Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.17 – Legacy of Terror

Arthur Rowe’s “Legacy of Terror” probably isn’t anybody’s favorite episode of Kolchak, but I thought it was huge fun. It starts with our hero narrating “I promised I’d show up with a haircut, new hat and pressed suit, but I lie a lot,” and I chuckled through the whole thing. Tony gets a zinger when Carl sets himself up with a question about why a rich hotel magnate would hire a dummy like Erik Estrada’s character for his VP. Whenever I set myself up for a burn like the one Tony throws back, I need some aloe.

Estrada has two costumes in this story. Given the choice of going out in public in a pink Saturday Night Fever disco suit with seven-inch lapels or the bare-chested bird suit shown above, I’d have to think about it a while. Ramon Bieri is back as this week’s cop who’s had it up to here with Kolchak, only by this point in the show’s troubled and rushed production, nobody seems to have noticed that the last captain that Bieri played had a different name. Nor did anybody seem to notice that they’d already done a story about a killer who sleeps for decades and wakes up to kill a set number of victims before vanishing again.

Despite the plot holes and repetitions, I did enjoy the hour, but my favorite part might have been noticing the setting of the final sacrifice. It’s set in a sports arena, and while I haven’t been able to figure where it was filmed – possibly on the USC campus? – it was so refreshing to see the camera show us this huge, empty, maybe 2500 seat arena and not a single corporate logo anywhere in sight. See, the seventies weren’t all bad.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.8 – Bad Medicine

Our son hesitantly asked whether this morning’s episode of Kolchak would be a scary one or, like the UFO story, a silly one. I demurred, of course, because I think almost all of them are both scary and silly. “Bad Medicine” gave him a good case of the shivers, but he told us that he really liked it. This week’s beastie is a Diablero, a native American sorcerer who is under a centuries-long curse, and who can transform into a crow or a coyote.

But for all the scary monster business, “Bad Medicine” features two of the funniest scenes of the series. There’s a great bit in the office where Kolchak is trying to find a listing in the phone book, but every copy in the office has been vandalized, and the necessary page ripped out. It’s brilliantly funny, but it’s bettered by a hilarious scene in which Ramon Bieri, who plays this week’s cop who’s had it up to here with Kolchak, challenges our hero on the actual motive behind the strange killings, and Carl, for what must be the first time in his career, is left without a smart-aleck answer because he’s absolutely speechless.

Joining Bieri in the guest cast this week, there’s Richard Kiel as the Diablero, and of course our son still somehow failed to recognize one of the tallest actors in the business despite seeing him several times. The wonderful actors Alice Ghostley and Marvin Kaplan also have brief appearances. They definitely should have used both of them again. Kaplan plays a former fence who’s trying to go straight after seven years in the old Joliet Pen, but he still hears things, you know. If this show wanted a regular guy-who-knows-things for Carl to consult, Kaplan would have been terrific.