The Night Stalker and other 1970’s made for TV horror movies

Darren McGavin 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker,' c. 1974. (Photo by Universal Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images)
Darren McGavin 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker,' c. 1974. (Photo by Universal Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images) /

The Night Stalker, Frankenstein: The True Story and Trilogy of Terror are classic made for TV horror films from the 1970’s. What other gems from the era made our list?

The Night Stalker became a cult TV series sensation after the pilot movie aired on ABC in January of 1972. Starring veteran character actor, Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, this production was a ratings winner.

To us, the 1970’s were a glorious time for the made for television horror film. Weird, wonderful and usually chockfull of stars, some of these productions were better fare than what appeared on the big screen.

Here is our list of some of the best efforts of the era that are perfect for this time of self-isolation.

The Night Stalker: 1972

Darren McGavin was wonderful as the lead in this ABC cult classic. After being fired from several reporting gigs, Carl Kolchak finds himself in Vegas writing for a small-time rag.

However, his status could change if he can solve the mystery of who is killing young girls and draining their blood. Carl has a hunch that it could be a 70-year-old Romanian millionaire who may be a vampire but can he prove it?

With a script by Richard Matheson and produced by the legendary Dan Curtis who gave the world, Dark Shadows, this little made for TV effort could go head to head with any theater released production, in our opinion.

You can stream The Night Stalker on and Amazon Prime.

Trilogy of Terror: 1975

Karen Black’s tour de force performance in this three-story anthology was amazing. Once again, based on a story by Richard Matheson and directed by Dan Curtis, this small screen gem was a hit that is remembered vividly 45 years later.

The first story is about a college student who becomes overly enamored with his professor played by the actress. Of course, there are consequences to this relationship. In the second installment, Black plays two sisters, in an almost Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? sort of scenario.

Finally, the last segment is the one that everyone recalls where Black is chased around her apartment by a crazed Zuni doll. In retrospect, it may seem a bit cheesy viewing it in the 21st century but it still packs a punch. We guarantee you will have nightmares.

Catch Trilogy of Terror on Amazon Prime.

Frankenstein: The True Story: 1973

Originally, this aired on PBS over the course of two nights. Starring Leonard Whiting as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Michael Sarrazin as The Creature, this adaptation of the classic Mary Shelley story was definitely gory and disturbing for a made for television film.

Frankenstein becomes the apt pupil of Dr. Henry Clerval who is also interested in resurrecting the dead. Clerval is played by the incredible David McCallum who imbues his character with a God-like complex. They have success and produce the physically beautiful, Creature.

However, Clerval’s process has a critical flaw in it which results in the Creature becoming deformed. Rejected by his maker, he vows revenge and sets out to destroy everything Victor holds dear.

Keep your eyes peeled for the appearance of a young Jane Seymour as the monster’s intended “bride” Prima. Evil Dead fans will enjoy one particular sequence involving a crawling appendage…

Revisit Frankenstein: The True Story on Amazon Prime.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane: 1976

A young Jodie Foster is cast in the title role of 13-year-old Rynn Jacobs. This teen is hiding a dark secret and it is almost discovered by the perverted son of her parents’ landlord, Frank Hallet (played with creepy smarminess by Martin Sheen).

After Rynn is almost physically molested by the reprehensible Frank, his mother, Cora shows up looking to speak to her father. The young girl explains that he is out of town but for some reason, Cora doesn’t believe her and insists on going into the cellar under the pretense of getting jars for canning.

One thing leads to another and the landlady meets with an unfortunate accident. Rynn enlists the help of Mario Podesta, a shy amateur magician who gets rid of some damning evidence. Now, he knows what is lurking beneath the Jacobs’ house. Will he be able to stay quiet?

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane can be seen on Amazon Prime, VUDU and Netflix.

How Awful About Allan: 1970

We are huge fans of the late Anthony Perkins so it is a no brainer that this hidden treasure is on our list. The actor is Allan, a recently released mental patient who suffers from Conversion Disorder. His blindness occurred after he accidentally killed his father in a house fire that resulted in his sister, Katherine (Julie Harris) being horribly disfigured.

Since returning to society, Allan has become increasingly paranoid. He believes someone is trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Katherine has taken in a mysterious boarder named Harold Dennis who might be the one who is set on making Allan doubt his sanity.

Let’s just say, the twist to this film would give M. Night Shyamalan a run for his money!

Amazon Prime is where this Anthony Perkins stunner can be found.

Other interesting made for TV films from the 1970’s:

  • The Dark Secret of Harvest Home
  • When Michael Calls
  • The Devil’s Daughter
  • Death Cruise
  • The Legend of Lizzie Borden: Amazon Prime.
  • Honorable Mention: Salem’s Lot (1979) You Tube, Google Play, VUDU, Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Thoughts from the Ledge: #TBT to the fabulous disaster flicks of the 70s. dark. Next

The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, When Michael Calls, The Devil’s Daughter and Death Cruise can be purchased on Amazon.

Have you seen any of these 1970’s made for television movies like The Night Stalker? Let us know in the comments.