Kolchak: The Vampire

The Vampire

“This vampire didn’t come from Transylvania. It came from Las Vegas!”

Although no one says so distinctly–probably for copyright reasons–this episode is a sequel to the original Night Stalker movie.

Catherine Rawlins, the eponymous vampire, is another victim of Janos Skorzeny, never found during the time he stalked Las Vegas. Now, she returns from her unmarked grave.

The story begins one night about three years after the events of The Night Stalker in the desert just outside Las Vegas. A lone driver takes a wrong turn and finds herself on a dead-end road that’s closed for repairs, then she a flat tire. She gets out to change it, cutting her hand in the process and dripping a small amount of blood on the ground just off the road near her car.

While she changes her tire, she doesn’t immediately notice an upheaval in the sandy ground behind her. Two slightly out-of-focus hands emerge from the earth.

Hands!Unexpectedly for the beginning of a Kolchak episode, the car’s driver doesn’t become the newly-risen vampire’s first victim. When she finally sees the hands reaching up out of the ground, she abandons her car and runs away screaming into the night. Civilization mustn’t be very far away. Carl Kolchak’s narrative informs us that by the time the woman returned with the police, there was no sign of a body, dead or undead, by the roadside. The police dismissed the report as coming from an hysterical and over-imaginative kook.

Carl Kolchak was kicked out of Las Vegas at the end of The Night Stalker and probably isn’t welcome back within the city limits, but he keeps in touch with things that go on there. A few days after this event, we find him in the Chicago offices of the Independent News Service, talking to an old reporter buddy from Vegas. When he hears about three murders that have occurred in Las Vegas and westward of the city, heading toward Los Angeles, he’s interested. When he hears that the victims lost large amounts of blood, he knows that another vampire’s in business.

He wrangles himself an assignment that will take him to California to interview a teenaged guru, but blows this job off as soon as he gets to LA. He’s in pursuit of any information that will help him locate that vampire.

As soon as he arrives at his hotel room, he hears news of a strange death in Barstow, a town about 50 miles northeast of LA, and drives out to question the local police about it. A man was found dead in a car reported stolen in Las Vegas. The Barstow police chief refuses to verify that there was significant loss of blood or even that this was a murder–but Carl makes note that the car’s windows have been taped and painted over to block out any  light. (How the vampire could see to drive isn’t gone into.)

The trip to Barstow causes Carl to miss his scheduled interview with the young guru; by the time he arrives at the guru’s house, everyone has gone, moved on to another city to spread the word about Transcendental Meditation. The only person left for Carl to talk to is Faye Kruger (Kathleen Nolan), the real estate agent who’s reselling the place.

When he discovers that Faye was friendly with the guru and members of his entourage, and that she has some journalist ambitions, he shoves the interview assignment off on her. Faye’s ideas about writing are not what Carl’s editor Tony Vincenzo would consider up to professional journalistic standards, however; her article has more about the house’s copper pipes, low-maintenance grounds, and cabana than anything the guru had to say. Not that Carl will realize this. He doesn’t bother to check the article she writes before he tells her to send it to INS under his byline.

Instead, he’s busy chasing the vampire’s trail in Los Angeles. Catherine Rawlins arrived in the city just before he did. Her first victims were her sister, Linda, and Linda’s stuntman boyfriend, both savagely murdered in their apartment. Catherine also steals clothes from Linda’s closet so she has something better to wear than the outfit she’s been lying in the earth in for so many months.

Carl attends the press meeting with the police at the scene of this crime. He’s familiar with the look of a vampire’s modus operandi, but LAPD’s Lt. Matteo (William Daniels), in charge of the investigation, prefers to attribute the murders to a group of Satanists. Two warlocks from the Dark Star Coven have been arrested already. Lt. Matteo explains to the assembled reporters that the blood was drained from both victims via some sort of suction device so the coven could use it in their rituals. He doesn’t explain the bite marks on the victims’ throats.

When Carl tries to inform Matteo about vampires and how to deal with them–crucifixes, stakes through the heart, etc.–Matteo calls him idiotic.

It’s from the apartment manager that Carl learns that Linda worked as a high-class call girl for a “catering service” and that she had a sister named Catherine who went to Las Vegas some years ago to become a showgirl but hasn’t been heard from in a long time.  A little more research via phone reveals that Catherine Rawlins was arrested several times in Las Vegas for soliciting in the early 1970s, and was reported as a missing person 3 years ago.

Carl Kolchak: Vampire Hunter “She was no longer missing,” Carl narrates, “and she was no longer a person.”

Now that he has a name to work with, he phones Linda’s “caterer” and asks specifically for Catherine to “deliver something warm to my hotel room” after 8 p.m.

His surmise is correct: Catherine has indeed resumed her former profession, since it gives her easy and fairly anonymous access to men who won’t be missed.

When “the delivery” arrives at his room that evening, Carl is ready and waiting with his crucifix and stake–but the young woman isn’t Catherine. The pimp has given Catherine  another more lucrative job with a football player, and the unwary prostitute who was sent to Carl’s room instead believes she’s walked into some “freako scene.” She doesn’t understand Catherine’s popularity.

“What does that witch have that I don’t?” she asks.

Carl replies, “Believe me, baby, you don’t want to know.”

She doesn’t have any information about Catherine’s whereabouts, but still wants $200 for her time. Carl has to go to the pimp and make threats about his being an accessory to a murder to find out where Catherine is.

Catherine’s date with the football player has gone just as she planned, though certainly not as he intended. Nor was it what his teammates, the LA Rams “Godzilla Squad,” expected when they burst in on the couple as a joke. When they see the blood, and the fangs, Catherine tosses the football team around the room and makes her escape.

The funny thing about Catherine is that we never hear her speak. She is able to speak–we see scenes of her talking with her sister’s boyfriend and the pimp, although no sound accompanies these conversations. Whenever the viewer sees her in action, she only snarls and hisses like an animal.  There’s never any opportunity to know what’s going on her vampirey mind.

Carl arrives just in time to take some photos, which Lt. Matteo destroys undeveloped. The lieutenant refuses to believe that the person who slaughtered a whole team of pro football players could be a woman; it must’ve been a warlock with long hair.  He tells Carl that he wants him out of LA and on a plane back to Chicago by morning.

But before he leaves, Carl uses Faye’s real-estate listings to locate the house in the Hollywood hills where Catherine is hiding. Like The Night Stalker, this modern vampire story ends up with some Gothic trappings as Carl tries to break into a big, old, empty mansion. It’s after dark, so I don’t know why he thinks Catherine might still be napping inside. As a matter of fact, she’s outside the house and her attack on Carl happens on the patio.

Carl has come prepared. Using his little crucifix, he manages to fend Catherine off until he can lure her out to a very large wooden cross on the adjacent hillside, where he’s left a can of gasoline ready. His means of dispatching her, however… well…

Kolchak burns a crossCarl, dear Carl, I know that vampire slaying is important, but was setting fire to a great big cross overlooking downtown Los Angeles really the best way to go about it?

He also uses the gasoline to create a ring of fire around the cross, trapping Catherine within it. The light cast by the blazing cross causes the vampire to fall down and lie immobile so that Carl can finish the job.

The burning cross is visible for miles and draws the attention of the police. Lt. Matteo  arrives to find Kolchak with a mallet in hand and a staked vampire at his feet. Carl only avoids being arrested for murder when the autopsy of Catherine Rawlins reveals that she’s been dead for years. Los Angeles become one more city he’s ejected from. As for the cross:

Carl: “It was a local landmark, so I had to pay for another one.”

He’s on a flight back to Chicago. The only reason I can see that Kolchak didn’t get fired by Tony Vincenzo for all the stunts he pulled while in LA is that this is his show.

About Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats. As well as being the author of numerous short stories, novellas, and essays, she is the author of "Maiden in Light," "The Wizard's Son," and "Sonnedragon," novels set on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period. All three are part of an intended series of fantasy novels that mostly take place in a dukedom called the Northlands, a part of the Norman Empire that roughly covers the north-eastern U.S.
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