Monday, 17 November 2008

Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory (1961)

When a movie has a title like Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory you do tend to expect the worst. Actually it’s not an American teen movie but a Italian gothic horror flick from 1961. It was originally released with the disappointingly sensible title Lycanthropus.

A new teacher, Dr Julian Olcott, arrives at a girls’ reform school. This is actually a kind of up-market girls’ reform school, where the intention really is to reform rather than punish. Dr Olcott was a medical doctor but was struck off the medical register when his experiments on lycanthropy went wrong and resulted in a patient’s death. He’s been given the chance to make a new start, but has he put his interest in lycanthropy behind him?

When one of the girls is found dead, slashed to ribbons by a savage creature of some kind, it certainly appears that werewolves may be lurking in the nearby woods. Or possibly lurking in the school itself! The school has a creepy caretaker with a withered arm, the sort of sinister figure you always encounter in horror movies, and then there’s Sir Alfred Whiteman, and he’s a pretty sinister figure as well, and looks like he might be a candidate for the role of mad scientist.

Dr Olcott befriends one of the pupils, Priscilla, who’d been a close friend of the girl who’d been killed. Priscilla has uncovered evidence of blackmail, and it seems that the school harbours all sorts of unsavoury secrets.

It’s actually not a bad little horror B-movie. The plot doesn’t develop in quite the predictable manner you expect, and there’s a reasonably effective gothic atmosphere. The acting is adequate, and the movie is well-paced and competently directed. The weakness of most werewolf movies is the werwolf make-up, but in this film it’s done moderately well. On the whole it provides perfectly decent entertainment. There aren’t a huge number of great werewolf movies, so if you’re a fan of the genre, or of 1960s Italian gothic horror in general, it’s worth checking out.

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