In the early 60s, it seemed that the Italians were fixated on vampires as far as the genre was concerned, but they did manage to churn out at least one werewolf picture titled LYCANTHROPUS. LYCANTHROPUS was dubbed into English and released in the U.S. as WEREWOLF IN A GIRL'S DORMITORY by MGM, who slapped it onto a double bill with CORRIDORS OF BLOOD starring Boris Karloff.
WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS' DORMITORY takes place at an all girls' reform school, where various residents are turning up murdered. Working something like an early giallo, there's a lot of red herrings thrown in, including Luciano Pigozzi (AKA Alan Collins), the Peter Lorre of Italy, and French character actor Maurice Marsac. The film also stars the late Barbara Lass (first wife of director Roman Polanski), Carl Schell (lesser-known blonde brother of well known Maximilian), and Curt Lowens, who has a striking resemblance to Mel Ferrer. The werewolf makeup is simple, but neat and effective, mirroring a lot of recent films.
Written by the popular horror scribe Ernesto Gastaldi (THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA, THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK, TERROR IN THE CRYPT, etc.) 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.
Also available from budget company Madacy (on a double bill with BLOOD CREATURE, a battered version of TERROR IS A MAN), Retromedia's disc is far superior. The film is letterboxed in the befitting 1.66:1 aspect ratio, and looks fairly sharp with nice detail. The black and white image could have had deeper blacks, but thankfully, the dark scenes on the Retromedia version are more clear, unlike the murkiness of said Madacy release. There are some light lines and edge ghosting on some of the faces, but this print is attractive overall and definitely brings out the great atmosphere of the film. The audio also is well-rendered, with little hiss. Note: the notorious pop song, "The Ghoul in School" -- created for the opening credits of the American version -- is missing from this disc (most likely due to music rights), but I don't believe too many will miss it.
A welcomed extra here is an audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle and star Curt Lowens. This is truly a great listen, and full of information. Lowens is a well spoken gentleman who appreciates the fandom his role has garnished, and he speaks a lot about the make-up, the locations, and the other actors. Since he's worked in so many films, he has a lot of great tidbits to share (one of the best being how he auditioned for Joe Dante's PIRANHA, but the role went to Kevin McCarthy), and Del Valle keeps things fun and friendly with lots of facts and werewolf movie trivia. The other extra is a fairly decent still gallery. Inside the cover, there's a movie gimmick card reproduction from the original theater give-away, and the affectionate back-cover liner notes are by Christopher Dietrich. (George R. Reis)
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