SCARECROW ON SEATTLE
In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with Scarecrow Video to bring you weekly reviews of historical Seattle films. Each week we will showcase a new movie, with special emphasis on how these films show Seattle's most filmable locations.
The Night Strangler (1973)
Even though it grossly misrepresents the Seattle Underground, The Night Strangler is one of my favorite "set in Seattle" films. It's a made-for-TV follow-up to the hugely popular TV movie The Night Stalker, which introduced Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin), an investigative reporter who specializes in the supernatural. In the first film he happened upon a vampire in Las Vegas and this time he encounters a seemingly immortal ghoul who thrives on the blood of go-go dancers. And, no, the ghoul in question is not Frank Colacurcio. The film was mostly shot on location in Seattle and mixes in many authentic locations and details as well as some slight variations on real places. For example, one of the victims must catch a bus on Saint James Street in order to get to her home in Shoreline Park. The movie appropriately begins with a lovely twilight shot of a ferry in Elliot Bay and a montage of familiar downtown sights like the monorail. After the corpse of a belly dancer from a club called Omar's Tent is found drained of blood, Kolchak interviews another dancer named Louise (Jo Ann Pflug) who is a UW student. She lives in a Portage Bay houseboat and in one scene she uses a motorboat to cruise across the bay to one of her classes. The reporter's investigation takes him all over town including Red Square and The Space Needle, where we are treated to a neat shot of The Seattle Center circa 1973 from the elevator window. Kolchak's editor teases him and suggests that he should be "In Puyallup with the daffodils." Eventually he comes to believe that the ghoul's lair is located near Pioneer Square, which is represented by a combination of actual location footage and obvious studio sets. There are a few real bars seen in the background including the long gone Blue Banjo as well as the interior of Doc Maynard's where Kolchak and Louise prepare to go on the Underground tour. The Night Strangler's version of The Seattle Underground looks nothing like the dank hallways of the real tour, but I suppose the filmmakers wanted a more cinematic environment. Kolchak eventually gets his ghoul but he is ultimately chased out of town and the film ends with the disgraced reporter, his new buddy Louise and his editor driving out of town on I-5 south. As an additional treat, the fun cast is packed full of familiar faces like Scott Brady, John Carradine, Al (Grandpa Munster) Lewis, Wally (Mister Peepers) Cox, Margaret (The Wicked Witch of the West) Hamilton and Richard (Oscar Goldman) Anderson.