Werewolf In A Girls' Dormitory
Warning: SPOILERS!!! This is one of those films that played constantly on TV when I was a kid in the '60s. I viewed it so many times that I became jaded by it and haven't watched it for over fifty years. Imagine my surprise when Severin Films, a disc company I highly admire (I buy basically every film they release, as long as it isn't by Jess Franco), released this Public Domain (PD) title on DVD & Blu-Ray in the unseen (at least in this country) Italian cut for the first time ever on disc, with all the bell & whistle extras Severin is known for. This was reason enough for me to break my half-century moratorium and watch it with my "adult" brain. So, was it worth the 50-year wait? Read on to find out...
Dr. Julian Olcott (Carl Schell; THE BLUE MAX - 1966) arrives at the front gate of an institute for troubled girls to start is new job, where he is met by caretaker Walter Jeoffrey (Luciano Pigozzi, once again using his "Alan Collins" pseudonym; THE WHIP AND THE BODY - 1963) and his dog, Wolf. Walter gives Julian directions to Director Swift's office and as Julian passes a group of girls doing morning calestectics, student Mary (Mary McNeeran) passes out when the handsome Julian walks by her (the other girls think Mary is faking to get Julian's attention). Julian then meets headmistress Leonore MacDonald (Grace Neame) and she escorts him to the Director's office. Director Swift (Curt Lowens; THE MEPHISTO WALTZ - 1971) knows all about Julian's past legal problems, Julian reminding him that he was acquitted of all charges in a court of law. The Director assures him that no one in this institute will know about his past; here he will be known simply as "Professor Julian Olcott, science teacher." When Julian asks about the girl who passed out in front of him, the Director tells him that this institute is a place for girls with troubled pasts to redeem themselves and find a career to better their futures. Mary is one of those girls, but her past is a complete mystery to the staff.
That night, Mary sneaks out of her dorm room and heads towards the surrounding woods (Leonore sees her, but doesn't try to stop her), where she is caught by Walter. She threatens Walter, saying she'll spill the beans about what she knows about him and the other "man", so Walter lets her go. She then meets the institute's benefactor, Sir Alfred Whiteman (Maurice Marsac; THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE - 1972), in the middle of the woods and threatens to tell the police that he is having underage sex with her if he doesn't free her from the institute, saying she has the letters he sent her as proof. Sir Alfred tells her only the court can free her since it was they who sent her here and he then nervously walks away. When Sir Alfred leaves, Mary is chased by a werewolf-like creature and when it catches her, she is mauled to death and her dead body thrown in the river. When her body is found, a nameless Police Inspector (Herbert Diamonds) questions the staff at the institute, but he doesn't believe any of them are responsible because the coroner said that Mary was killed by some wild animal. Student Priscilla (Barbara Lass; real name: Barbara Kwiatkowska, better known as Roman Polanski's first wife) finds the incriminating letters in Mary's locked drawer and goes to the Director to tell him, but Walter stops and threatens her to keep silent about the matter. Not one for being threatened, Priscilla tells Director Swift that Mary was blackmailing someone. The Police Inspector wants to see the letters, but Priscilla discovers that someone has taken them from Mary's drawer. The Police Inspector once again states that the killer couldn't possibly be the person that Mary was blackmailing because Mary was killed by a wild animal. He couldn't be more wrong.
Priscilla and fellow student Brunhilde (Maureen O'Connor) unlock another drawer in Mary's dormitory and find more letters, all basically saying the same thing (i.e. "I'll give you everything you want, Mary, but I need you to give me the letters. I'll do anything you want. I love you."), but all the letters are unsigned. Priscilla tells Brunhilde that no one else should see the letters because she knows who wrote them. She has a plan to expose Mary's killer, not knowing that someone at the institute is actually a werewolf.
After a week teaching at the institute, Julian asks Director Swift what some of the girls did to get themselves sent to the institute. Brunhilde, it turns out, was convicted of attempted murder. She lived with Mary on the outside and when one of Mary's johns, a sailor, tried to strangle Mary, Brunhilde attacked the sailor and nearly killed him. It's also apparent that Walter is somehow involved in this sordid affair, acting like a pimp and supplying institute girls to members of the male staff. That night, he escorts Brunhilde through the woods and leads her to a shack, saying, "He is expecting you." He pushes Brunhilde inside and locks the door behind her. Expecting to meet Sir Alfred, Brunhilde is confronted by his wife, Sheena (Annie Steinert), who throws a wad of cash on the table, telling Brunhilde that she and her husband are through seeing each other. Brunhilde accuses Sir Alfred of being Mary's killer, but Sheena says her husband may be a sexual sadist, but he's no murderer. She knows for a fact that Mary was alive when her husband left her the night she was killed, because she was spying on him. Brunhilde then accuses Sheena of being the killer, but she tells Brunhilde that she is being ridiculous and walks out of the shack. As Brunhilde is walking back to the institute, she runs into Julian, who tells her he was laying traps for wolves. When Sheena gets home, someone knocks her out with chloroform and then injects her in the arm with a poison, killing her. Brunhilde is attacked at the front gate by the werewolf, but Walter's dog Wolf saves her, biting hard on the werewolf's right arm and making the werewolf run away. When Julian visits Brunhilde in the institute's infirmary, Priscilla arrives and playfully squeezes Julian's right arm, causing him to wince in pain. Priscilla then goes to Director Swift and accuses Julian of being the killer, telling him that the murders only began once Julian arrived at the institute. The Director tells Priscilla to be quiet, he will question Julian and contact the police if necessary.
Under questioning, Julian tells Director Swift a wild story about his past legal problems when he was a medical doctor. One of his patients, a woman, claimed to be a "Lycanthropus", not quite human, not quite a werewolf, but still a cold-blooded killer. Julian tried to find a cure for her condition, but she attacked him, permanently damaging his right arm and he accidentally killed her. He was brought to court on charges of murder, but found not guilty by a jury of his peers. Julian believes the killer at the institute is also a Lycanthropus and he may have come up with a formula to cure the affliction. When Walter is caught red-handed trying to smother Brunhilde in bed with a pillow, he tries to escape, only for Julian to fire a pistol at him, causing Walter to fall to his death from the roof one of the institute's buildings. Everyone believes Walter was the killer and the nightmare is finally over, but Julian doesn't believe it because Walter owned a dog and dogs are Lycanthropus worst enemies. Julian and Priscilla confront Sir Alfred and accuse him of being the killer, but he denies it, walking into his bedroom and blowing his brains out with a pistol! Think you know who the killer is? Here's another clue: Walter's dog, Wolf, viciously kills Leonore by tearing her apart with his teeth. At Walter's funeral, Wolf nearly attacks and kills Director Swift. That night, Wolf leads Priscilla to a shallow grave in the woods and begins digging with his paws, revealing the body of...Walter! So who was buried in Walter's coffin? I hope you have it figured out because I'm not revealing another thing!
This Italy/Austria co-production was directed by Paolo Heusch (THE DAY THE SKY EXPLODED - 1958), who takes the pseudonym "Richard Benson" here and it was written by "Julian Berry", who is actually Ernesto Gastaldi, one of Italy's best genre screenwriters, responsible for the scripts to such films as THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (1960), LIBIDO (1965; which he also directed) and TORSO (1973), my favorite giallo film of all time, as well as many, many more. This was Gastaldi's first credited screenplay and, thankfully, he is still around to regale us with stories of how it was like to work in the Italian horror film business during its Golden Age. On Severin's DVD & Blu-Ray of this title, one of the extras on the discs has Gastaldi telling us how he came up with the name "Julian Berry" (there were laws in Italy that prevented Gastaldi and other people, from using their real names), what it was like working with Paolo Heusch (who passed away in 1982) and his experiences working in the horror and giallo genres. Somebody should make a documentary on Gastaldi before it is too late, as he is a wealth of unknown, entertaining stories that will disappear when he does from this mortal coil. It's a no-brainer, as he has worked with the best in the business. The Italian cut of this film differs from the American version in many ways. The dialogue is more sexually frank and adult, the violent scenes are extended by a few frames and it doesn't have that ridiculous song, "The Ghoul In School", that opens up the re-titled American version (it is available as an extra on Severin's discs, as are both the Italian and American trailers for this film). I have to say that I enjoyed this film much more than I thought I would, even after not watching it for over fifty years, thanks to the spotless print Severin supplied me in it's OAR. The yellow English subtitles for the Italian language version was also a nice touch. Everything Severin does is first class all the way, even for this Public Domain film (although I doubt the Italian cut is PD).
Shot as LYCANTHROPUS (Severin's print bears this title) and changed to the review title and edited slightly when Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) released it theatrically in the U.S. in 1963. I can't find one legitimate VHS release in the United States, but there have been many gray market VHS releases by the usual suspects. It also had a very healthy budget DVD release, as part of compilation box sets, like Mill Creek Entertainment's CHILLING CLASSICS 50 MOVIE PACK, or as stand-alone discs, from companies such as Alpha Video and Fred Olen Ray's Retromedia Entertainment, but they were all the American edit of the film and in fullscreen (Retromedia claims their version is letterboxed, but all they did was letterbox the fullscreen print, giving you much less information on screen!). The first time the Italian cut was released on DVD & Blu-Ray and in its OAR was in late-2019, when Severin Films released a 2-disc Blu-Ray set (and single-disc DVD), full of extras you never knew you wanted, but were glad you received. Severin is the only place to see the Italian cut of the film, as even Amazon Prime only offers the American version streaming. Also featuring Joseph Mercier, Mary Dolbek, Lauren Scott, Elizabeth Patrick and John Karlsen (SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971). Not Rated.