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  Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory The Beast Must Die
Year: 1961
Director: Paolo Heusch
Stars: Barbara Lass, Carl Schell, Curt Lowens, Maurice Marsac, Maureen O'Connor, Mary McNeeran, Grace Neame, Luciano Pigozzi, Annie Steinert, Joseph Mercier, Anne-Marie Avis, Lucy Derleth, Herbert Diamonds, John Karlsen, Martha Maker
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: At this English boarding school which doubles as a home for troubled teenage girls a new arrival among the staff, handsome Dr Julian Olcott (Carl Schell), causes a stir, prompting one of them to faint practically the minute he walks through the gate, though she's only feigning. But Julian has a reason for taking a post here with his qualifications, and he wants to keep his controversial past quiet. That may be difficult when that night one of the girls, Mary (Mary McNeeran), sneaks out of the dorm and over the wall to meet with someone - and the next day is found mauled to death!

Could it be the werewolf of the title which is the culprit? Well, what do you think? Actually the original name of this Italian horror was Lycanthropus, which was putting the whole wolfman thing right upfront, which was more than the movie did as for the first hour of a pretty short movie there was not much slavering beast action at all, and for the reason for that you had to look to the screenwriter. He was Ernesto Gastaldi, the man behind countless giallo thrillers of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, and while this was on the surface your basic Continental shocker, in effect it paved the way for his later efforts.

Both in style and mechanics, as what we had here was a whodunnit more than a selection of scenes featuring the endangered girls being stalked around the dormitory for pure thrills and titillation. There was more time here given over to setting up the red herrings than anything else, and that included eliminating them from your suspects list (assuming you happened to be keeping one - maybe you enjoy a good game of Cluedo?). So we had the new teacher, who seems too good to be true especially when he explains exactly what his motives for keeping his past a secret are, and that he had dabbled extensively in, er, wolf experiments so he knows what a wolf attack can do to a person.

Then there was the dodgy caretaker, played by that familiar face of sinister Italian roles Luciano Pigozzi, the disgraced Lord, Sir Alfred (Maurice Marsac), who was suffering blackmail from the dead girl, his shifty wife Sheena (Annie Steinert) who not only owns two fierce dogs but is highly liberal with the scathing insults, the headmaster Mr Swift (Curt Lowens) who may be too good to be true, and indeed any one of the girls who may, as the notoriously lurid North American poster had it, be able to transform into the creature which is up to no good. Thanks to the images on that advertising this film has perhaps endured longer in the memory than you might expect, but it was to be fair professionally assembled.

It was just that you had to have a lot of patience with getting led up the garden path by a film which tied itself in knots trying to keep you from guessing what was actually happening. Once you have settled on one character as the villain, all of a sudden they are out of the picture thanks to a murder, and not only because they've been torn apart by a werewolf, as there are other modes of execution to be found here. One suspect even falls off a roof, thereby going a drastic route of eliminating himself from enquiries. We do have one character who seems on the level, however, and she's a proper little Nancy Drew: Priscilla, one of the students, played by Polish actress Barbara Lass who was best known for being married briefly to Roman Polanski. She does her best to get to the bottom of the mystery which naturally involves her near death at the claws of the monster, but if you could get over the misdirection that last act was zany enough to make it all worth it. Music by Armando Trovajoli.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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