One & Only Darren McGavin (AKA Carl Kolchak) Returns For Another Classic Small Screen Horror With a Belly Dancing Jo Ann Pflug, Mad Doctors, Alchemy AND John Carradine !
After being run out of Las Vegas in the previous movie THE NIGHT STALKER, Kolchak ends up in Seattle, WA. where in a bit of happenstance he hooks up with his old publisher/nemesis Tony Vincenzo (the incomparably grouchy Simon Oakland) and is duly hired to work as a reporter. To add to the fun (and the horror cred) the newspaper publisher is played by everybodys favorite old curmudgeon John Carradine, who not surprisingly enough plays an old curmudgeon newspaper publisher (and sporting a horrible black dye hair job). This was one of six roles for ol' John in 1973 (which is nothing compared to the 11 (!) he would cash a paycheck for in 1977 !).
While it can be augured that the film is basically a remake of the previous movie (the first 20 minutes after Kolchak's assignment to the initial story is almost shot for shot from STALKER) it does stand on its own as a great small screen chiller. Returning scriptwriter Richard Matheson serves up several excellent sequences including the creepy underground city and the doctor's mummified family setting around the cobweb strewn dining room. STALKER producer Dan Curtis (DARK SHADOWS) steps into the directors chair and and in some ways STRANGLER is a better movie that along with Matheson's writing it presents more fleshed out characters and keeps the mystery and "what's going on ?..." aspect of plot more interesting - although having the majority of the victims all working at the same bar is a bit of a stretch (the police don't seem to pick up on it) and was most likely done for economies sake.
For Kolchak's female companion we have the wonderful and bubbly Jo Ann Pflug (who now days works as a motivational speaker) playing a part-time student (and part-time belly dancer - which is one of the STRANGLER's highlights). She's eons better then Carol Lynley's underused and limp noodle character in STALKER and I always thought it was a bit of a shame that she didn't show up in the later series, as the ending leaves open that possibility. Also on hand is Scott Brady (who takes the place of STALKER's Charles McGraw as the grouchy police captain - and also sporting a questionable black dye hair job) and best of all Wally Cox, who in one of his final roles plays a scene stealing newspaper archivist (his scene with Carradine is one of the highlights of both movies). Nina Wayne (younger sister on Carol Wayne), plays a ditsy blonde belly dancer in several alternately creepy/humorous (& 1970's unPC) sequences with her "husband" that would never pass muster today.
The movie has enough filmed in Seattle bits to give it a local flavor (the space needle, Jo Ann's houseboat) with the Universal back lot filling in for the remainder. I swear after you watch enough Universal 70's television with that same street you always keep expecting to see Adam-12 come cruising by at some point. For a short time afterwards ABC toyed with the idea for a third movie with Barry Atwater returning has the (un)dead vampire Jonas Skorzeny from NIGHT STALKER to confront Kolchak in New York City or an even more bizarre plot idea concerning UFOs, nuclear power & aliens in Hawaii which was to be titled THE NIGHT KILLERS before green lighting a series.