The Night Stalker is an American made for television horror film which aired on ABC on January 18, 1972, as their ABC Movie of the Week. In the film, an investigative reporter, played by Darren McGavin, comes to suspect that a serial killer in the Las Vegas area is actually a vampire.
The film was based on the then-unpublished novel by Jeff Rice titled The Kolchak Papers (a.k.a. The Kolchak Tapes). Rice said he wrote the novel because, "I'd always wanted to write a vampire story, but more because I wanted to write something that involved Las Vegas." Rice had difficulty finding a publisher willing to buy the manuscript until agent Rick Ray read it and realized the novel would make a good movie. The 1973 novel (renamed The Night Stalker) wasn't published until after the TV movie had already aired, and was delayed according to Rice because the publisher wanted both Rice's original novel and the 1974 sequel The Night Strangler (written by Rice but based on the screenplay by author Richard Matheson) so "they could be placed on the top of the publisher's list in the 1 and 2 positions for 1974."
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (a veteran of theatrical and TV movies) who shot the movie over 12 days, adapted by Richard Matheson, and produced by Dan Curtis (best known at the time for Dark Shadows), The Night Stalker became the highest rated original TV movie on US television, earning a 33.2 rating and 48 share. The TV movie did so well it was released overseas as a theatrical movie and inspired a sequel TV movie titled The Night Strangler, which aired on January 16, 1973, a single-season TV series of twenty episodes titled Kolchak: The Night Stalker which ran on ABC between September 1974 and May 1975, and a short lived 2005 TV series called Night Stalker.
Actor Darren McGavin recalled that his involvement began when "My representatives called to say that ABC had purchased the rights to a book called The Kolchak Papers. They were into a kind of first draft of a script by Richard Matheson, and they called the agency to ask them if I'd be interested in doing it. My representative read it and called me." The popular TV movie, along with its sequel and the TV series, provided the inspiration for Chris Carter's The X-Files. Carter featured actor Darren McGavin in the show as a tribute to the actor and the project that inspired his popular series. Originally Carter had wanted McGavin to play Kolchak, but the actor elected not to, so the role was rewritten, making McGavin's character Arthur Dales, the "father of the X-files".