Friday, October 23, 2020

Kolchak—The Night Stalker: The Devil’s Platform

Carl Kolchak, investigative reporter of the paranormal, intends to expose Chicago State Senate candidate Robert Palmer for selling his soul to the devil. However, in Palmer’s defense, this implies he once had a soul. That is more than can be said for the soulless extremist statist candidates for president we had to choose from this year. Nevertheless, it would be better for good government if Kolchak can derail Palmer’s campaign in “The Devil’s Platform,” one of the best episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which airs midnight Saturday on Me TV.

Admittedly, the
Kolchak series was never quite as good as the original TV films written by Richard Matheson, but this was definitely a sinister high point. Kolchak’s hopelessly conventional editor Tony Vincenzo dispatched him to interview Palmer, the fast-rising challenger. Initially, it is the sort of puff-piece assignment he resents, but he gets interested when the elevator carrying Palmer’s campaign manager fatally plunges in a supernaturally freak accident. That would be the same campaign manager who had just threatened to expose his corruption. The only survivor to come out of the death chamber is a rottweiler-like hell hound.

It turns out two of the rival incumbent’s closest aides also recently died in convenient accidents. Kolchak smells a conspiracy story, especially since Palmer has suddenly disappeared from view. Of course, Vincenzo doesn’t want to hear his crazy theories about Palmer, especially since the candidate sounds like a liberal dem. Kolchak’s only lead is the pentagram pendant he snatched from the collar of big black dog that is now dogging him.

Tom Skerritt should have played more villains, because he made one of the series’ best as prospective Sen. Palmer. He chews the scenery like a horror pro. “Devil’s Platform” is also one of the best written episodes, by career TV writer Donn Mullaly (a veteran of
I Led 3 Lives, among other shows), who gives us a surprisingly tense climatic confrontation, because it involves a temptation that perfectly fits Kolchak’s ambitions. Of course, the devil dog motif is also pretty ominous—and yet kind of cool too, in a Led Zeppelin sort of way.

As usual, the great Darren McGavin kvetches up a storm needling poor Vincenzo, played by the under-heralded Simon Oakland (who should be a legend for
Night Stalker and his memorable portrayal of the shrink in the coda to Hitchcock’s Psycho). Unfortunately, former Blue Note recording artist Gil Melle was no longer scoring episodes at this point, but his opening scene still perfectly sets the mood.

With both Halloween and election day coming up, this is the perfect time to watch “Devil’s Platform.” It is too bad Kolchak isn’t plying his trade today, because he could probably catch on with an online outfit. Plus, we would definitely benefit from iconoclastic spirit and grubby work ethic. Affectionately recommended for all fans of supernatural TV,
Kolchak: The Night Stalker’s “The Devil’s Platform” episode airs tomorrow at midnight (it feels like Sat. but technically its Sun.) on Me TV and the entire series streams on the NBC app (but not Peacock).