Look Out For the… – Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (1961)

Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory, also known by its original name Lycanthropus, is a quaint little horror film featuring a werewolf that is actually kind of near the girls’ dormitory rather than within it.  After a girl is murdered by what is thought to be a wolf, suspicion falls on Dr. Olcott, a teacher new to the school.  It could be Dr. Whiteman or really, it could be anyone as there is no concrete proof one way or the other.  Priscilla thinks Mary was assassinated and she means to get to the bottom of it no matter what the consequences.

werewolf_in_girls_dormitory12The film, shot in black and white by director Paolo Heusch, is not very scary but more than makes up for it in mood with an interesting little murder mystery as well as an effective use of cinematography.  There are some great shots in the movie that really sell the horror aspect and it succeeds in getting that across to the viewer.  It is a good thing too as the werewolf of the picture is more often felt rather than seen.  When the wolf is eventually shown, the makeup is actually done quite well though it does not look like a fully transformed werewolf, instead looking more man than beast.  As such, the way photographer George Patrick and Heusch focus on lighting is a smart way to go.  Not only was it smart but it was also probably more practical as well as B films like this often had limited budgets.  That would explain the lack of a werewolf in a picture about werewolves.

werewolf_in_girls_dormitory13The script and story by Ernesto Gastaldi were good, but obviously, something was lost in translation once it got dubbed over for American audiences.  It was not terrible per se, but it lacked finesse and often did not sound natural as people do when they talk, instead sounding rehearsed or as if they were reading from teleprompters.  Not all of it was dubbed as some of the people including lead actor Carl Schell could speak English, but it made for a somewhat strange viewing experience.  Schell himself was quite good in the film, leading you to wonder if he was in fact a hero or simply masquerading as one.  And actually, it was hard to tell who was good and who was bad with many in the cast including Luciano Pigozzi as Walter, Maurice Marsac who played Sir Alfred or Curt Lowens as Director Swift.  Out of everything in the film, it was this guessing game of questionable suspects that made things quite interesting and kept you hanging in.  And poor Leonor, played by Grace Neame, getting attacked more than once when she just wanted to help.  Finally in the role of the damsel in distress and the girl who suspects that something is up is Barbara Lass who plays the young, beautiful and fresh-faced Priscilla.  Lass does a great job with the role, perhaps because she looks so innocent throughout the movie, and as such you believe it when she insists that something is wrong or those times when she looks terrified.  For a film that was not a blockbuster picture, everything just seemed to click to make for a very enjoyable viewing experience.

While there were a few faults like the poor dubbing, the choppy editing and the fact that it was just a wee bit too long, one cannot say that they were actually bored by it and in the end, if one was entertained then one can call the film, despite its faults, good.

3.5 out of 5

7 replies »

  1. I haven’t seen this one in a long time. I remember thinking it was serviceable, but never had the urge to watch it again. The title makes it sound a little more lurid and I think I expected something a little sleazier.

    This kind of stuff happens a lot when European movies are repackaged for North America.

    Liked by 1 person

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