Khan Shaykhun were once again taking off from Shayrat Air Base – less than 24 hours after the US cruise missiles struck that facility. President Trump had every reason to be outraged by the results.

But the President should have been outraged by the processes behind the attack, where military commanders, fully afflicted by ‘Military Messiah Syndrome’, offered up solutions that solved nothing for problems that did not exist. Not a single general (or admiral) had the courage to tell the president that the allegations against Syria were a hoax, and that a military response was not only not needed, but would be singularly counterproductive. (7)

However we can't claim all content is a lie in Bob Woodward's Rage. At least it is quite truthful on the Trump's mishandling of COVID-19 pandemic in US even though Bob Woodward deliberately ignored lies of generals on their ''humanitarian bombing'' of Syria.



 FILE PHOTO: Carl Kolchack hired by Daily Chronicle at ACT1 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Carl Kolchack hired by Daily Chronicle at ACT1 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

Exposition: An investigative journalist Carl Kolchak is in Seattle after the last year (1972)'s vampire incident in Las Vegas. Unexpectedly Kolchak reencounters his former editor, Tony Vincenzo and gets hired for Llewellyn Crossbinder's Daily Chronicle.

 FILE PHOTO: Inciting Incident at ACT1 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Inciting Incident at ACT1 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

Inciting Incident: A series of murders occur. All female victims are strangled and drained of a few ounce of blood from the base of skull with hypodermic syringe. Tony Vincenzo assigns Kolchak to investigate the killing of the ballet dancer Merissa (Ethel Parker). Also a cocktail waitress Gail Manning found dead in the same way.

FILE PHOTO: End of ACT1 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: End of ACT1 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

End of ACT1: Merissa's colleagues like Charisma Beauty and Louise Harper can't provide any key information. However Kolchak gets several clues to the killer from other sources. A coroner's report reveals that the killer left the pieces of rotten flesh on the victims' necks; A witness of another Pioneer Square murder Joice Gabriel helps sketching the killer's face out; with help from Daily Chronicle's library researcher Titus Berry, Kolchak finds a pattern that the strangler commits six murders within 18 days in every 21 years since 1889. Kolchak and Vincenzo publish the news but police Capt. Roscoe Schubert blames them after that. It makes Kolchak more difficult to act.


FILE PHOTO: From ACT2 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: From ACT2 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

Complication: Kolchak closely encounters the killer at the scene of the next murder in valley near the rear entrance of Richard's Clinic yet his photos with the camera confiscated by Capt. Roscoe Schubert. Then, Kolchak attends an underground tour of old Seattle with his new girlfriend Louise Harper, and he is introduced to her university's Prof. Hester Crabwell to reach a conclusion that the killer's motive is to make the elixir of life. Charisma Beauty gets killed later at night. Kolchak quarrels with Capt. Roscoe Schubert on the precise pattern of the killing and methods of searching the killer however it's the deadlock between them.

FILE PHOTO: Midpoint at ACT2 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Midpoint at ACT2 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

Midpoint: Titus Berry discovers the clue to identify the killer in an interview with Mark Twain, it leads to Dr. Richard Malcolm who is a surgeon of the Union Army during the Civil War and possessed with the notion of possibility of immortal life. Furthermore Kolchak identifies the killer is Dr. Richard Malcolm (a founding member of Seattle's Westside Mercy Hospital; a.k.a. Richard's Clinic). He gets arrested after altering the painting at the entrance hall of the now Richard's Clinic to make sure the resemblance between Dr. Richard Malcolm and Malcolm Richards. Finally, Kolchak and Titus Berry successfully convince the police Capt. Roscoe Schubert; their employer Llewellyn Crossbinder and editor Tony Vincenzo to follow the suggestions of Kolchak to capture the killer before he disappears for more 21 years yet the release of news is denied.

FILE PHOTO: End of ACT2 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: End of ACT2 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

End of ACT2: Kolchak asks Louise Harper to walk around the Pioneer Square at night in order to catch the killer without any help from Police but Kolchak gets distracted from her accidentally and Louise Harper is almost killed by the ambush of the strangler. Police ruin all attempts at the end. Kolchak and Louise get arrested. The sixth killing happens soon after that.


FILE PHOTO: Final Confrontation at ACT3 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Final Confrontation at ACT3 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

Final Confrontation: Tony Vincenzo bails Kolchak out. Then Kolchak breaks into the underground world of Dr. Richard Malcolm from his clinic's basement. Dr. Richard Malcolm suddenly appears at his laboratory and accepts an interview from Kolchak for his exclusive story on his scientific achievement ''the elixir of life.''

FILE PHOTO: Solution at ACT3 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Solution at ACT3 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

Solution: Dr. Richard Malcolm shows intention to endlessly commit murders in every 21 years without any hesitation. Then Kolchak smashes a beaker in which the last dose of the elixir of life filled before Dr. Richard Malcolm takes it. Dr. Richard Malcolm assaults Kolchak to kill yet he falls down and rapidly starts ageing. He commits suicide by jumping out of the high window after the police burst into the laboratory.

FILE PHOTO: End of ACT3 of The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: End of ACT3 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

End of ACT3: This time both Kolchak and his supervisor Tony Vincenzo get unemployed and on the same boat now however Kolchak also gets another companion Louise Harper (dropped out from her university) on their new endeavour to New York City.

Comment: The Night Strangler (1973) actually follows the three act structure. The nature of plotting is decision making by the protagonist toward the final solution to the dramatic contradiction with the antagonist which setup at ACT1. Thus ACT1 is the most important part among all parts of the narrative structure. The drama in film or TV or video composed by essential units of entire narrative structure including beat (a turning point, intentional shift in tone of actions), shot, cut (two or more shots cut together or one shot cut into two or more parts), scene, sequence and ACT. And every plot point is basically a sequence not a moment. Therefore, a sequence shot can be an entire plot point. Moreover the most important thing is that every film component is a movement. A film element in action not just abstracted time or empty space.

The specialty of the specific narrative structure of this film is that Kolchak's girlfriend Louise Harper is not threatened by the antagonist, instead other secondary character gets killed by the antagonist at the end of ACT2. Thus it did not raise any stake personally for the protagonist. A beloved character for the protagonist is generally targeted or threatened by the antagonist for a revenge. It does not happen in The Night Stalker (1972) and this film unusually. In The Night Stalker (1972), his girlfriend Gail Foster is totally safe from the vampire, it even does not target her in any way, it's also totally unaware however the true antagonists, town authorities oust her at the end of ACT3 after the solution. In fact, both films reveal the true antagonists at the end by ousting Kolchak and his important companions. This is the successful alteration to the practice of the three act structure.


1. Passion: Contagious Acting Expressions

FILE PHOTO: ''You discover what the word fact means, Kolchak! '' said Tony Vincenzo in The Night Strangler (1973).  ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''You discover what the word fact means, Kolchak! '' said Tony Vincenzo. ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''FACT! '' replied, Carl Kolchak. ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''FACT! '' replied, Carl Kolchak. ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''If you had any guts left! '' shouted, Carl Kolchak. ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''If you had any guts left! '' shouted, Carl Kolchak. ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''OK. Carl! I've had enough! '' replied, Tony Vincenzo. ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''OK. Carl! I've had enough! '' replied, Tony Vincenzo. ©ABC

One of most powerful acting method is passion which can be excitingly contagious to audience if it's properly staged within the certain social context. It is not mechanically yelling at each other during acting like Masato Harada mistakenly handled on Killing for the Prosecution (2018) in which Japanese prosecutors unethically torture a suspect and rudely treat other colleagues like mafia or management of very abusive companies of today's Japan. The latter is disastrous and only makes it a yakuza movie. Mechanically yelling at others can't achieve this film's artistic level and result because it could be an excess of unethical performances and emotion without substances as Aristotle criticised in his Poetics.

Why passionate interaction of Kolchak and Vincenzo is so exciting and engaging? The main cause is that it's perfectly put in the dramatic contradiction of ''fact-seeking'' versus ''panic-prevention''. Their interaction is not stated without any dramatic context and sharp contrast of opposite antagonistic social forces. As the result, we always enjoy their crush on how to deal with facts on news reporting.

2. Minimalist Approach to the Antagonist

FILE PHOTO: From Exposition of ACT1 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: From Exposition of ACT1 of The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

"What you don't see is far more frightening than what you do see," said Lee, who considers Roman Polanski's 1968 supernatural thriller "Rosemary's Baby" the scariest film he's ever seen. (8)

Minimalist approach to horror genre was first suggested by Christopher Lee and practically followed by Steven Spielberg's JAWS (1975) and Sean S. Cunningham's Friday The 13th (1980). This is Lee's antithesis to Mario Bava's The Bay of Blood (1971). (9)

The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973) concisely followed the minimalist principle of the genre yet both television films do not belong to the gothic horror phase because it synthesised both modern urban psycho drama and the fruitfulness of the gothic horror tradition. They simply abandoned the old fashioned aristocratic antagonists, instead the antagonists are more modernised, urbanised, radicalised, and the antagonists are maniacs and capitalist classes. Janos Skorzeny is modernised from Dracula; Dr. Malcolm/Richards is from the mad doctor Baron Frankenstein (especially Hammer Film; Baron Frankenstein's transparent of brains, the recompose of a strong body with a genius brain is compatible with the seek for the elixir of life, and both Baron and Richards must repeat the process to maintain the experiments, the similar pattern is confirmed).

This film is historically positioned between Psycho (1960) and Maniac (1980) in terms of characterisation and evolution of antagonists. Not only the face of Dr. Malcolm/Richards is hidden until ACT3, the actions of Dr. Malcolm/Richards are always covered with shadows, quick, sharp, sudden and partial framing. What we don't to see is scarier than directly seeing his face and entire actions in light from the beginning of the drama. This classical principle still works well but no horror filmmakers of today have knowledge and insight to follow the core aesthetics.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Malcom is always only partially and limitedly shown in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Dr. Malcom is always only partially and limitedly shown in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

3. Cross Cutting: Sudden Appearance of Police Action Line is Unique

Cross cutting is misunderstood mostly due to its similarity to intercuts. Both cross cutting and intercuts are about two or more action lines of characters cut together seamlessly. The fundamental difference between them is that characters belong to the same time and place in cross cutting thus they are perceptible for each other. And another feature is that cross cutting is basically about physical exterior world not inner world of people's mind. The intercut is quite opposite. In which, characters belonging to different time and space even it can be cut between inner world of a character with the same character in exterior world (See John Carpenter's 1994 film, In the Mouth of Madness).

In this journalist film, intercuts are strictly denied. Instead, cross cutting is mainly used. One brilliant example of cross cutting is at the end of ACT2. On Saturday, April 15, at 2 am, sting operation started by Kolchak and his new girlfriend Louise Harper, and then ends up in a near disaster because Kolchak loses tracking of her steps, a sudden police raid prevents the killer from almost getting her in valley at Pioneer Squarer. In this sting operation sequence, the film composer Bob Cobert's atmospheric and creepy xylophone, saxophone, drum sounds in orchestra fully function as transmitter or medium of suspense on the screen. The cross cutting of the forth night sequence is the best of the bests. It involves four action lines among Kolchak; Louise Harper; police and the strangler Dr. Malcolm/Richards. The filmmakers gave police a heroic role on this because without police raid, Louise Harper could have been murdered by the strangler. The uniquest thing is that the police action line is divided into three sub lines and all of them suddenly appear on screen not linearly appear. The time ratio among four action lines on this is a reflection of different narrative importance of the characters.

FILE PHOTO: Louise Harper walking in valley in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Louise Harper walking in valley in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: The Strangler ambushing his next victim in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: The Strangler ambushing his next victim in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Police suddenly appear in the valley in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Police suddenly appear in the valley in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Kolchak is also arrested by police after that in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Kolchak is also arrested by police after that in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

The uniqueness of the cross cutting is like above mentioned, a contrast between continuous appearances of protagonists, the antagonist and non-linear appearances of different police action lines.They are not mechanically paralleled action lines in this cross cutting thus it is very organic, specific to the specific narrative of actions. A crafty cross cutting.

4. Sound Cuts: Breaking the Recordness of Shot and Sound Track

One of misconceptions of filmmaking or film history is that talkies killed montage art of silent movies and editing of film art. From silent montage films to dialogue-oriented talkies, and current sophisticated sound cuts form the entire dialectic evolution of film editing. Sound cut as a film editing method, it means overlapping of sound into or from the next shot. It can make visual cuts more free and vivid. Limitation of sound tracks on visual editing can be solved by sound cuts in order to accelerate the pacing and cut off dullness of literal equilibrium between a shot and a sound track. Freedom of film editing is to break the recordness. Barry Atwater's remark on sound cut in THE NIGHT STALKER is more appropriate and apparent in The Night Strangler (1973).

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 Bthen 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. (10)

In fact, there is no actual sound cut solution in the former film. A typical sound cut in this film is that after inquiring Louise Harper about the first murder case at floating home precinct, the siren of police car from the next scene overlapped with voice over of Kolchak in the present shot. Shortened the time smoothly without visual abruption. Sound cuts can mitigate visual abruption and enhance the visual editing, furthermore it can give visual editing more freedom than silent films in a more sophisticated way.

FILE PHOTO: ''She was wrong.'' Kolchak's VoiceOver in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''She was wrong.'' Kolchak's VoiceOver in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Police Siren from this shot overlapped with the previous shot in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: Police Siren from this shot overlapped with the previous shot in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC


Japanese filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa and one of my professors at TUA Kiyoshi Kurosawa mentioned ''American editing style'' several times. It means economical and not cliched cutting. Akira Kurosawa said in one interview with Takeshi Kitano that ''after greeting Kitano at entrance, an editor can directly cut to the middle of the conversation without any insert or cutaway.'' In fact, it's mainly determined by custom of the use of single camera in Japanese film industry. What Akira Kurosawa mentioned is not like abrupt jump cutting of Breathless (1960) but it is about smoothness of more radical cuts of scenes without too many ''explanations.'' Abruptness is not accepted.

On one film aesthetics class, Kiyoshi Kurosawa used Frantic (1988) to explain the ''American editing style.'' He mentioned the same thing with Akira Kurosawa. Japanese film editing won't omit too many trivial matters between scenes. If characters take an airplane to Paris from US, when they decide it, we can directly cut to the Paris without any shot at airport and scenes in the airplane. Moreover it can be done without any abruption and jumpiness.

Why Japanese editors can't do it? The main reason is not the mode of single camera work, but it is that their editing just passively follows scripts due to lack of editors' rights in the production caste in Japan. Indeed, it's quite difficult to cut to the middle of the conversation in the next scene by omitting many trivial matters and dialogues written in the script. It is the opposite of so called ''American editing style''. We can see the perfect instance in this film. In The Night Strangler (1973), the editor Folmar Blangsted made a cut in the middle of the dialogue between the dance house room scene and the exterior scene in which Kolchak and Louise Harper keep talking.

FILE PHOTO: ''Go away!'' said Louise Harper in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''Go away!'' said Louise Harper in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''You know...'' said Louise Harper in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC
FILE PHOTO: ''You know...'' said Louise Harper in The Night Strangler (1973). ©ABC

From the middle of the dialogue of one scene cut to the middle of the dialogue of another scene. This is the typical American editorial style that referred by the two Kurosawa. It's a huge difference with Japanese editing.


My favourite films of all time are both The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973) due to the ideal characteristic of the protagonist Carl Kolchak. Our today's world really needs genuine journalism which embodied by the Carl Kolchak in the two legendary cult TV movies analysed here.

In reality, true and real journalism only means ''fact-telling'' not ''story-telling''. Fiction is unnecessary and even more harmful to our judgement in social practice. We should strictly prohibit ourselves from any fictional ''conspiracy theories'' and ''fake news disinformation'' flooded in our social spheres of today.

In memory of the brilliant film composer Bob Cobert (1924-2020)



3. David Smith, The Guardian, The right man for the job: how Bob Woodward pinned Trump to the page, September 20, 2020.

4. Lloyd Green, The Guardian, Rage review: Will Bob Woodward's tapes bring down Donald Trump?, September 12, 2020.

5. David Smith, The Guardian, The right man for the job: how Bob Woodward pinned Trump to the page, September 20, 2020.

8. Grace Wong, CNN, Christopher Lee: Horror films today are 'obscene', October 30, 2009.

9. Lucas, Tim. Twitch of the Death Nerve DVD, Image Entertainment, 2000, liner notes. ASIN: B000055ZCA

10., An Interview with Kolchak's Vampire, 1975, Monday, January 11, 2016.


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