Full Moon Feature: Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (1961)

The Italian horror cycle, begun in 1957 with I Vampiri, a.k.a. Lust of the Vampire (directed by Riccardo Freda with an uncredited assist from cinematographer Mario Bava), was in full swing by the time 1961’s Lycanthropus came along. Retitled Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory when it was dubbed into English and released in the US two years later — on a double bill with the Boris Karloff vehicle Corridors of Blood — it is precisely as cheesy as you would expect a film about a wolf man terrorizing a girls’ reformatory to be. Instead of a straight-up horror film, though, what director Paolo Heusch (credited as Richard Benson) and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (fresh off 1960’s The Vampire and the Ballerina) cooked up is more akin to a murder mystery, with reform school girl Priscilla (Barbara Lass) determined to find out who clawed her best friend to death. (Quoth Priscilla: “Mary was just assassinated. No one will convince me she was torn up by wolves.”)

Good thing for Priscilla she has no shortage of possible suspects. There’s new science teacher Dr. Olcott (Carl Schell), who arrives in a cloud of mystery; the institute’s director Swift (Curt Lowens), who knows his secret; lecherous aristocrat Sir Whiteman (Maurice Marsac), who was being blackmailed by the murder victim; Peter Lorre-ish caretaker Walter (Luciano Pigozzi), who is used to doing Whiteman’s dirty work; and creepy-looking porter Tommy (Joseph Mercier), who has little to do apart from hang around and be a creepy-looking red herring. Once you get past the low-budget trappings and the lazy plotting (the first time we get a clear look at the werewolf, it’s easy to tell which character he is), this is actually a fairly entertaining movie. If it had been made a couple of decades later, it might have even delivered on its exploitation title (à la 2006’s Werewolf in a Womens Prison), but some things are better left to the imagination.