The Norliss Tapes (1973)

Article 3485 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-23-2011
Posting Date: 2-28-2011
Directed by Dan Curtis
Featuring Roy Thinnes, Don Porter, Angie Dickinson
Country: USA
What it is: Horror TV pilot

In order to find out why a writer of his (who has been working on a book debunking the supernatural) has disappeared, an editor begins listening to a series of cassette tapes that chronicle the writer’s investigations. The first tape deals with a dead man who has returned to life… but for what purpose?

When you get right down to it, this TV-Movie pilot is a slight reworking of the basic Kolchak scenario. Still, I wouldn’t have minded if this one had been made into a series, but I somehow doubt that both this one and “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” would have made the cut, and if I’d had a choice, I’d go with the series that got made. The main advantage this one would have had is that it had a framing story that would have lent itself to repeated forays into the supernatural whereas in “Kolchak”, it was mostly driven by coincidence. The biggest disadvantage would have been that writer David Norliss simply isn’t as much fun a character as Carl Kolchak, and though this movie is actually pretty good, it lacks the wit that enlivened “Kolchak”. I do wonder if the series would have had an overriding arc that would investigate the writer’s disappearance, but we can only speculate. Nevertheless, this is a solid and exciting TV-Movie that does leave you wishing for more, and it’s quite enjoyable on its own.


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