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LYCANTHROPUS

(Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory) - 1961

 

 

 

 LYCANTHROPUS

(Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory; Le Monstre aux filles; El terror de los lobos)

Dir: Paolo Heusch (as Richard Benson); Prod: Royal Film; S/SC: Ernesto Gastaldi (as Julian Berry); Ph: George Patrick; Music: Armando Trovajoli (as Francis Berman); Cast: Barbara Lass, Carl Schell, Mauric Marsac, Curt Lowens, Maureen O'Connor, Alan Collins (Luciano Pigozzi), Anni Steinert, Mary McNeeran, Grace Neame, Joseph Mercer, Anne-Marie Avis, Herbert Diamonds, Mary Dolbeck, Lauren Scott, Elizabeth Patrick, Patricia Meeker, Lucy Derleth B&W; 90 min.

LYCANTHROPUS (WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS' DORMITORY, 1961) is a rare entry in werewolf cinema for Italy, which preferred the sensuality of a vampire to the savagery of a lycanthrope. As an Italian film, however, it still managed to entice the male libido with sleaze and lascivious flashes of near nudity amid the then still-novel setting of killer at a girl's "school." The film's solid mystery elements, pseudo-English locale in a chiaroscuro landscape, use of Aryan actors, like the blonde Austrian Carl Schell (brother of Maximilian and Maria), made it a cousin to the popular "krimis" (Edgar Wallace-inspired mystery films) that began to emerge from Germany at this time. Future careers were honed on the film, though many employed Anglo pseudonyms for the benefit of international sales. Scriptwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, using his Julian Berry moniker, would quickly emerge as the premier screenwriter of genre films in Italy, while Luciano Pigozzi (as Alan Collins) made one of his first appearances in what would be a healthy career as "the Italian Peter Lorre." The female lead, Barbara Lass, born Barbara Kwiatkowska in Poland in 1940, entered the movie business by winning a beauty competition, whose prize was a coveted role in the Polish film EWA CHCE SPAC (EWA WANTS TO SLEEP, 1958). Captivated by her looks, Roman Polanski used her for his short film, GDY SPADAJA ANIOLY (WHEN ANGELS FALL, 1959). In December, 1959, Lass became Polanski's first wife, and left Poland with him in 1960. Polanski's future directorial successes overshadowed Lass' fizzling European film career.

There is no evidence that Spain's premier wolfman interpreter, Paul Naschy, had ever seen LYCANTHROPUS, but his wolfman did employ the same sharp upper teeth rather than just the jutting lower incisors used in Universal's classic horror films. Like the lycanthrope in the Italian movie, Naschy's wolfman finds himself chained, and the erotic possibilities of such a moment, briefly explored in LYCANTHROPUS, are played up in Naschy's LA FURIA DEL HOMBRE LOBO (THE FURY OF THE WOLF MAN, 1970). The link between LYCANTHROPUS and the Daninsky series is more pronounced in musical scoring. Portions of Armando Trovajoli's score for LYCANTHROPUS, owned by Italy's famed CAM musical library, were borrowed for two Waldemar Daninsky films, EL RETORNO DE WALPURGIS (aka THE CURSE OF THE DEVIL, 1972) and EL RETORNO DEL HOMBRE LOBO (aka THE CRAVING, 1980). Curiously, the English title of Naschy's 1996 Daninsky film is LYCANTROPUS (1996), while Mike Hodges, the translator of Naschy's autobiography, states that Naschy's original title for LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO, the first Waldemar Daninsky film, was LICANTROPO. To make matters even more wonderfully strange, Carl Shell, star of LYCANTHROPUS, later appeared in an episode of the TV show, I SPY ("Mainly on the Plains") that was partially shot in Spain. The show also starred Boris Karloff and an upcoming actor, Jacinto Molina, known later as Paul Naschy! 

 

 

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The Retromedia DVD of WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS' DORMITORY inspires this comparison with the 2001 DVD release of the title on Madacy (paired with BLOOD CREATURE). As seen in the screen captures below, the 1.66:1 matted Retromedia disc leaves out information top and bottom, while adding to the sides. Compositions in the 1.66:1 seem quite good in general and the transfer is in better shape than the Madacy version, though still far from perfect, with outdoor daylight scenes appearing on the bleached side. (The same was true of the Madacy version.)  Because of rights issues, the song "Ghoul in School" is missing from the Retromedia presentation, but is available, in shortened form, on the Madacy disc. The Madacy release also carries the trailer to the film, which the Retromedia disc does not. The highpoint of the Retromedia presentation is an audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle and WEREWOLF star Curt Lowens. Both do a splendid job.  Del Valle has done his research for this film (even mentioning our discovery of the music connection between this film and a couple of Naschy's Daninsky movies) and Lowens comes across as an engaging true gentleman of the old school

 

THE MADACY DVD

THE RETROMEDIA DVD

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The complete song, "The Ghoul in School," by The Fortunes!