• Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review
    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: November 12th, 2019.
    Director: Paolo Heusch
    Cast: Barbara Lass, Carl Schell, Curt Lowens
    Year: 1961
    Purchase From Severin Films

    Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory – Movie Review:

    Directed by Paolo Heusch (credited as Richard Benson in an attempt to disguise the film’s Italian roots), 1961’s Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory was written by prolific giallo scribe Ernesto Gastaldi and is set, as the title suggests, at an all girl’s school. Director Swift (Curt Lowens) is the man in charge and he’s recently brought on Julian Olcott (Carl Schell) to teach, well aware that the former doctor lost his medical license after one of his patients died on his watch. A local patron named Sir Alfred Whiteman (Maurice Marsac) helps out financially.

    Shortly after Olcott arrives on the scene, one of his students, Mary Smith (Mary McNeeran), sneaks out of the school for a little evening rendezvous with Whiteman, who she’s blackmailing. She never returns and is instead found murdered and mauled. The local police figure she was attacked and killed by a pack of wolves. Fellow student Priscilla (Barbara Lass) doesn’t buy any of that after she discovers a letter addressed to Mary that proves her life was in danger. Of course, nobody believes Priscilla and soon enough she has to team up with the janitor, Walter (Luciano Pigozzi), to meet up with Whiteman and try to sort this out. Sheena (Annie Steinert), Whiteman’s wife, tells Priscilla that her husband didn’t kill poor Mary but she won’t give up the identity of the real killer. After Priscilla herself comes face to face with the killer, the nearby townsfolk get the impression that a rapist is loose while Olcott comes up with a theory of his own… that there is a werewolf in the girl’s dormitory.

    This is a fun watch. Heusch directs with a nice amount of style and keeps the story going at a nice, quick pace but not at the cost of the storyline. Gastaldi’s script foreshadows some of the giallo pictures he’d made a name for himself with only a few short years later by throwing in some nice twists and turns and upping the mystery elements while still managing to deliver the kind of werewolf-centric set pieces that you’d expect given the film’s title (it was originally called Lycanthropus in Italy but released in the United States not just as Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory but also Ghoul In A Girl’s Dormitory and Monster Among The Girls – but Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory is definitely the most eye-catching of all the titles the film has had over the years!).

    Renato Del Frate’s cinematography is really strong. This is a handsome looking film that does a great job of showing off some of the shadowy interiors of the school as well as making the nearby woods feel appropriately intimidating. Composer Armando Trovajoli, who scored Strange Shadows In An Empty Room and The Valachi Papers, delivers a great score. As to the performances, Maurice Marsac, Curt Lowens and Carl Schell are all quite entertaining here as the main male cast members, while Barbara Lass, who passed away quite young at the age of 54 in 1990 from a brain hemorrhage and who was married to Roman Polanski for three years from 1959 until 1962, is eminently watchable as the de facto female lead. Quite a beautiful and striking woman, she does a pretty decent job here and is a good casting choice.

    Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory – Blu-ray Review:

    Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 taken from a 2k scan of Italian ‘archival elements’ and it is certainly a significant step up from the various public domain DVDs that were released over the years. The black and white picture shows vastly better detail, depth and texture than any of those discs ever could have. The transfer uses the Italian opening title sequence and it does have a tiny bit of nudity in it, indicating that this is the proper uncut version. Darker scenes are much better now and there’s a lot more clarity and depth here. Black levels are pretty decent, though contrast does vary a little bit here and there, and while minor print damage shows up now and then there’s nothing too distracting here to note. The encoding could be better, but overall this looks quite good.

    There are English and Italian language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks provided here, with subtitles available for each option. The Italian track is definitely the cleaner sounding of the two, it’s pretty solid actually. The English track wavers a bit more, it’s a little flat but still more than serviceable. Both tracks are properly balanced.

    Carried over from the Retromedia DVD release is an archival commentary track with actor Curt Lowens, moderated by David Del Valle. Lowens seems to have a good time revisiting the film, reacting to it as it plays out, and chatting amiably about the time he spent in Italy in his younger days and then making the move stateside to work in Hollywood. He also talks about how he got along with his fellow cast members, the makeup that he had to undergo for the production and more. When Lowens goes quiet, which happens from time to time, the typically chatty Del Valle is able to jump in with his thoughts on the film, it’s distribution history and its place within the pantheons of werewolf-themed horror pictures. All in all, it’s a decent mix of anecdotes from the set, historical info and trivia and interesting conversation between the two participants.

    Severin has also included an eleven-minute interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi entitled Bad Moon Rising. He speaks here about the early part of his writing career, working as a ghost writer and then using the Julian Barry alias. He also talks about how his thoughts on the film have changed over the years and how he feels about it now after reevaluating it.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film’s Italian trailer, the film’s US trailer and the alternate US opening sequence (which uses ‘The Ghoul In School’ musical bit). Speaking of, the track was performed by The Fortunes and was released on a 45 by CUB Records (which was a division of MGM) in 1963, the B-side containing a track entitled ‘You Don’t Know.’ The Fortunes don’t appear to have recorded any other music outside of that singe.

    Menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    Additionally, Severin include a few other choice physical extras with this release. A second disc inside the case is a CD that contains all fourteen tracks of Armando Trovajoli's soundtrack for the film – a nice touch indeed. Also included is a pretty great insert booklet that contains a reproduction of the original photo-comic and some amusing "Directions To Be A Werewolf" from the original pressbook.

    Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory – The Final Word:

    Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory holds up. It’s a unique blend of lycanthropic tropes and gothic horror elements that moves quick and keeps the audience engaged. Severin has done a very nice job bringing this to Blu-ray in a presentation that offers fans a nice upgrade over what we’ve seen before and with some pretty solid extra features as well. Lots of fun to be had with this one – recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      Wow this look so much better than the old Retromedia release. Nice review, I may have to upgrade.