Over the decades, there have been dozens of made-for-television vampire movies that crossed all genres ranging from the 1996 comedy Munster, Go Home! to Mom's Got a Date With a Vampire (2000). The truth is that never a week goes by without some vampire flick being shown on the tube. How good they are when measured against the classics is a subject that's always up for debate. As with all genres, however, there are always a few gems hidden in a mountain of cubic zirconia.
The Night Stalker
In the television vampire realm, that first gem was an unlikely 1972 television movie that spun off into a wildly popular late-night television series. The movie was The Night Stalker, and it starred legendary actor Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, the intrepid, bumbling, and relentlessly persistent reporter who attracts evil supernatural critters like a vryokolas to a rotting corpse (see Chapter 2). With a teleplay written by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson based on a novel by Jeff Rice, and directed by Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, the aptly titled The Night Stalker (no doubt referring to both the protagonist and antagonist) was enormously successful for ABC. In the film, Kolchak finds himself up against ancient Romanian vampire Janos Skorzeny who's prowling Vegas and sucking dry a score of young women until Kolchak himself stakes him.
The following year, in 1973, McGavin, along with Curtis, Matheson, and Rice, once again teamed up for another Kolchak foray, The Night Strangler. The year 1974 marked the premiere of the television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, with its third episode, entitled “The Vampire,” paying homage to Kolchak's vampiric skills by featuring a prostitute-turned-bloodsucker running amok in Las Vegas. In September of 2005, a remake of Night Stalker briefly appeared featuring Queen of the Damned star Stuart Townsend, but it was sadly pulled after only six episodes. No doubt, Kolchak himself would've attested that some things are better left untold.
Drac Is Back!
Another shining gem in the television vampiric realm is Jack Palance, who in 1973 donned cape and fangs to play Dracula in a winning version of Bram Stoker's novel, pulled together by the same duo who gave us Night Stalker, director Dan Curtis and author Richard Matheson. As the legendary bloodsucker, Palance is by many accounts one of the best to ever play the role, his smoky voice coupled with his overpowering physical presence allowing him a command and confidence that only a select few Dracula portrayers have been able to channel (see Chapter 15).
In 1977, another television vampire of note took to the small screen in the form of renowned French actor Louis Jourdan, who starred in Count Dracula, a version produced by the BBC for its Great Performances series. Closely following Bram Stoker's legendary novel — more so than most adaptations — Jourdan brought many of the same subtleties to his Count as Frank Langella did to his 1979 portrayal (see Chapter 15).
Over the years, many of television's most highly rated prime time shows have featured vampires in their repertoire. Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Night Gallery, Tales of the Crypt, Tales of the Darkside, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Starsky and Hutch, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, The X-Files, and
Lots of Luck
Also premiering in prime time in 1979 was the adaptation of Stephen King's vampire extravaganza Salem's Lot, which focuses on a writer who returns to his hometown to find that something's not quite right with the haunted house on the hill. Starring David Soul, James Mason, and Lance Ker-win, Salem's Lot, like many of King's horror adaptations, has become a cult favorite in the vampire realm (see Chapter 13). In 1990, Ben Cross took yet another turn in his coffin, playing Vlad to Maryam D'Abo's vampiric Angelique in the dark comedy Nightlife. Written by Saturday Night Live Emmy-winning writer Anne Beatts, the amusing romp finds Angelique ditching Vlad and awakening in Mexico City after a 100-year nap only to find that vampires are merely considered “diseased individuals.” Of course, falling in love with her doctor creates a love triangle that makes for a bloody good time.