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Sunday, October 10, 2021

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2021 -Day 10: KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER "The Werewolf" (1974)

                             Now, sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip... 

When his boss's swinging singles vacation cruise aboard the SS Hanover is scuttled at the last minute by the impending arrival of auditors, reporter Carl Kochak (Darren McGavin) ends up with his boss's ticket and expense money, with the proviso that he write human interest pieces "about people on a boat." It's the ship's final cruise and Kolchak is glad to escape another brutal Chicago winter, but it swiftly becomes apparent that once out of port and on the high seas, the cruise ship has become a self-contained hunting ground for a passenger who happens to be a vicious werewolf on the nights of the full moon. As the bodies pile up, Kolchak snoops around in hope of getting to the bottom of matters, eventually going so far as to obtain a drunken priest to bless a pot full of molten silver that is being used to craft werewolf-slaying ammunition. As per usual, Kolchak vanquishes the monster, in this case managing to dump it overboard after blasting it twice in the chest, but, also as per usual, all evidence of the events and the creature's existence are obscured and Kolchak's story on the subject is nixed, leaving Kolchak the only one who could speak on the matter, but he is stonewalled.

As KOLCHAK installments go, "The Werewolf" is serviceable enough, though admittedly relatively mediocre and bearing a few notable plot holes, but the core idea is genius. Placing a ravening werewolf within the near-escape-proof environment of a cruise ship packed with horny, drunken passengers is a stroke of genius, and it deserves better realization than it received. This was teevee, some seven years before THE HOWLING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON forever raised the bar for werewolf effects and makeup, so the werewolf is little better than furry gloves and some hairy facial appliances on a guy in a suit or a button-down shirt, thus necessitating it being seen only in quick cuts that don't really afford the viewer a good look. 

Werewolf makeup on a 1974 TV budget. Not great, but it could have been a lot worse.
Fortunately, "The Werewolf" was early in the one-season run, Episode 5, to be precise, and it would soon be eclipsed by far superior entries that made the series the cult favorite that it remains nearly five decades later. But more on those later...

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