BR: Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory / Lycanthropus (1961)

December 28, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Excellent

Label:  Severin Films

Region: All

Released:  October 29, 2019

Genre:  Horror

Synopsis: Secrets among the inhabitants of a rehabilitation facility for delinquent young women emerge when a murder may be tied to an actual werewolf.

Special Features:  2003 Audio Commentary with actor Curt Lowens and film historian David Del Valle / Interview: “Bad Moon Rising: Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi” (10:52) / Italian & U.S. trailers / Alternate U.S. Opening (0:25) / Photo-comic reproduction / Bonus Soundtrack CD. 




Ernesto Gastladi (All the Colors of the DarkDeath Walks on High Heels) may be one of Italy’s greatest genre screenwriters, well-versed in plot construction and neatly defined characters from his early years writing giallo novels, and tackling assorted genre entries with perhaps more skill than some projects deserved. His name often guarantees a higher degree of craftsmanship, and his most infuriating skill is in divulging clues in tiny drips, but distracting viewers with assorted red herrings and cheats before the big reveal that (more or less) explains what the hell’s been going on.

The original title of this Italian-Austrian co-production made more sense – the girls are actually delinquent young women in a remote juvenile facility being terrorized by a rabid creature capable of tearing at the flesh of its victims – and while the malevolent force is a werewolf and the women sleep in what’s technically a dormitory, the creature’s birth and sporadic shape-shifting during full moons aren’t rooted in folk legend hoodoo. This is very much a modern day retelling in which, like a giallo murder mystery, any of the characters could be the killer.

The most obvious suspect is sleazy Walter, the facility’s superintendent whom Luciano Pigozzi (aka ‘Italy’s Peter Lorre’) plays as wounded soul who may harbor illicit desires from within his malformed shape – the character has a paralyzed arm and sad limp (assuming those ailments are real) and lusts after pretty inmates. There’s also Walter’s mean wife, autocratic facility director Swift (Curt Lowens), instructor Sir Alfred Whiteman (Maurice Marsac) and his midnight rendezvous with oversexed bad girls such as Sandy (fleeting starlet Michela Roc), and Dr. Julian Olcott (Carl Schell), the new instructor who arrives scarred from a murky past event.

Like one of Gastaldi’s giallo scenarios, the werewolf may or may not be real, sex play lures pretty women to their doom, and a more common criminal act – blackmail – links several suspects to a recent murder, including nosey Priscilla (Barbara Lass), whose contact with the valuable evidence immediately endangers her being.

For most of the first third, Werewolf plays like a generic hybrid where the plot and true mystery could veer in several directions, but once blackmail enters the picture, Gastaldi switches to giallo tropes, including the use of black gloved hands, a wealth of dirty secrets that incriminate several characters, and assorted jealousies among the women.

Perhaps the most compelling character is Walter, largely because he’s initially introduced as a creep and a pervert, but becomes a potential victim of mob justice in a ‘saloon’ scene which is especially well directed and acted. Pigozzi’s prolific career playing oddballs in genre films tends to abbreviate his acting talent, and perhaps, like Lorre, he knew how to milk a scene with just the right posture, twitches, and facial subtleties to curry a little sympathy from audiences.

Carl Schell (The Blue Max), brother of Maximilian (Judgment at Nuremberg) and Maria Schell (Le Notti Bianchi), manages to steer through the convoluted plot and ridiculous English dialogue fairly well, but Olcott is a limited character with a limited secret and limited romantic potential.

Schell also shares a limited measure of screen chemistry with Lass, best known as Roman Polanski’s first wife, and having appeared in the director’s classic absurdist short, Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958). Lass’ gigantic eyes make Priscilla more compelling than the written character, but the actress seems slightly out of place, as though puzzled in having signed up for a European art film that morphed into a werewolf flick on the first day of principle photography.

Werewolf was previously released as a special edition 2004 DVD via Retromedia, and although Severin brands the 85 min. film as uncut, there’s nothing especially racy in the production, save for some slight gore, and an almost bare-booby shot of an open shirted delinquent.

Director Paolo Heusch keeps the pacing tight – perhaps a logical tactic to minimize the ridiculous dialogue – and he covers the forest chases with long, zippy tracking shots. Walter’s frenzied run to the dorm’s roof is especially tense, and the werewolf transformations are fairly effective. The full-wolf makeup is silly, but there are stages of the early transformations which are quite exceptional – perhaps a sign that less rubber appliances would’ve been more effective than building up the wolf’s face and hands with bulging prosthetics.

Severin’s print source is in good shape, and although there’s a slight wavering blur to the left side of the frame – perhaps a flaw that occurred during actual filming, and present on the negative – this is a beautifully shot production. Veteran Renato Del Frate’s cinematography is quite atmospheric, lending a nice gothic touch to a project whose makers may have had classic Universal monster movies in mind.

As sampled on the bonus CD in Severin’s Blu-ray edition, Armando Trovajoli’s orchestral score is sparse; on disc, it’s a tight, hugely eerie score which tempers the dialogue and goofy monster moments, but either the producer or director (or both) chose to maniacally reiterate select thematic cues, making Trovajoli’s music unintentionally monotonous. It’s a pity the same cues are mechanically tracked throughout the film, because Trovajoli captured the mystique, gothic tenor, and fun factor of the Universal creature features using sparse instrumentation. It’s a great little score to have and relish on disc.

Severin’s also included trailers, the abrupt alternate opening from the MGM U.S. release with an anglicized director credit and a terrible song (“The Ghoul in the  School”), and separate English and Italian dub tracks (with English subtitles). There’s also a reproduction of a photo-comic (fumetti) featuring a handful of stills and preposterous captions, especially the finale (“A grave situation develops when they all go [sic] berrying”).

Carried over from the Retromedia disc is the informative commentary featuring Curt Lowens and moderator / film historian David Del Valle, both of whom cover the film’s production, key cast members, and the film’s genuine quality. Regardless of its English and original European title, Werewolf is a bright grisly treat for genre fans, and features some very clever twists and wolf reveal.


What is it? A lesson in why drawing drunk yields incoherent campaign art.


Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory was released by MGM in 1963 as part of a double bill, paired with Corridors of Blood (1958). The U.S. version reportedly ran 81 mins., and featured the pop tune “The Ghoul in School” over the main titles which only credited the director, and saved the cast tally for the slapped-on End Credits.

Trovajoli’s score was previously released by DigitMovies, double-billed with Seddok, L’Erede Di Satana / The Atom Age Vampire (1960).



© 2019 Mark R. Hasan





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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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