23 February 2012

Disney to bring 'The Night Stalker' to the screen; Johnny Depp to star

While I hate the idea that once again movie studios are remaking or rebooting past property instead of offering newer, more original product, I got to say I’m intrigued with the idea of Disney hiring Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World director Edgar Wright to helm a big screen version of the classic 1970s TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker that would star the versatile Johnny Depp. 

While I realize Depp does have his distractors (and I’m oh so curious on what he did in the new Dark Shadows movie), he can really bring quirky characters to life. And with Wright, who is just as quirky as Depp, the idea of trying to redo what failed before (ABC’s reboot which was dead on arrival a few years ago) might work, given a bit a freedom from Disney -who’ll want a PG13 version.  

The Night Stalker debuted in 1972 as an ABC made-for-television movie and centered on Carl Kolchak (the much missed Darren McGavin), as a crime reporter who tracks a serial killer who happens to be a vampire. The movie was the highest rated one ABC had ever aired at the time, and so a year later they broadcasted a sequel, The Night Strangler, which was just as equally popular. After a failed attempt at a third movie, the alphabet network instead ordered a series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, that debuted in fall of 1974. Sadly, now stuck on a lower TV budget and a weekly schedule grind, the scripts suffered from too much “monster of the week” syndrome due to the quick decision to convert it into a series (ironically, the network would do the same damage to Battlestar Galactica a few years later), and ratings suffered, despite ABC giving it a full season pick-up. The elements of the third proposed TV-movie were then incorporated into the series. The show was officially cancelled after 20 episodes, leaving three scripts never produced. 

But like a lot of short-lived shows produced in the 1960s and 1970s with science fiction/fantasy/horror themes, The Night Stalker found life in syndication. And through that, the show influenced many writers after words, including The X Files creator Chris Carter, who has spoken at length how had The Night Stalker never been made, The X Files probably would have never been given a chance. For McGavin, it became his signature role, along with playing the Old Man in the holiday classic A Christmas Story, despite decades of work prior to these two roles. Anyways, no writer has been attached as of yet, but I would hope that both Depp and Wright work to create a homage to the original series without selling out to commercialization –which is sadly what I’m beginning to think Dark Shadows is doing.

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