Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory – more reviews, plus Severin Blu-ray review

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Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory is a 1961 Italian-Austrian horror feature film directed by Paolo Heusch [as Richard Benson] (The Day the Sky Exploded) from a screenplay written by Giallo thriller specialist Ernesto Gastaldi. The Royal Film production stars Barbara Lass, Carl Schell, Curt Lowens and Maurice Marsac. Genre regular Luciano Pigozzi also has a notable role as an immoral, scurrilous caretaker.

In Italy, it was known as Lycanthropus and in Austria and Germany as Bei Vollmond Mord [“Murder on a Full Moon”].

The ‘spooky’ soundtrack score was composed by Armando Trovajoli (Frankenstein 90; Hercules in the Haunted World; Atom Age Vampire; Uncle Was a Vampire).

The American version of the film, which was released on a double-bill with Corridors of Blood, adds the catchy rock song ‘The Ghoul in School’ to the opening credits; written by Marilyn Stewart and Frank Owens, and with vocals sung by Adam Keefe, it was even released as a single.

In 1964 the film was released in the UK by Compton-Cameo as I Married a Werewolf.

I Married a Werewolf Barbara Lass

In the United States, MGM released the film as part of a ‘Nervo-Rama’ double feature with the British film Corridors of Blood.

Latest home viewing release:

On October 29th 2019, Severin Film released Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory on Blu-ray newly scanned in 2K from archival elements recently discovered in a Rome lab vault. Special features:

• Bad Moon Rising – Interview with Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (10:53)
• Audio Commentary with Actor Curt Lowens, moderated by David Del Valle for Retromedia DVD.
• Italian Trailer (3:29)
• US Trailer (1:12)
• Alternate Opening with ‘The Ghoul in School’ song (0:26)
• Bonus CD Soundtrack Score by Armando Trovajoli
• Twelve-page booklet
• All regions

Severin Films is also issuing the movie as a single DVD

Blu-ray review:

Looking and sounding better than its previous 2003 Retromedia DVD release, Severin now offers the definite way to enjoy Lycanthropus with the option of watching the movie either in Italian with subs (it has more depth and the score gets more emphasis) or via its English dub (some amusing accents, as is usual). Both versions have their own merits so it’s worth checking them out for two entirely different experiences.

The image quality is generally great although it wavers occasionally on the left-hand side in early scenes (well, the film is from 1961!). It’s the nighttime sequences in the woods that come off best, with impressive lighting and the black and white cinematography by Renato Del Frate (credited as George Patrick) looking gorgeous. Best of all, there is a brief scene not included in previous releases, where the werewolf dumps one of his female victims in a river.

The audio commentary from lead actor Curt Lowens in conversation with genre historian David Del Valle that came with the aforementioned Retromedia release has been included here and it’s well worth checking out. Veteran actor Lowens is a self-deprecating charmer who seems genuinely touched by the fan base that the movie has developed over the years. Del Valle politely keeps the conversation focused when Lowens occasionally veers off into anecdotes about his days working in the Italian industry in Rome and later Hollywood. Not that his tales aren’t interesting, it’s just we’re here for the werewolf. And Lowens happily supplies fascinating info about the monster makeup process and the production in general. Del Valle, who reckons the American retitle should have been “Werewolf in a Girls’ Reformatory” (due to the young ladies’ criminal pasts)  also adds weight to the proceedings with reference to other wolfman movies from before and after this one.

There is also a ten-minute chat with genial Ernesto Gastaldi, the legendary screenwriter of this movie and many a Giallo. He explains the Italian industry’s insistence of Anglicizing names and the way that adding a mystery element always makes his stories more intriguing.

Rounding out the package is a nifty little booklet that reproduces the  US ‘comedic’ publicity material of stills accompanied by terrible jokes a la Famous Monsters of Filmland such as “Girl meets Wolfman and sings, “Fangs for the Memory”.  You can, of course, peruse this while listening to the short opening credits accompanied by the maddeningly infectious (dammit) ‘The Ghoul in School’ song for the full retro experience.

The Blu-ray package comes with a separate CD of Armando Trovajoli’s dramatic, atmospheric score which is a delight in itself. An essential purchase for devotees of Italian genre cinema, especially those with a penchant for early 60s black-and-white offerings, plus the added value of providing an appreciation of the slightly kitsch stateside repackaging of the movie.

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA

Plot:

The new science teacher Doctor Julian Olcott (Carl Schell) with a mysterious past arrives in an institutional boarding school for troublemaker girls. Along the night, the intern Mary Smith (Mary McNeeran), who is blackmailing another teacher – Sir Alfred Whiteman (Maurice Marsac) – with some love letters, is slaughtered by a werewolf.

The detective in charge of the investigation attributes the crime to a wolf, while her mate Priscilla believes she was killed by Sir Alfred. On the next days, other deaths happen in the school, reducing the list of suspects…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“When discussing Italian cinema, the visuals are one area that you can always count on. And when it comes to the visuals, Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory delivers in spades with its Gothic infused visuals that deliver an ample amount of atmosphere.” 10K Bullets

“It sounds like a randy, silly monster romp, perhaps something along the lines of Horrors of Spider Island and I for one would love to see that movie. Really, though, it’s something altogether different, and people simply don’t come to a film with a title like that because they’re in the mood for a talky, inelegant murder mystery.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“The identity of this werewolf is a mystery, or at least the filmmakers hope so, with multiple red herrings much in the style of a giallo. The problem is, the herrings are way too red, and once you scratch them all off the list, there is the werewolf. Although there’s not much surprise, there’s a lot of atmosphere.” B&S About Movies

“Yes, it’s hokey as heck and the exploitation, although tempered, is obvious. I loved the black and white cinematography, by Renato Del Frate (as George Patrick), suiting a superior horror with plenty of forest shadows and scientist basements […] It’s not Euro-trash and has some respectable production values.” DVD Beaver

” …the film wallows in the plotting whodunit angle, but this is built around some genuinely eerie scenes and some rather graphic maulings for the period. The lighting in the numerous nighttime sequences is quite remarkable, and the haunting music by Armando Trovajoli was partly recycled later for several of the Paul Naschy werewolf films.” DVD Drive-In

“The movie takes place in the United States (Doctor Olcott’s record mentions having worked in Vermont), looks like Italy (the castle is familiar from Renato Polselli’s L’amante del vampiro) and unfortunately sounds like amateur hour. The good acting doesn’t connect with the foolish script, and the best parts of the film are the more visual scenes.” DVD Savant

“I expected little more from this than a forgettable horror/exploitation movie with maybe a touch of humor and lots of bad dubbing. Actually, it’s better than that; there’s a good sense of mystery to it, it has an assortment of interesting characters, and the subplot about the man having an affair with one of the students is far better than I anticipated…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“The picture supplies a comically large assemblage of werewolf suspects and makes sure that everybody’s acting suspiciously at all times. This is augmented by the nearly continuous playing of the ‘menacing’ score throughout the first half of the movie. The stilted dubbed dialog helps. As does the pacing. The film keeps getting progressively sillier with admirable momentum…” Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension

“Italian director Paolo Heusch (anglicised on the credits as Richard Benson) directs in a talky, dull manner. The makeup on the werewolf is shabby and unconvincing – although to be fair, there is one reasonable lap dissolve sequence where we see the werewolf change into a man. Nor is there anything in the film that comes anywhere near creating atmosphere.” Moria

 

“Saddled with one of the most simultaneously salacious and amusingly disingenuous titles in the history of schlock, Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory (the Snakes on a Plane of its day) … had the dubious distinction of having one of the very best bad horror-rock songs, “The Ghoul in School”, appended to its opening credits…” This Island Rod

” …we went into this movie expecting a cheap and laughable horror flick; had we expected an early but serious and dry giallo with a decidedly unique twist, perhaps we would have enjoyed the movie even more. And if you, the viewer, go into this movie expecting the latter, perhaps you might enjoy it a bit more, too.” A Wasted Life

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Cast and characters:

  • Barbara Lass … Priscilla
  • Carl Schell … Doctor Julian Olcott
  • Curt Lowens … Director Swift
  • Maurice Marsac … Sir Alfred Whiteman
  • Michela Roc … Sandy (as Maureen O’Connor)
  • Mary McNeeran … Mary Smith
  • Grace Neame … Leonor MacDonald
  • Luciano Pigozzi … Walter Jeoffrey (as Alan Collins)
  • Annie Steinert … Mrs Sheena Whiteman
  • Joseph Mercier … Tommy – the Porter
  • Anne-Marie Avis … School Girl
  • Lucy Derleth … School Girl
  • Herbert Diamonds … Police Inspector
  • John Karlsen … Old Man
  • Martha Marker … School Girl
  • Patricia Meeker … School Girl
  • Elizabeth Patrick … Miss Schultz
  • Giuseppe Transocchi

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