G. W. Thomas
MATHESON'S KOLCHAK SCRIPTS
Edited by Mark Dawidziak
$150 Limited Edition Hardcover
Every genre has milestones along the course of its evolution. The Ghostbreakers have Hesselius, van Helsing, John Silence, Carnacki, Jules de Grandin, even Scooby Doo. The last great one was Chris Carterís The X-Files.
In the 1970ís another milestone character was created: Carl Kolchak. Originally a novel by Jeff Rice, The Kolchak Tapes was an important genesis for the character but not the milestone itself. That monolith of ghostbreaking was the television movie Kolchak: The Night Stalker written by Richard Matheson. Riceís book was an obvious first step, but without the movie, it would have been just another 70ís paperback, remembered by few. But Darren McGavin running around Las Vegas looking for a vampire, that was a pinnacle moment for many fans including the afore-mentioned Mr. Carter.
The first film was followed by a second, also good. Kolchak: The Night Strangler (also written by Matheson) and then a 20 episode TV show (not written by Matheson) that was largely forgettable. Kolchakís first film was the highest rated TV film to that date and the milestone we speak of. Reading this book brought back so much of what I always loved about the ghostbreaking genre: the defiant investigator, the evil rampaging monster, the story that is too out there for the ordinary reader to believe. It isnít hard to see how these movies influenced so many who came after.
The collector of Ghostbreaking books has something to be happy about. Gauntlet Press has released Richard Mathesonís Kolchak Scripts. This large format book has Mathesonís two original telefilm scripts (typos and all!), along with a third that was never produced, called Kolchak: The Night Killers, written with SF master, William F. Nolan. In this movie Kolchak goes to Hawaii to tie together the strange death of the Lt. Govenor and Flying Saucers. (Sound familiar?) This script is the cherry on the sundae, an entire Kolchak show never filmed, and alone warrants the price of the book. To book-end these wonderful scripts are Mark Dawidziakís short history of Kolchak, giving the teleplays a sense of place within television and ghsotbreaking history. Some of this material has appeared in other Gauntlet Press books and may not be new to past fans of the specialty house.
The price of this specially produced volume is high to the occasional fan at $150, but to the collector it is money well spent. (Or the super-fan with $750 you can purchase a special signed -- by Matheson, Nolan and Curtis -- and numbered edition that comes with an original script page.) To anyone wanting to learn the craft of horror screenwriting it might be the cheapest and best course you can take. Richard Mathesonís scripts show his mastery of the telefilm form on every page. For those who own The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler on VHS or DVD, the first two scripts offer another treat. With script in hand, you can see where the producer Dan Curtis deviated from the original material, either through choice or more often through time constraints. Depending on which version you have, you will meet whole new characters.