Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (Lycanthropus) (1961) [Blu-ray/CD]

There’s a ghoul in school! And “Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory” is one of the weirdest and darkest werewolf movies I’ve ever seen. It’s tough to believe a movie from the early sixties is filled with such dread, violence, and sexual implications that becomes the backdrop for the narrative. Despite being a werewolf movie, Paolo Heusch’s movie carries with it a lot of giallo vibes, focusing on a mostly obscured villain that stalks and strangles their victims. Although there is the stalk and chase of the sub-genre, Heusch relies on a whodunit mystery that feels much in the vein of Argento.

At a reformatory for young women, the newly-arrived doctor Carl (Julian Olcott) takes notice of their behavior, including their late night trysts with men nearby. The head of the reformatory, director Swift (Curt Lowens), takes more of an interest when one of the girls is brutally murdered, seemingly by an animal. With the beautiful Priscilla (Barbara Lass) convinced that there may be more to it after finding a set of love letters that two men (Luciano Pigozzi and Maurice Marsac) are attempting to retrieve to save themselves from embarrassment, rumors also begin to spread that someone on the reformatory’s premises may indeed be a werewolf.

Writer Ernesto Gastaldi pits the focus on a school for wayward girls and a staff of predominantly wealthy men that have managed to take advantage of them at every turn. Once one of the female students Mary Smith threatens to out one of the faculty, it becomes a matter of protecting their livelihood. When she’s viciously murdered and apparently mauled in the woods, the case takes on a new atmosphere, as the young women in the school seem to have been murdered by a werewolf. With the consistent howling that sets the shots for night, along with the beaming full moon, there’s never a clear indication if there’s an actual werewolf stalking the grounds or some kind of murderer.

Gastaldi evolves the mystery to where our protagonists are seeking who could possibly be the werewolf. The narrative spins in to chaos when Gastaldi takes the narrative in to surreal angles, allowing just about anyone to be the culprit. Heusch films in a nightmarish, gritty aesthetic allowing the wayward school to feel like it’s in the middle of an abyss where no one really leaves. Despite the great direction, and solid performances, “Werewolf in a Girl’ Dormitory” does overstay its welcome, sagging before its second act. That said, it’s a very good and unique amalgam of Giallo and a werewolf film that takes a steady pace with measured dread.

On their Blu-ray, Severin use the original Italian and/or English DUB languages. Severin offers optional English subtitles for both the Italian translation and for the English DUB. There is an audio commentary with actor Curt Lowens (who played ‘Director Swift’ in “Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory”). It is moderated by David Del Valle who poses questions regarding his career and the best industry people that he worked with. There are also discussions about Paolo Heusch, censorship, The Edgar Wallace influence, how it’s really not a “Dormitory” but rather a “Reformatory,” et al.

Severin adds a 10-minute video piece entitled “Bad Moon Rising” which is an interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi in Italian with English subtitles. There are Italian and US trailers as well as the brief US titled opening crediting “The Ghoul in School” theme song to Marilyn Stewart, Frank Owens and sung by Adam Keefe. Also included in this package is a CD soundtrack featuring 14 tracks from the film’s score by Armando Trovajoli, and a 12-page booklet of the original photo-comic for the film as well as a CD track listing.