Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
I was avoiding Retromedia discs on the basis of some bad experiences, but Werewolf in a Girl's
Dormitory is a reasonably good presentation.
The original film Lycanthropus was retitled by MGM for release with Corridors of Blood
in 1962. It's an okay horror thriller with a ferocious title monster and some good scenes; and if
it's fondly remembered, it must be for the terrific stills that showed up again and again in
Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. It's also known for a silly song called The Ghoul
in School that's still billed in the titles, but doesn't show up in this print. Since I've never
heard it myself, I don't know if it's missing or not.
Dr. Julian Olcott (Carl Schell) shows up for work at a rural American reformatory
school run by the friendly Mr. Swift (Curt Lowens) and his associate Leonor MacDonald (Maureen O'Connor).
Mary (Mary McNeeran) sneaks out to blackmail Sir Alfred Whiteman (Maurice Marsac) and is murdered by
some kind of animal. With police prowling around everyone becomes a suspect, including Julian and
the school custodian Walter (Peter Lorre lookalike Alan Collins, aka Luciano Pigozzi). Beautiful
student Priscilla (Barbara Lass-Kwiatkowska) tries to get to the bottom of the mystery but raises
the ire of the cops and scorn from Sir Alfred's jealous wife. There's no shortage of suspects and the
stakes get higher as more people die under suspicious circumstances.
While Mario Bava and Riccardo Freda's horror films were accepted as art in some quarters, other
Italian directors labored in the lower commercial trenches. Lycanthropus is a
carefully contrived entertainment that puts its monster in a German-style murder mystery combined
with a girl's prison movie. The clever American title has a camp value that was rare back in the
early 60s - the film's self-awareness keeps it from succumbing to its occasional boring scene. 2
Paolo Heusch (note the pervasive Anglicizing in the credits) directs reasonably well and is greatly
aided by decent lighting, especially in night exteriors. Every once in a while a striking shot
appears, and attractive leading lady Barbara Lass is given careful glamour treatment.
Polish actress Lass was Roman Polanski's first wife, appearing to good effect in his shorts Two Men and a
Wardrobe and When Angels Fall. 1
She has enormous eyes and a cautious attitude, and makes an excellent central character. In her trench
coat and short hairstyle she's reminiscent of Juliet Mayniel in Eyes Without a Face, which
had a big influence on European horror movies - this film also has a dog being dissected in
a mad-lab scene, just as in the Franju classic.
Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory can boast a pretty good monster - Curt Lowens is a more frenzied version
of the man-wolf from the old
Werewolf of London, but with larger fangs that he
bares in grotesque snarls. The makeup looked particularly good in photos - and is an interesting contrast to
Oliver Reed's silver-haired monster in the previous year's Curse of the Werewolf from Hammer.
It's difficult to tell exactly, but Lycanthropus appears to have been acted in several languages.
are definitely speaking English, and others not. The dubbing is good for matching but not for script; most
of the English dialogue we hear is awkward and ill-chosen, as if written by a clever non-native speaker
who makes continual syntax errors. The movie takes place in the United States (Dr. 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.
Retromedia's DVD of Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory looks pretty good on a 20-inch monitor but the
compression falls apart on a large projection television. On my 65" Mitsubishi the picture broke
up like a lower-quality Avid resolution. There's a disclaimer blaming the source materials, but except
for a few bothersome splices this is obviously a good 35mm print of the MGM release, letterboxed in
1:66, and the sound is quite clear, so I blame Retromedia's cheap encoding. DVDs should resolve better
than this on a large monitor.
Professional fan and sometime talent agent David Del Valle provides a friendly commentary with the
film's star Curt Lowens.
He's there with the facts and Lowens contributes some insights of his own, including a detailed
description of the complicated makeup he wore. Del Valle pegs most of the relevant ideas behind the film
and does his best to align this popular programmer with the more prestigious Italian horror films. Later
in the commentary the discussion drifts far afield, with Lowens talking about roles he didn't get,
but unless you've read every issue of Video
Watchdog there'll be some new information here. The only objection I had to Mr. Del Valle's pleasant
contribution were a couple of unnecessary verbal slights directed at Roman Polanski.
All of those unforgettable Famous Monsters photos are here to be enjoyed in a still gallery. A
welcome insert is a clever original release card explaining how to become a werewolf. Christopher
Dietrich's liner notes generously cite Del Valle's interesting interview disc
Vincent Price: The Sinister Image,
but then insult the memory of Reggie Nalder and Ferdy Mayne by saying that they'll be remembered
only for their horror roles.
Does anybody have the answer about The Ghoul in School? Is we supposed to hear it in the
film, or not? 3
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory rates:
Video: Fair +
Supplements: Commentary with Curt Lowens and David Del Valle; still gallery
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: December 3, 2003
1. Both of the Polanski
short subjects just became available on DVD on Criterion's disc of
Knife in the Water.
2. The makers probably weren't aware of it, but the campy title keeps reminding
me of Billy Wilder's sleazy retitled pocketbook version of Little Women seen in
The Seven Year Itch: Confessions of a Girl's Dormitory.
3. Song Help from Charles Lindsay, 12/04/03: Hello Glenn,
I asked Fred Olen Ray about the song at the
Chiller Theatre convention this past Halloween. He said Turner owns the rights to the song but
not the movie and they wouldn't let him use it. If not for his new distribution deal with
Image, he might have gone ahead and used it anyway, as someone else already had. I believe he
was referring to Madacy's BLOOD CREATURE/WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS' DORMITORY dvd., which I don't
have, but I believe the title song is on it. However, he didn't want to create any problems
for Image, so he didn't use the song. That's what he told me. Best regards, Chas Lindsay
Me again: Several other letters came in on this issue as well. Madacy's reportedly inferior disc does
have the song, which played over the titles. Turner has the rights because MGM produced the song
for the US release in'62 as a
reaction to The Monster Mash. One reader actually had the original 45 rpm record. Image
releases public domain product only when the producer takes all the risk for his rights, which is
why Wade Williams puts some films out through Image but won't risk it with THE FABULOUS WORLD OF
JULES VERNE - Warners would likely object.
My experience with other studios is that they
often didn't pursue graymarket chislers because their legal departments were too busy, the films
were too obscure, and there was little to gain. I can see where Image is far too high-profile to
take those kinds of risks.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2003 Glenn Erickson
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