Pigeons from Hell/The Night Stalker

Movie Information

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Pigeons from Hell and The Night Stalker Thursday, May 12, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Score:

Genre: Horror
Director: John Newland/John Llewellyn Moxey
Starring: Brandon De Wilde, Crahan Denton, David Whorf/Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland
Rated: NR

The Thursday Horror Picture Show turns its sights on a double bill of horror from television with John Newland’s Pigeons from Hell (1961) and John Llewellyn Moxey’s The Night Stalker (1972)—a couple of films that prove the small screen actually can produce good horror movies. Pigeons from Hell—adapted from the Robert E. Howard short story—was part of the Boris Karloff-hosted series Thriller (“I assure you, my friends, it’s a thriller!”). It’s an extremely creepy, atmospheric little film about what befalls two brothers who explore an old plantation in the Southern swamplands. It also holds the special place of being the show that sent my 6-year-old self scurrying to the safety of my bedroom after no more than a few minutes. The Night Stalker had no such impact on me, but it certainly had an impact on pop-horror culture, spawning a sequel film, a TV series (Kolchak: The Night Stalker), and serving as part of the inspiration for The X Files. Well, this fairly straightforward, but very effective, vampire yarn started it all. The key was partly in the casting of Darren McGavin, but its modern-day reworking of the classic vampire story in a Las Vegas setting was solid enough in itself.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

2 thoughts on “Pigeons from Hell/The Night Stalker

  1. DrSerizawa

    I saw a couple of the Nightstalker episodes on TV way back when. I liked them quite a bit but remember they were good as TV Shows, not films. They have a cult following and people are constantly trying to resurrect the series, but really its time has passed and you would probably need McGavin himself to pull it off at all. It’s better to remember it fondly than be disappointed with what the modern film industry would do to it. They’d probably cast Robert Pattinson for starters and try to make it like Van Helsing.

    BTW, if you’d looked in the other room during that Thriller episode you would have seen me behind the couch.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I saw a couple of the Nightstalker episodes on TV way back when. I liked them quite a bit but remember they were good as TV Shows, not films.

    That’s fair. The two TV movies are a little closer to films. I think what made the first one so remarkable (I honestly don’t remember seeing The Night Strangler first run) was that you didn’t see much in the way of horror on TV, and the general run of ABC Movie of the Week offerings…well, they blew goats.

    I was a little surprised that it looked as good as it did seen on a screen. Of course, McGavin — and to some extent McGavin and Simon Oakland — is the key to a lot of this, even if some of his remarks (the reference to lighting a candle to Ben Hecht, for instance) were pretty esoteric 40 years ago and draw blank looks now. Still and all, I had someone remark to me how much better these were than Dylan Dog, which isn’t really saying that much, I suppose.

    BTW, if you’d looked in the other room during that Thriller episode you would have seen me behind the couch.

    And I’d have probably fainted.

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