The short-lived TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker is frequently cited by X-Files creator Chris Carter as a major inspiration. Though it barely lasted a season, it was preceded by two popular TV movies, The Night Stalker and its sequel, The Night Strangler. Both have recently been released on videoThe Night Strangler for the first timemaking it again possible for the cable-free to see what so inspired the young Carter. Not that that's the only reason to have a look: Both are unusual films starring the always-charming Darren McGavin, although The Night Stalker is by far the more entertaining of the two. McGavin, immortalized elsewhere as the father in A Christmas Story, plays Kolchak, a perpetually scruffy, hard-living, journeyman reporter who makes enemies of the police by demanding to publish The Truth. Complicating matters, The Truth usually comes in the form of vampires and other ghouls. The more focused and enjoyable of the two, the Las Vegas-set Night Stalker introduces McGavin and quickly involves him in a vampire mystery so simple it makes Scooby Doo look like the work of Raymond Chandler. Though the follow-up does benefit from the inherently spooky presences of John Carradine, Margaret Hamilton, and Al "Grandpa" Lewis, it's simply not as good. This time, McGavin finds himself in Seattle's seedy belly-dancing district in search of a serial killer who seems to have found the secret of eternal life. Although atmospheric, it's also convoluted and slow-paced enough to be of little interest to anyone but die-hard fans or collectors of movies featuring stereotypical lesbian couples.