In one of his introductions on The X-Files videos, series creator Chris Carter says his goal was to make a show as scary as Kolchak: The Night Stalker. With the video release of that ABC shocker, it becomes clear just how profound an influence it was.
Darren McGavin’s disheveled newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak might not be as hunky as David Duchovny’s Agent Fox Mulder, but he shares an equally paranoid obsession with the paranormal. Over the skeptical objections of his short-tempered editor (Simon Oakland), Kolchak chases such monsters as the Ripper, the Zombie, the Vampire, and the Werewolf through the streets of Chicago. Students of the Carter oeuvre will spot parallels: The Ripper preys on strippers a la Millennium‘s pilot; the Zombie slays his killers, as in The X-Files episode ”Fresh Bones”; etc. Like Mulder, Kolchak usually ends up facing off with the demons in a dim, spooky locale—right before all evidence of the creatures’ existence vanishes.
The X-Files‘ gratifying mix of gore and kitsch also springs from Kolchak. While the earlier series rarely shows violence, grisly details crop up in conversation (the Ripper devours his victims’ livers). And just as The X-Files has employed guests like Charles Nelson Reilly, Kolchak overflows with campy cameos: Hilariously miscast borscht belt comic Jan Murray plays vampire pimp Ichabod Grace, whom one hooker calls ”my sugar mack.” That description alone is scarier than Chris Carter’s wildest nightmare. Vol. 1 (”The Ripper” and ”The Zombie”): B Vol. 2 (”The Vampire” and ”The Werewolf”): B+