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Top 10 Vampires #8 Janos Skorzeny

Would you argue with this?

Would you argue with this?

If you want to be picky, yes, he is a television vampire, but from a made-for-TV movie rather than a serial.  And since a third of TV households tuned in to watch The Night Stalker (1972), it deserves a mention.

Set in Las Vegas, the movie features reporter Kolchak investigating what seems to be a serial killer, who is eventually exposed as Janos Skorzeny (played by Barry Atwater), vampire.  Needless to say, the local authorities don’t believe in vampires, and wouldn’t care anyway, since they’re all too concerned with keeping their backsides firmly in the Commissioner’s chair, Sheriff’s chair, etc.  Only, and surprisingly, Kolchak’s pal from the FBI is sympathetic, if ultimately useless.

The vampire, Skorzeny, is incredibly strong, brutal, and sadistic.  All his victims were described as being tough, strong (one was a martial artist), and streetwise, and every woman was killed after a violent struggle.  The movie grabs its viewer immediately by showing the vampire, who only snarls like an animal, fighting with the martial artist.  They struggle all through the alley behind her apartment, knock over trashcans, and generally create quite a racket before the vampire finally wins.  Another victim sics her Doberman on the vampire, and… well, we see Skorzeny pick the dog up by the throat then cut to the victim’s face as we hear the dog’s death whine.

Admittedly, Skorzeny’s strength (tossing police and hospital workers around like ragdolls) is something of a problem today given that it is such a cliche, but back then it, and the idea of a vampire stealing blood from a hospital, would have been new.  The bigger problem with the character is that he never speaks, and only expresses himself in terms of hissing, snarling, and other animal-like sounds.  It’s inconsistent with his offscreen behavior, where he is apparently quite smooth.  It is revealed through narration that he is able to get a showgirl to agree to let him drive her home (only to be killed in her mother’s driveway), and the salesman who sold him the car describes his “brooks-no-dissent” haggling style.  Obviously, he needed to be able to speak for both actions, and it would have been good to hear him use his voice for something besides growling when he was onscreen.

Surprisingly, Skorzeny is tech-savvy.  Not only does he drive a car, but he knows how to work phlebotomy equipment, and in a truly horrifying reveal, keeps a woman prisoner in his house, hooked up to the blood stolen from the hospital, so he can drink it fresh from her veins.  The woman’s pain when Kolchak finds her is quite believable, and no other movie has really gone that direction in terms of how vampires feed themselves.

So, while the creators could, perhaps, have done more with their vampire, the result was nevertheless gripping, and the other characters well-done, too.  I wouldn’t bet against this vampire of Vegas.

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10 thoughts on “Top 10 Vampires #8 Janos Skorzeny

  1. Terri Gordon says:

    You are getting your characters and TV shows mixed up. Janos Skorzeny was awerewolf in the Fox TV series “Werewolf”. Shown for one season in 1989, The character of Skorzeny was played by the incredible actor Chuck Connors. His last acting role, before he sadly passed.

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      • Terri Gordon says:

        I meant to type 1987 not 1989. But, yes, if you get a chance, I highly recommend watching it. It was an amazing series. If not for two aging rock stars who think they are gods, and refused to allow use of their songs, it would have been released on DVD back in 2009. Fortunately I was forward thinking and taped the whole series as it was broadcast. Not a great copy as it was VHS, but at least I have it. You can find it out there on google, and youtube but not great quality.
        I googled and saw more than one reference to Janos Skorzeny being a vampire. I don’t know if the error is just continuing to be made or two shows really used the same character name. It would be very odd. You would thing the writers / producers of the shows would have been sueing the daylights out of each other.
        Being a huge, steadfast Chuck fan, Skorzeny will always be a werewolf to me! 🙂

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  2. Terri Gordon says:

    Yes, very true! The magnetic tapes weren’t meant yo lastforever. I am going to see about getting mine transferred to dvd soon.
    if you find anything out about the discrepancy between Janos being a campire and werewolf please let me know. I will do the same!

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  3. Bob Milhaus says:

    Janos Skorzeny was definitely the vampire’s name in The Night Stalker. The scariest movie vampire ever ! I watched it in 1972 when I was seven years old -had nightmares for months !

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  4. Charles H. says:

    Yes, Janos Skorzeny was the name of the vampire character in “The Night Stalker” and the character in “Werewolf.” Superb actors played both roles. Barry Atwater was the vampire, he died at a young age of 60 and many fans have posted their appreciation for his superb acting in the “Find A Grave.” He had been acting for many years (and was in a Star Trek episode), when he took the job as a television vampire. In a book written about The Night Stalker and Night Strangler movies, it was stated that Mr. Atwater would go out in Las Vegas dressed in his “vampire” clothing, when he and the rest of the cast had time off from the filming schedule. They were in Las Vegas, the cast reported that no one gave him a “second look.” Maybe seeing vampires in Las Vegas is fairly common after all. Have any of them been elected to office? They can only attend government meetings at night. Rest peacefully, Mr. Atwater.

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