Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (1961)

AAAAWOOOOOOOO ready for a werewolf flick?

While it hasn’t been so long ago that I last covered an Italian flick, it has been quite some time since I talked about werewolves.  Damn, it has been four years since I covered Werewolf of Washington as an “Election Day Special” in 2016.  I most definitely feel as though nothing of huge import hasn’t happened every single day since then, am I right?

(Checks the internet.  Goes to Twitter.  Checks in on friends over at the Facebook.  Goes to the CDC’s website.  Cries uncontrollably while huddled in a corner.  Recovers by shambling back to the computer desk like Spock at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan after he messed himself up and was blinded after fixing the Enterprise.)

Oh my god.

Well, there’s only one cure for the depressing world that we live in and that’s B-Movie Enema…(?)  This week, I’m going to discuss the Italian werewolf movie starring a German wolfman and Roman Polanski’s first wife – Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory!

Now, Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory is a peculiar sort.  It’s usually regarded as a disaster of bad dubbing and a shitshow in terms of Americanization.  However, the original version, well…  That hadn’t been released on Blu-Ray ever until Severin Films came along to restore a print of the film found in a Rome lab.  This leaves me in a bit of a conundrum.

I write about usually shitty movies.  I picked this release up because I knew this was a fairly shitty movie – at least the Americanized version of it.  That said, I really want to watch the original Italian version.  You’re probably thinking I have all the time in the world now to watch both versions.  The world is coming to an end.  Infrastructure has completely broken down.  Randal Flagg has somehow amassed a new civilization of pretty much all the worst people in a centralized place and plans to snuff out the remaining few good people in the world…  And he somehow got elected president!

Nah, I’m just kidding.  Here’s the thing.  I could watch both and write a serious think piece about the differences.  What was the positives in the Italian version that had to be excised in order to create a dumb drive-in movie for teenagers who want to play grab ass.  But, you see…

That corner that I was balled up in that provides me some sense of comfort while I cry my eyes out over there?  It really wants me to come back over.  Misery loves company, assholes, so I’m just going to do the Italian version.

As I mentioned, this movie stars Barbara Lass, she was Roman Polanski’s first wife.  They were married at the time she was in this movie, but they divorced a year later.  In this, she is Priscilla, the main character we will be following at the girls’ reformatory where wolves have been recently spotted.  (Heh…  Where wolves.  Werewolves.)

And speaking of this reformatory, the movie opens with the arrival of Julian Olcott.  He has an appointment with the director of the reformatory.  The dog that guards the gate, Wolf, does not seem to care much for this visitor.  The girls are doing their daily exercises in the yard.  One girl, Mary, pretends to faint in order to be taken to the infirmary.  Now, there’s some shenanigans around this about why she fainted or why she would be faking.  Was it the appearance of the handsome Olcott, or was it simply to avoid the exercises?  Either way, this young lady is precocious.

Olcott speaks to the director and apparently Olcott was arrested at some point in the past, but was not convicted.  In fact, the jury found him innocent.  What that crime he was accused of is not mentioned further.  The director says while he is here, he’ll simply be the Professor of Science and the past will be just that – the past.  He mentions Mary Smith, the girl who fainted, and it’s said that Mary should be someone to worry about as she’s “just come of age.”

Ohhhhhhh.  I think I see what the Professor was accused of now.  I mean, that’s an odd statement, but it’s not that insidious.  He was accused of premeditated murder.

That night, Priscilla and her friend wake up to the sound of wolves howling at the moon.  She says that some locals are really scared and they’ve had to kill a handful of these wolves.  They soon see Mary sneaking out into the night.  Leonore, the assistant to Director Swift, is also out and about during the night.  They wonder why she didn’t try to stop and reprimand her, but they wonder if Leonore was sneaking out to see a lover.

While Mary is out, she encounters the caretaker, Walter.  She says something about spilling some info about him and about the next man she sees in the field, Sir Alfred Whiteman, who she offers a little sex on the side if he can help her get out of the reformatory.  He also says he wants some letters she has in her possession too.  Clearly, there’s a bit of intrigue at the school.

On her way back to the dormitory, she’s suddenly attacked by a growling man.  She gets cornered and as the man continues to chase her, he grows hairier and eventually catches Mary.  He scratches her up and strangles her to death.  After the creature kills Mary, he tosses her into a creek.  Now, if you ask me, and you should because I 100% have a doctorate in detective stuffs, I don’t think this is going to look good for the ol’ Walter, or Sir Alfred.

In fact, when he comes back from meeting with Mary, Sir Alfred is called a “beast” (among other things) by his wife, Sheena.  Sheena even leans heavily on commentary like “people don’t truly know what you are!” and the like.  The next day, Professor Olcott examines Mary, and it is believed she was killed by wolves, but this is a European flick and detectives over there tend to be almost as good at detective stuffs than I am.

But do not worry your little heads.  The detectives are basically never seen again after this scene after Mary’s body was found.

Priscilla is lurking around the grounds hoping to see Mary.  When Sir Alfred sees her, he gives her a lecherous smile.  Sir Alfred does not know that Priscilla is in possession of a letter from him to Mary that is threatening her to stop with this supposed blackmail plot she concocted with these letters Sir Alfred wants.

This is where people like me with all this detective knowledge would say, “The sloth chickens.”  Er…  “The plot thickens.”

Priscilla wants to speak to Director Swift.  Walter wants Priscilla to speak to him.  Walter is gross.  Priscilla tells him as much.  She tells Swift about the letter she read and that there is no return address.  When she takes Swift and the inspector to her dorm, the letter is gone.  Someone overheard where she stashed the letter.  Swift also tells Priscilla that it cannot be taken completely as mere coincidence, Professor Olcott is not seemingly connected to Mary’s death.

Priscilla discusses Mary’s death with Olcott.  She asks him if the wounds on her were caused by a wolf.  Later, Priscilla gets into Mary’s dresser and finds all the letters that Sir Alfred wants.  We find out that Priscilla was sent here for attempted homicide when she nearly killed a man who was messing with her roommate, Mary.

Priscilla makes a deal with Walter.  He takes her out onto the grounds, but she doesn’t know that they are being followed and watched.  Walter tells Priscilla to go into a small cottage in the middle of this light wooded area.  Inside the cottage, she finds Sheena Whiteman.  Sheena believes she is the woman that Sir Alfred was screwing around with, but Priscilla says he must have killed Mary.  Sheena says he is many things, but he is not a killer.

Sheena says it was neither Sir Alfred nor the wolves who killed Mary.  It was someone else.  You see there was a “moon” that night.  Sheena does not tell Priscilla anything more.  She said it would just be for the best to let Mary’s memory rest in peace.  When she returns home, she’s attacked by a gloved person who was following Priscilla and Walter earlier.  The person injects her with something that kills her.

Priscilla heads back to the reformatory and runs into Olcott.  He’s out setting traps for the wolves.  He offers to walk back to the reformatory with her.  They talk a little and flirt a little.  Soon, they hear a wolf in pain and Olcott says he has to go check on the trap because they are able to escape even with a broken foot.  Just as Priscilla gets to the gates, she’s attacked by our titular werewolf, but is saved by the watchdog from the reformatory.

The next day, word travels that the “monster” was attacked by the watchdog and tore up the werewolf’s right arm.  Walter has a birth defect that limits his ability to move the arm.  He’s nearly lynched at the bar where he meets with Sir Alfred.    He escapes thanks to Director Swift who calms the crowd down.

Priscilla’s friend, Sandy, says that she believes Olcott is the murderer because he has an injury on his arm.  He explains to Director Swift and Leonore that he was doing studies with the pituitary glad.  He once tested it on himself, but it did not go over well.    This was caused by his close work with a patient in a psychiatric hospital he fell in love with.  She would transform into a wild creature.  Since then, Olcott has been working on a cure for the werewolf.  The murder charge he got was from his patient giving herself an overdose of his serum.

Shortly after this meeting, Walter sneaks into the girls’ dorm and tries to kill a girl, but is scared off when all the girls wake up and scream.  He’s killed in the ensuing chase when he falls off a ledge.  Director Swift finds the letters that were being held by Priscilla. It turns out that Walter stole them earlier.  He now sees more of the whole picture.  Some now believe Walter was the monster.  Olcott says that is impossible because he had a dog and dogs cannot stand the odor of wolves.

Swift later confronts Sir Alfred about the letters.  He says Sheena had to know who has been killing people because she followed him and Mary the night Mary died.  Swift wants none of this, but Sir Alfred says he Swift brings him down, Swift will be brought down too…  I’m not sure how that works because Sir Alfred was an adulterer and he’s not exactly in a position to bargain any of this.

Anyway, that night, Olcott and Priscilla go on a romantic walk around the grounds – something I’m not sure would be all that romantic if there’s still a monster out and about.  They go to see Sir Alfred to ask him what exactly happened the night Mary was killed.  Olcott would like for him to come with them to speak to the police.  He says he is innocent and, yes, they did have a relationship, but that doesn’t mean he killed her.  He tells them he is going to get the letters and they will prove everything.  After going upstairs, Olcott and Priscilla hear a gunshot and run up stairs to see that Sir Alfred has killed himself.

Meanwhile, the gloved figure is out in the wild again and has taken a wolf from one of the traps and brought it to a lab to work with it.  It turns out to be Leonore.  She’s been keeping the werewolf chained in her lab.  She injects the werewolf with a solution from the wolf’s pituitary glad.  When he reverts back to human, it’s Swift.  It’s revealed that Leonore killed Sheena Whiteman because she saw Leonore followed Mary that night.  That also likely means that Sheena recognized Swift too.  There’s a second injection needed to complete the cure, but before she can give it to him, Leonore is killed by a wolf when she took it out of its cage to get what was needed from it.  In retribution, Swift bludgeons the wolf to death.  I’m going to assume he is not cured.

At Walter’s funeral, the watchdog freaks out at Swift.  Obviously this catches Olcott’s attention.  That night, the dog leads Priscilla to a shallow grave just outside the gates.  She finds Walter’s body.  Which leads her to wonder if Walter is buried out there, who was buried in his grave?  She finds Swift to get help, but he transforms into the werewolf shortly after and chases her.  She faints but Olcott comes to fight the werewolf.  Pretty unsuccessfully at first.  Eventually he shoots Swift and he dies saying this was only right for those he killed and his deep sadness for losing Leonore who was always with him.

What I like about this flick is that the movie plays around a little bit with a more science-heavy explanation for what lycanthropy is.  It’s not some sort of gypsy curse handed down to someone it bites or scratches.  It’s a hyper active pituitary gland that increases hormones to a point that it creates a crazed beast.  It’s almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of scenario more than anything.

I kind of like the setting too.  You have this relatively secluded reformatory where it’s populated with girls who are, well, barely legal and kind of getting themselves into trouble and such.  Some of these girls, like Mary, are schemers.  She engaged in an affair with Mary, then she used that to blackmail him and essentially ruin his life.  Sir Alfred is no saint at all, but she found a way to use this to her advantage.

Between the hard piano music used in the score as well as the general setting and the use of black and white, this movie gets pretty moody on you and it makes for a pretty decent experience to watch.  There is a halfway decent mystery about who the “lycanthropus” (as they refer to the beast) really is with several legitimate suspects.  It’s a fairly good blend of creature feature, European exploitation what with the girls’ reformatory setting, and a little bit of giallo with Leonore’s black gloved actions.  I would recommend checking out the Severin release if you have desire to try out something new.

Next week, I’ve got psychological slasher on deck with Don’t Answer the Phone! from 1980.  Be sure to be right here to check out what I have to say about this sleazy thriller!

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