Release Date(s)1961 (November 12, 2019)
Studio(s)Royal Film (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: C+
Not released in the US until 1963 on a double bill with Corridors of Blood, Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (aka Lycanthropus) is an Italian take-off on the kind of werewolf movies that were popular with American audiences in the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf and The Curse of the Werewolf. One of the lesser known horror films to come out of Italy as they were in the midst of the popularity of their Krimi films (a genre that preceded the giallo), the film itself is surprisingly not as generic as many of its American counterparts.
At a reformatory for young women, the newly-arrived doctor Carl (Julian Olcott) takes notice of their behavior, including their late night trysts with men nearby. The head of the reformatory, director Swift (Curt Lowens), takes more of an interest when one of the girls is brutally murdered, seemingly by an animal. With the beautiful Priscilla (Barbara Lass) convinced that there may be more to it after finding a set of love letters that two men (Luciano Pigozzi and Maurice Marsac) are attempting to retrieve to save themselves from embarrassment, rumors also begin to spread that someone on the reformatory’s premises may indeed be a werewolf.
Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory is a seemingly unnatural blend of horror and giallo, coming as it does from Ernesto Gastaldi, who had written a number of gialli books at the time. The plot is a tad confused about which plot thread it wants to follow, with the two never really intertwining, but if offers a bit more pathos for its ill-fated characters than others of its ilk. The werewolf itself, which inexplicably transforms without the aid of a full moon, is less wolf-like and more like a Dr. Jekyll monster. The performances are sincere and the frankness of some of the subject matter, as well as the murders themselves, seem ahead of their time. As such, Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory is an Italian horror oddity that never receives much fanfare, but is more interesting than many give it credit for. As an aside, eagle-eyed viewers should be on the lookout for a brief appearance by Giuseppe Transocchi, who Dario Argento fans will recognize from Suspiria.
Severin Films’ Blu-ray release of the film comes with a transfer that has been “newly scanned in 2K from archival elements recently discovered in a Rome lab vault.” It’s certainly an improvement over the previous Retromedia DVD release in terms of detail and sharpness, but it’s far from perfect. Carrying the title Lycanthropus, it’s loaded with stability issues, speckling, scratches, and density fluctuations. It’s also uneven in terms of softness and black levels. Grayscale is merely decent and contrast wavers a bit. However, it’s a much more discernable presentation as more can be seen in the shadows and one can tell what’s happening on screen much better than before on DVD. In that sense, it’s an improvement.
The audio comes in English and Italian 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English and English for the Italian audio. The English track is narrow and features mild hiss without much push for score or sound effects, but the dialogue is clear. The Italian track offers a much fuller and louder experience, but contains more apparent hiss, crackle, and distortion. Bass activity is more pronounced and the score has more life to it. Neither track is perfect, but both offer totally different experiences.
The following extras are also included:
- Bad Moon Rising (HD – 10:53)
- Audio Commentary with Curt Lowens and David Del Valle
- Italian Trailer (HD – 3:29)
- US Trailer (SD – 1:12)
- Alternate Opening (SD – 0:26)
In Bad Moon Rising, Ernesto Gastaldi speaks favorably of director Paolo Heusch, referring to him affectionately as “Paolina” due to his lying on the couch with his arms behind his head. He also talks about how he feels about the film, which is also positive, but dismisses modern movies for being too quick for his taste. The audio commentary features actor Curt Lowens and author and film historian David Del Valle who discuss the film as they watch it, particularly Lowens who is quite keen on commenting on events as they happen. Meanwhile, David attempts to steer the conversation into talking more about the making of the film, which is Lowens is happy to do. The alternate opening is the US title sequence for the film with the song The Ghoul in School playing over the credits. Also included in this package is a CD soundtrack featuring 14 tracks from the film’s score by Armando Trovajoli, and a 12-page booklet of the original photo-comic for the film and a CD track listing.
Fans looking for the deepest of cuts will find plenty to appreciate in Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory. It’s certainly not top tier material, but it offers enough elements to make it worth one’s time and effort to seek it out, particularly the Blu-ray release from Severin Films which presents a fine package with great extras.
– Tim Salmons