Vincenzo sends Carl on a luxury ocean liner to do a series of articles on the swinging-singles cruise scene. Once on board Carl finds himself thoroughly annoyed by some of the singles including Paula (Nita Talbot of "Hogan's Heroes") and the annoyingly chummy Mel (Dick Gauthier from "Get Smart").
With the arrival of the first full moon, something begins slaughtering both passengers and members of the crew. Before being knocked out cold, Carl manages to snap off a few pictures of the hairy assailant. However, when he regains consciousness in the infirmary he discovers the film has been removed from his camera.
On the other side of the curtain he overhears another passenger (an employee of NATO) pleading with the ship's doctor for some narcotics to help suppress the violent dreams that have been plaguing him. Though clearly intimidated by the high-strung passenger, the doctor sends him away empty-handed.
More nighttime attacks occur, but the crew succeeds neither in subduing the assailant nor keeping the crisis a secret. Stymied in his efforts to use the ship's radio, Kolchak enlists some of the singles to help him contact Vincenzo, who provides him with information about all recent wolf attacks. Of particular interest is one incident that occurred at a NATO base in Greenland. For Carl, all the evidence seems to point to the inescapable conclusion that there is a werewolf on board the ship. Of course the stuffy captain refuses to even consider the notion, leaving the reporter to take matters into his own hands by stealing some silver buttons from the captain's dress uniform with which to make silver bullets.
That night, the full moon sends the werewolf off on yet another killing spree. Carl bravely ventures above deck to face the beast, and fires two rounds into it. Bleeding from it's wounds, the werewolf then grabs Carl and tries to throw him off the ship. As he dangles from the railing, Carl manages to haul the werewolf over the side and into the sea below.
One brilliant aspect of Paul Playden's story is the inspired choice of setting it on board a ship. With miles of ocean between it and the nearest port, each attack by the creature increases the feeling of claustrophobia as the sprawling ocean liner becomes a hunting ground with no possibility of escape for anyone on board.
Restricted by the TV standards of the time from showing any real gore, director Allan Barron effectively creates a measure of horror by having the camera move in on the faces of victims about to be attacked, then freezing the frame to create a snapshot of dread. In addition, the werewolf's assaults are fast and frenzied with plenty of action. In one memorable sequence, a victim is tossed down a slide into an empty swimming pool. Later, the werewolf is shot with a flare gun which barely slows it down as it continues mangling it's way through the crew.
Playing the lycanthropic passenger with considerable intensity is actor Eric Braeden. Before joining the "Young & The Restless" as Victor Newman, Braeden made a career out of playing one bad guy after another, and here he is especially effective as Bernard Steiglitz, NATO man and victim of a werewolf bite. With his imposing height, cold-eyed looks and the barely contained fury he conveys with his German accent, Braeden plays Steiglitz like a loaded weapon with a hair trigger.
The only aspect of this episode that really lets it down is the terrible makeup for the werewolf. Not only is it unconvincing, for some reason they didn't even spring for a set of fangs to try and make it look a little more frightening. Fortunately, closeups of it's face are kept to a minimum. With clever setups and extra distance kept between the mask and the camera, the director wisely allows the action to sell the scenes in which the werewolf appears.
The most riveting part comes at the end as Carl, amidst the sounds of screaming and gunfire coming from above deck, feverishly works to fashion his makeshift silver bullets. When he ventures topside, gun in hand, director Barron stages a suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse between man and beast with the werewolf leaping from roof to roof over Carl's shoulder. Shadows of both opponents stalking each other add to the suspense.
The musical accompaniment (credited to Jerry Fielding) is effectively eerie and also, where appropriate, perfectly enhances the more humorous scenes in which Carl deals with the singles. Like any good episode of the series, "The Werewolf" is a masterful blend of both laughs and terror.
Speaking of humour, Paul Playdon and David Chase's script is filled with dry wit and great characters. Dick Gauthier in particular as Mel, one of the shipboard players, gives such a winning performance that it comes as quite a shock when Carl later discovers that he, too has been killed by the werewolf. The best line comes when Nita Talbot's character Paula says, "I don't know what's gotten into everybody" to which Kolchak quite accurately replies, "Claws and fangs."
The makeup being it's only real flaw, "The Werewolf" is a solid episode and unique, too in that it was one of the few stories in the series that had Carl stalking something outside of his beloved Chicago.