B&W, 1961, 84 mins. 34 secs.
Directed by Richard Benson (Paolo Heusch)
Starring Barbara Lass, Carl Schell, Curt Lowens, Maurice Marsac, Luciano Pigozzi
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Retromedia (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)

Werewolf in a Girl's DormitoryBoasting one of Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitorythe greatest titles in the history of Italian horror films imported to America, Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory (originally entitled Lycanthropus) is a deliciously ridiculous collision of Euro Gothic horror, AIP teen monster thrills inspired by I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and even a splash of krimi flavor thanks to the Austrian co-financing and presence of several Teutonic actors. Incredibly this was released in dubbed form by MGM in 1963, only to drop out of circulation for many years existing only in tantalizing write ups in various genre magazines and books before finally popping up again in the digital era.

When new science teacher Dr. Julian Olcott (Schell) arrives at a girls' school where the students seem to spend most of their time gossiping and doing calisthenics, he finds himself in a hotbed of faculty drama involving dalliances and blackmail. Even worse, there's a beast prowling the grounds at night preying on the students, and Priscilla (Lass) decides to do some investigative work when her roommate ends up slashed to death. The authorities working with the school director (Lowens) suspect it's either a wild animal around or perhaps the suspicious new arrival (who turns out to have a murder accusation in his past), but... well, look at the title.

The combination of whodunit and werewolf movie predates the Amicus oddity The Beast Must Die by several years and does well enough with its monster angle, delivering a memorable makeup job on its furry villain (reproduced in many, many publications) and pushing things pretty far for '61 with the victims being clawed and partially undressed just Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitoryenough to barely scrape by the censors. Any movie set in a girls' school is bound to have some atmospheric moments, a Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitoryla Phenomena or The College Girl Murders, and this one delivers with some spooky monochrome imagery in the scenes set after hours in an institution that doesn't look even remotely American as hard as the filmmakers try. None of the actors have to stretch very much with their cardboard rules, but the always colorful, wide-eyed Luciano Pigozzi has some fun as one of the more colorful red herrings.

The American release of this film ran a bit shorter, largely by hacking off the much longer original opening credits and replacing them with a quick new opener featuring a werewolf sketch and a new, catchy theme song, "The Ghoul in School" (which got its own 45 single release at the time). That addition clashes pretty dramatically with the more straightforward nature of the film itself (not to mention the moody score by the great Armando Trovajoli), but it became a favorite of young viewers at the time and has a bit of a cult following all unto itself. In 2003, Retromedia released the original European English-language version of this film under the Lycanthropus title in a non-anamorphic 1.66:1 presentation that looked passable at the time apart from some chunky compression and very weak black levels. At least it came with a fun audio commentary with actor Curt Lowens (who relocated to Los Angeles) in conversation with David Del Valle, which spends time chatting about this film as well as the rest of his career as well as the ins and outs of the, uh, challenges required for the film. They also go a bit into the history of lycanthropic cinema, pointing out some favorites and noting the more unique aspects of this film. Incredibly, Lowens kept acting well after this track was recorded including films like Angels & Demons before he passed away in 2017 in his nineties. A still gallery featuring some of the film's unforgettable promotional photography is Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitoryalso included; also, that cover art is really the pits.

Werewolf in a Girl's DormitoryAfter that the film didn't get another notable revisit until 2019 when Severin Films issued in on Blu-ray, DVD, and a "ByPagThrope Bundle" (!) packaged with Paganini Horror and Byleth: The Demon of Incest. Note that the Blu-ray is actually a two-disc set containing a CD soundtrack of Trovajoli's score, replicating the same tracks as its 2014 CD release from Digitmovies (when it was paired up with Trovajoli's score for Seddok, a.k.a. Atom Age Vampire). The transfer is a major upgrade over the earlier DVD in every possible way with a nicely detailed, clean, and beautifully shaded transfer that plays nicely on large displays. The English and Italian tracks are presented in DTS-HD MA mono options with English subtitles for each, either SDH or translated; the meaning of the dialogue doesn't differ that dramatically for the most part but it's very nice to have both options. The Italian track has more presence than the English one, largely because it's also better mixed with more layers of background sounds including insect and wind noises in several scenes and a more dynamic use of the score. On the other hand it also shows more signs of degradation with some faint noise and deterioration evident, while the English track is cleaner but also more flat and sterile. Try both and see which one you prefer; it doesn't look like the actors were speaking either language to a significant degree given how loose the sync is either way. Yellow subtitles are automatically included during the English track for some of the Italian text on screen, such as in a pivotal newspaper article. It's also worth noting that this appears to be the longest variant of the film available, containing the full body dumping scene missing from all other English-language versions. The Lowens/Del Valle commentary is ported over here, and you also get "Bad Moon Rising" (10m53s), a video interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi about the Anglicizing of Italian and German names (found in abundance on this one) and the state of genre cinema at the time. The "Ghoul in School" opener is also included from an SD source, along with the Italian and English theatrical trailers.

Reviewed on November 7, 2019.