Happy Hassle-ween: The Knight Rider Halloween Episode(s)

October 2, 2012 — We need a Halloween Hall of Fame. One where we archive all the best masks, books, candies, movies, and television specials. All so I can officially recommend for inclusion the Knight Rider Halloween episode. I’m not sure if it’s a first-balloter, but if it doesn’t make it in at some point, the integrity of the whole hall of fame will be cast into severe doubt. And then we’ll need a second Halloween Hall of Fame.

Too cool to caption. Even with a gorilla suit
thrown over his shoulder.
So why does the Knight Rider Halloween episode deserve to be hallowed alongside such undisputable Halloween classics as caramel apples and sheets with holes in them? Two reasons: The original Psycho house and a Silver Shamrock mask.

KITT kept being bothered by a witch in this ep, and I think
this symbol is a too-lazy-too-move-the-car pentagram.
Knight Rider debuted in 1982 and cruised along for four seasons, telling the story of a billionaire-funded crime fighter named Michael Knight, played by David Hasslehoff, who tools around in a black Trans Am-shaped super computer named KITT. So a period piece.

Throughout the show’s run, Knight Rider only had one actual Halloween episode (and one episode that should’ve been a Halloween episode…more on that later). It was called Halloween Knight, and it aired during the third season. That’s 1984 for those of you who don’t tell time by television seasons. I assume you guys are also the reason why the U.S. isn’t metric yet.

In the episode, Kitt’s IT person Bonnie moves into a new apartment just a couple of days before Halloween and then starts seeing things, things like a gorilla strangling a woman, a dead body in her bathtub, a floating demon head.

Sounds like a job for a man dressed in chest hair and leather, riding a robot-spaceship car with a pulsing red hood ornament.

But the plot duzzent matter.

That’s because the entire episode is a tribute to Psycho. From the electro-synth-augmented version of Bernard Herrmann’s movie score, to the socially maladjusted and taxidermy-obsessed custodian Norman Baines, to the fact that they actually go to the original Psycho house.

That’s right. The original Psycho house.

Of course, the original Psycho house is just a shell, so they avoid that awkwardness by having Michael walk…wait…saunter into an outbuilding on the property. Still, seeing KITT parked in front of that horror icon makes for a breathtaking pop-culture cross-over years before the Internet made those things boring and trite.

This is the penultimate achievement of
the entire discipline of photography.

Oh, and one last Psycho connection, Norman Baines was played by Kurt Paul, who was a stuntman on Psycho II and III and an actor in Psycho IV. He even played Norman Bates himself in the 1987 TV movie Bates Motel.

And while the utter Psychoticness of the episode is enough to make it a Halloween tradition, it goes one further. At a Halloween party at the end of the episode, Norman Baines wears an actual Silver Shamrock pumpkin mask from the 1982 Halloween III: Season of the Witch. It even still had the Silver Shamrock tag on it, although the mask didn’t dissolve his head into a disgusting puddle of goo and insects.

And now, if you're a true horror fan, you won't be able
to get the Silver Shamrock jingle out of your head.

There are other interesting references, as well. For instance, the climax takes place at a drive-in showing Creature from the Black Lagoon…in 3D. Also, at one point someone even wears a Cylon mask from Battlestar Galactica (Glen A. Larson created both Knight Rider and Battlestar Galactica and obviously had a thing for pulsing red lights).

In fact, there were so many references in this episode that it makes me wonder what all I’m missing. Like this damned clown mask. They used it twice, and it looks awfully familiar.

Of course, this pop culture trick-or-treat bag was possible because all those movies and series were Universal Studios properties, and it’s on the Universal back lot that the Psycho house sits to this day. Corporate conglomerates might be the downfall of the planet, but they make cool stuff like this possible.

Also, cool stuff like this...

As I mentioned, despite how awesome they were at it, Knight Rider didn’t have another Halloween episode. Nevertheless, in March of 1986 during its fourth and final season, they premiered a unique episode that makes for a good double-feature with Halloween Knight when you stream them off Netflix after reading this post.

Called Fright Knight, it tells the tale of a studio trying to film a movie on a set supposedly cursed by the Phantom of Stage 28, a mysterious black-cowled figure said to be the spirit of a disgruntled actor who lost out on role for the same movie that the studio was remaking.

I won’t spend too much space on this, but here are the reasons, besides its plot and name, that this episode was probably originally meant to be a Halloween one:

1) It guest stars Robert Englund, less than two years after his debut as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

This is the guy both the Fresh Prince and the Fat Boys
rapped about?

2) Some of it takes place on the original and still-standing 1925 Phantom of the Opera set (which is on Stage 28 in real life, although it’s more commonly called the Phantom Stage because it was built for that Lon Chaney, Sr., movie). Tons of classic movies were filmed on this stage, including Psycho.

Complete with the Phantom of Stage 28.

3) The climax takes place on the route for the Universal Studios Hollywood tour, and features a mechanical Jaws coming to Michael’s rescue on the Amity Island section of the tour.

The Dream Team of Jaws and KITT.

Oh, and there are a couple of Battlestar Galactica references in this episode, too. We get it, Glen. You made all of our lives better. And Halloween.

Oh, and this is how KITT analyzes gorilla hair,
in case you're wondering.