Bad Movie fans love compilation tapes of old B-Movie trailers. I’m not talking the coming attractions for old Universal or Hammer movies here. I mean the real stuff, authentic schlock: ’50s Sci-Fi, ’60s Horror and Spaghetti Westerns, ’70s Blaxploitation and Kung Fu pictures. (Both Sinister Cinema and Something Weird sell solid examples of such fare; see Dr. Freex’s review of one such cassette here.) Still, watching these delightful cinematic artifacts is a bittersweet experience. It compels one to dwell on how boring movies have become in the last couple of decades.
Once a shoestring hilarity like, say, Missile to the Moon would baldly announce itself as a cornucopia of thrills and wonder. Missile is perhaps my favorite trailer of this sort. One short bit features the protagonists being confronted with an awkward giant spider puppet. Meanwhile, the narration warns us about this “black terror that threatens the Earth.” This raises a number of questions. First, in what manner could a three foot tall spider ‘threaten the Earth’? Second, how will it do so, given that it’s on the moon? Third, is it a good idea to show the heroes blowing away the spider with .38 revolvers? This would seem to diminish its status as a world-menacing threat. Watching a series of such tapes gives one a taste of a magical time, one where each and every week some cheezy double feature would pop up at the local Bijou or drive-in. Meanwhile, what do we get today? Deep Blue Sea. So much for progress.
The market forces that allowed these films to flourish resulted in an amusing system. Often producers such as Sam Katzman or Jim Nicholson would first come up with a marketable title. Next, poster art would be created around said title. These materials would be run by film distributors. Only then, if they showed interest in booking such a film, would the actual movie be written and produced. Thus such flicks as I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Married a Monster from Outer Space. (The latter, by the way, being much better than its cheesy title would indicate.) Of course, such titles are still being promulgated. Only now it’s for their camp value. Hence Satan’s Cheerleaders or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers or Lobstermen from Mars. In the modern, ironic era, such films are presented with a wink to the audience. Not so, in the glory days. Back then the films tended to be a straightforward presentation of what the title promised.
Arguably the greatest such title was Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory. It’s all there, isn’t it? In terms of boiling down the traditional lures of violence and sex into one short formulation, it’s perfect. The movie itself is one of those monster/cheesecake flicks ground out in early ’60s Europe. Such films as Playgirls and the Vampire or Horrors of Spider Island would mix scantily clad hotties and mayhem. Served up, it should be noted, with somewhat greater explicitness than their contemporary American counterparts. Soon after this European films would become more unabashed, presenting nudity, sex and gore so perverse as to cross over into misogyny and misanthropy. (Although more of the former than of the latter.) In the brief period that we will now examine, though, the films remained oddly innocent. Buxom gals meandering around in elaborate, none-too-revealing lingerie and being rather chastely mauled by goofy monsters was the order of the day.
Other common elements of these flicks are on display here as well. For instance, there’s the mystery element to be found in all those German Edgar Wallace adaptations. You know, the ones starring Klaus Kinski and featuring hunchbacked, hooded killers decapitating hordes of victims and that sort of thing. (When did they stop showing those on TV?) So pretty much every character in our movie is constantly acting in a suspicious manner. This is so as to keep us guessing at the werewolf’s identity. It also means that the werewolf could be pretty much anybody with equal validity. Therefore, the only practical way to figure out who it is to wait until everyone but the hero, the heroine and the villain have been killed off.
Next, of course, there’s the stilted, poorly dubbed-in dialog. For the connoisseur, each region of the world’s dubbing has its own charms. The most famous here in the States is the Americanized dubbing as seen in old Godzilla movies. The Japanese language doesn’t really match up well with English in terms of meter. Hence the much-remarked upon and obvious mis-syncing of dialog to lip movement. Japanese speech also tends to be much more terse than its American counterpart. This is what causes so many affirmative ‘hmm’s and stuff to be looped in, replacing the original ‘hei’s. See the following exchange:
Japanese Guy, pointing: “Look, it’s Godzilla! We’d better run!”
Second Japanese Guy, considering and then nodding sharply: “Hmm!”
(It’s always amused me that Japanese are so consensus oriented that they need to consult with each other in situations like this.)
On the other extreme are films from Mexico, like those translated by our old friend K. Gordon Murray. Unlike the Japanese, Mexican films tend to be extraordinarily dialog heavy. This is at least in part because nothing’s cheaper than having actors stand around and talk. Mexican Spanish also tends to be spoken at a quicker cadence than English. Even better, the dubbed dialog in films like The Brainiac or Santa Claus often sounds like it was translated directly from the original Spanish. This results in long, wordy exchanges in which the grammar is humorously askew.
The rhythm of language in German and Italian films, with this being the latter, tends to be closer to American English. Yet while all the typical dubbing quirks in this picture might be (wait for it) less pronounced (ha, I’m so funny), they are still identifiable. Spoken dialog regularly mismatches lip movements. The volume of speech seems just a shade too loud, as if everyone thought everybody else a bit hard of hearing. Long, inexplicable pauses abound, often in mid-sentence. And the dialog tends to sound overly stiff and formalistic.
Ahh, what’s not to love?
You know you’re in good hands as soon as the opening credits begin. These are accompanied by exaggeratedly ‘eerie’ music of the ‘oo-oo’ variety. Not to mention the rather absurd artwork as pictured above. The credits themselves consist of only three cards. First is the title, lettered in that traditional jagged ‘horror movie’ font. The third is the director’s credit. Meanwhile, the second mostly serves to promote the tune, “Ghoul in the School.” Sadly, my copy of the movie fails to features this ditty, or any song whatsoever. Yet the running time of my tape matches that which is recorded on the Internet Movie Database. This would seem to indicate that my video is complete. Does anyone have any info on this?
We open on an establishing shot of one of those enormous estate houses they have over on the Continent. This is the Institute, the girl’s school indicated in the title. We cut to a barking dog (foreshadowing, and in more ways than one). Enter a limping guy with a bad right arm. This fellow is trying hard to look like Peter Lorre, with some success. He is Walter, who is, naturally, the film’s official Creepy Red Herring Caretaker™. He shambles over to the school’s gate and admits Julian Olcott, the academy’s new teacher. I wouldn’t have thought you’d hire thirty year-old men to teach at a secluded academy for young women. On the other hand, it’s what Sly Stallone was doing in Switzerland during the Vietnam war, so there you go.
Walter introduces the barking German shepherd as his dog Wolf. (Oh, the irony.) Olcott crosses the courtyard on his way to the Director’s office. He does so directly in front of the buxom crew of students, who are performing their daily calisthenics. One makes a mildly saucy remark in his direction, much to his embarrassment. Another girl, Mary, takes the opportunity to pretend to faint. She is quickly carried off to the school’s infirmary, which breaks up the exercise session. “She can’t even look at a new man without fainting dead away!” one wag shrills, provoking much hilarity from the others.
Good girl Priscilla, who will obviously be our heroine, and who is extraordinarily pretty, ruefully comments on Mary’s trouble making skills. Sandy, her more cynical friend, provides a little exposition which implies that Mary isn’t any better than she should be. We then cut over to Olcott, now approaching the Director’s office. (The school grounds are fairly extensive.) While pausing to watch Mary being hauled into the infirmary, he is approached by the icy Leonor McDonald. “The Director is expecting you,” she notes. Inexplicably, this rather prosaic remark is echoed with an ominous chord of music. Boy, imagine if the Director hadn’t been expecting him!
Olcott enters the office and meets the avuncular Mr. Swift, the school’s director. Naturally, Olcott’s arrival provides a handy pretext for some exposition. He was, we learn, recommended for the position by a mutual friend of his and Swift’s. We also learn that he used to be a medical doctor, and was involved in some sort of scandalous incident. This is all left purposely vague, although we’re told Olcott was exonerated in court. His career in tatters, Olcott’s come to build himself a new life as a teacher. Needless to say, this mysterious background is provided to make Olcott a viable candidate in the Who’s a Werewolf? sweepstakes.
Swift explains that the Institute is a privately funded reformatory for errant young women. This, of course, is meant to imply that the student body is made up of delinquent and hence sexually available females. Hubba, hubba. He warns Olcott that the job can be difficult. “Very good. I shall do my best,” Olcott replies, “because it’s also important to me to find myself.” Swift readily concurs. “Surely, the past can be a nightmare unless we can free ourselves of it,” he replies. Hmm, sounds like maybe Swift has a Dark Secret all of his own. Maybe he’s the werewolf! (Suspect #3, after Olcott and Walter.)
Late that night we cut to the girl’s common dormitory/bedroom. Numerous wolf howls (uh oh!) are heard in the distance, waking Priscilla and Sandy. I guess the other twenty or so gals are just heavy sleepers. Looking out a window, they spot Mary sneaking out of the infirmary. She quickly makes it up and over the gated wall encircling the Institute and into the surrounding woods. The girls see that Leonor has witnessed this also, and moreover done nothing to stop her. (Geez Louise, does everyone in this movie have to act suspiciously?) The suggestion is made that Leonor perhaps has a lover of her own.
As Mary makes her way through the trees she is startled by Walter. Apparently he’s taking money to look the other way. Mary, for her part, threatens to expose him if he doesn’t leave her alone. Breaking away, she crosses over a small water fall and into a nearby clearing. Here she meets her middle-aged lover Sir Alfred Whiteman (Werewolf Suspect #4). He’s a member of the local gentry and, I guess, the guy who funds the school. Whiteman, who looks like a sweatier Mr. Mooney from The Lucy Show, tries to placate her while getting a little sugar. Mary is having none of it, though. She tells him to get her released from the school or else she’ll expose and ruin him. Whiteman nervously asks about the passionate letters he’s written her. “They’re burned,” Mary sneers. “Remember they are important proof!” (??) Having presented this incongruous ultimatum, she takes her leave.
So Mary, who’s proven herself to be a little hussy and a blackmailer, makes her way back through the woods. Anyone want to guess what happens next? Did I mention that they cut in a shot of a rising full moon? As she hikes along, Mary is startled by a mysterious figure amongst the trees. She’s off and running but is quickly tackled to the ground. Clawed hands maul her neck as she moans in a somewhat ambiguous manner. Then we have a ‘shock’ cut to her body lying in the retaining pond under the water fall.
We next see Whiteman entering his house. Sweating profusely, he stops in the parlor and pours himself a stiff one. Then he heads upstairs, pausing to call his wife’s name before entering their bedroom. Getting no response, he walks in, and we are treated to a classic Shoulder-Grabbing False Scare™. Why, it’s only his wife Sheena (!), who proves a sour pruneface of the Margaret Hamilton variety. Why she was silently hiding next to the door is left to our imaginations. Oh, right, the shoulder-grabbing thing. Anyway, the ensuing dialog indicates that both Whiteman and the Mrs. are aware of the attack on Mary. Sheena, in fact, apparently believes her philandering husband might have been the attacker. “You’re a beast, not a man,” she spits. Hey, what does she mean by that? Because it could be taken two ways, if you think about it. Hmm, food for thought.
Even more than her husband’s catting around with the young stuff under his authority, though, Mrs. Clinton, er, I mean Mrs. Whiteman, fears scandal. Therefore she’s less than happy to hear that Whiteman posted a threatening missive to Mary that very day. “You’re not only thoroughly miserable, Alfred, you’re without a doubt a pitiful imbecile,” she jeers. Which, really, seems to sum up the situation pretty succinctly. At least he didn’t sign the letter, he lamely responds.
The next day the girls are glumly standing around the academy grounds, moping about their mutilated schoolmate. Priscilla is handed the day’s mail to pass out. This, we see, includes *gasp* the aforementioned letter to Mary. Priscilla, apparently thinking that it might be a clue of some sort, pockets it. Yeah, sure, that’s much better than giving it to the police. Meanwhile we get our first look at staff member Tommy. He looks a lot like Lurch from The Addams Family and meanders by in a, what else, suspicious fashion. (Werewolf Suspect #5.)
Inside the infirmary, we see a close-up of Mary’s neck as her wounds are examined. Then the camera shifts up to *gasp* shock us with Mary’s none-too-subtly horrified rictus expression. A guy who is apparently a police inspector, as he’s got a pipe and is wearing a trench coat, notes that the coroner attributes the death to wolf attack. This leads to a rather impenetrable discussion with Olcott, who doesn’t believe that wolves are the culprit. Perhaps because we clearly saw the clawed hands strangling Mary during the attack, not a method often employed by members of the lupus family.
Whiteman shows up, blanches a bit at the corpse, and leaves the room. Outside, though, he spots Priscilla walking by and pauses to leer at her. Well, you gotta get on with your life sometime, I guess. Priscilla continues on into the otherwise empty dorm room and opens the mysterious letter to Mary. This proves a short, typewritten note threatening Mary and ordering her to cease with the blackmail and such. It also demands the return of some earlier letters. Done reading, Priscilla stuffs it into her bureau, significantly leaving a portion of it sticking up through the imperfectly closed drawer. Nancy Drew, she ain’t.
Presumably looking for the letters, she tries to open Mary’s locked bureau drawer. (I know the police think the attack might have been by wild animals, but you’d really think they’d have gone through her effects by now.) As she yanks at it, she’s startled by the entrance of Olcott. He berates her for not being in her assigned study hall and sends her along. In the hallway she bumps into Leonor, who is, surprise, acting somewhat suspiciously. Then about thirty feet further she bumps into Walter, who is acting…oh, you get it. She asks him if Swift is in his office, presumably so as to spill the beans about the letter. (And about time, too.) For his part, Walter seems to be sizing her up as his next pimping assignment for Whiteman.
Told that Priscilla requests to see him, Swift calls her into his office. She quickly explains about the mysterious, unsigned letter to Mary. Just as she’s explaining that it’s in her bureau, we see a mysterious figure stealthily closing the office door. Swift gets up and reopens it, yelling for Tommy to send for the Inspector. (If Tommy was outside the office, how could anyone have been listening at the door?) This provides the rather snoopy Priscilla the opportunity to examine Olcott’s personnel file, left open on Swift’s desk. The top sheet proves to be a conveniently concise report, noting that he lost his medical license in conjunction with the death of a “young girl patient.” As well, he was tried on murder charges and acquitted on grounds of insufficient evidence.
We cut to Swift, the Inspector and Priscilla reentering the dormitory. “No, no,” the Inspector is saying, “a blackmailer is not an assassin. They tell me they’ve legally established that she was torn up by an animal.” Uh, what does “legally established” mean in this context? To our ‘surprise,’ the letter (now referred to as the “letters,” and “them;” I mean, could they get this straightened out?) has gone missing. The Inspector, showing himself be not the sharpest tack in the box, instantly assumes that Priscilla was pulling their leg. “What do you hope to gain with this bad hoax, girl?” he asks, a point he himself might want to consider in greater depth. Yeah, what would she get out of it?
We cut to Olcott lecturing the class in some damn thing or another. The bell rings, and Priscilla intercepts him. After learning that he saw Mary’s body, she registers a rather bizarre complaint. “Why didn’t I and the other girls get to see it before the burial?” she gripes. She also asks why he came to teach here, obviously hoping to draw him out on what she learned in Swift’s office. “I didn’t choose it, this place,” he admits. “It was my destiny, not my ambition to accept.” I know what he means. One time I wanted a hamburger, but they didn’t have any. Instead I got a grilled cheese sandwich, which wasn’t my ambition to accept.
Cut to Priscilla, back in the still empty dormitory. She’s attempting to jimmy open Mary’s bureau drawer. (Even if the Inspector laughed off her story, I yet find it hard to believe that the police still haven’t confiscated Mary’s stuff.) This time she is interrupted by Sandy. Sandy appears to be better at this kind of thing and soon has the drawer opened. And yep, inside are the incriminating letters. Since they are all unsigned, however, their author remains a mystery. Except to us god-like, all-knowing viewers, anyway. Proclaiming that she knows who murdered Mary (?), Priscilla declares that no one must know of the letters. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.
We cut to Swift and Olcott touring the grounds. “It’s very difficult to understand,” the director notes. “But now that you’ve been with us for a week, what’s your impression?” (Well said.) Olcott notes that the students seem much the same as anyone their age. Swift agrees, except perhaps that they’ve “found the bitterness of life much too early.” In any case, they finally get around to filling us in on Priscilla’s backstory, since we’re presumably wondering why she’s in this place. A sailor (and, I think we’re to assume, a john) once assaulted Mary, who used to be Priscilla’s roommate in the real world. Priscilla retaliated and almost killed the guy.
Priscilla herself is talking to Walter, trying to get info on what Mary was up to. He, meanwhile, is still trying to hook her up with his unnamed employer. Priscilla stalks off, offended. Later that night we catch up with Walter in his quarters. With him is Wolf, his German shepherd. The howling of wolves, meanwhile, is ‘atmospherically’ heard in the distance. Then a sudden knock at the door turns out to be Priscilla. She’s playing along with Walter’s offer, trying to discover who Mary was meeting that night. They head out, leaving Wolf behind.
The two take the same route through the woods that Mary did. As they walk along, we see *gasp* a mysterious stranger lurking behind them. Soon Walter has led Priscilla to a cabin. As they look upon it, a light illuminating a window is doused. (I should mention that they have this short rift of corny suspense music that they play incessantly throughout the film. I mean, it’s played almost constantly.) Priscilla approaches the darkened cabin and opens the door. From behind her we see grasping hands, that grab her and…push her into the cabin. It’s Walter and he locks her in.
We hear a snarling something, and then a lamp is lit. It’s Sheena Whiteman, accompanied by her two mastiffs. At first I supposed that the film was going to turn out to be kinkier than I thought. However, Sheena’s here to offer Priscilla a bribe to stay away from her husband. Now that Priscilla knows the identity of Mary’s lover, she accuses Whiteman of the murder. “No,” Sheena scoffs. “My husband is perhaps be a philanderer, but he’s not an assassin.” (Man, the word ‘assassin’ sure is popular in these parts.) Priscilla threatens to give this information to the police. Sheena threatens her with the dogs, but is stalemated, since Priscilla has safeguarded the letters.
Realizing that Priscilla isn’t the tart she assumed her to be, Sheena asks her to stay and talk. She reveals that her husband is “a strange man. A sadist.” Gee, more information that possibly could indicate that Whiteman’s a *yawn* murderous werewolf. The point is, though, that Sheena had followed her husband the other night, and witnessed Mary being attacked after leaving Whiteman behind. It wasn’t wolves that killed her, Sheena proclaims, it was (three guesses) “an assassin.” Moreover, she recognized him, and…
Priscilla providentially (for the plot anyway, as it’s too early to reveal the killer) spots someone lurking outside the window. Anyway, Sheena declines to name the murderer, still fearing a scandal. Priscilla argues that the truth must come out, noting that Mary was, hmm, how to put it, “assassinated.” She notes that Sheena herself could be the murderer, using her dogs as the assassination weapon. Sheena disgustedly questions Priscilla’s intelligence and takes her leave.
Priscilla heads back alone to the Institute. Along the way, she suddenly runs into *gasp* Professor Olcott. (Gee, what’s he doing out here? Kind of suspicious, eh?) Olcott explains that he’s been setting traps, hoping to catch the wolves that have been terrorizing the countryside. When he explains that he’ll have to report her presence outside the school grounds, she shrugs it off. “You’re a strange girl,” he notes. “Is that a complement?” she returns. Ah, could love be in the air?
We cut to Sheena, arriving back at the Whiteman estate. (One way you can tell this was made in Europe is that everybody walks everywhere. We haven’t seen a car in the picture yet.) She releases the dogs and enters the house. She then makes her way upstairs and enters the bedroom. There she’s *gasp* set upon by someone who holds a wad of chloroformed cotton over her face. Once she’s unconscious, the assailant sticks a hypodermic needle into her arm and forces a great big air bubble into her bloodstream. This has the predictable result.
Back to Priscilla and Olcott walking through the woods. They hear a cry (presumably a wolf being caught in one of the traps) and Olcott takes the opportunity to embrace his startled companion. And who can blame him? I mean, Priscilla…wow! They awkwardly part, pretending that nothing happened. We, however, see through their subterfuge. Olcott declares that he must go attend to the traps, obviously fearing that things with Priscilla will go, you know, too far. She agrees, noting that she’s almost at the Institute and can make it fine the rest of the way. Still, they share a ‘moment’ when Olcott says that he won’t be reporting her after all, as he trusts her to have a good reason for breaking the rules.
Priscilla is nearly at the gate when she hears a nearby howl. “Professor?” she nervously asks. “Is it you?” (?) Meanwhile, we see a ghoulish eye watching her. With a scream she sees someone nearby, while a close-up of his drooling fangs convinces us that this might be the title character. Priscilla is quickly assaulted. Although the scene is quickly cut, I cheat and freeze frame on the werewolf’s face, thus discovering his identity. This is pretty easy because the ‘werewolf’ make-up here is extremely minimal, along the lines of, say, that heavy five o’clock shadow Richard Nixon used to get. Still, since someone witnessing the film at full speed (conceivably) might not have figured out who the werewolf is yet, I’ll leave this for later.
Benefiting from the Hero(ine)’s Death Battle Exemption™, Priscilla remains strangely unclawed until Wolf the dog comes to the rescue. As the two tussle, Priscilla conveniently slips into unconsciousness. The werewolf, who proves so lame that he doesn’t even manage to kill the dog, scampers off after getting his hand good and chewed.
We cut to Sheena’s funeral. Whiteman is expressing his no doubt spurious grief to Swift. As if to confirm this, Whiteman soon spots Walter, who gives him a conspiratorial nod. Swift catches enough of this to rouse his suspicions. Meanwhile, some mourners are gossiping about the attack on Priscilla, agreeing that the police must examine the arms of local men to try to find the culprit.
We cut to a pretty phony-looking pub where Walter is in attendance. As he sips his beer, struggling to hold the mug with his bad arm, he hears the locals yakking about taking things into their own hands. Whiteman enters and sidles up to his surreptitious henchman. He’s frantic that the hidden letters be found. Meanwhile, a patron notices Walter’s bad arm and shouts out a warning to the others. Walter looks to Whiteman for aid, but the guy scampers. What a jerk! You just know he’s going to get it. Left to fend on his own, Walter produces a large clasp knife. I think we’re supposed to ignore the fact that he’s so slow releasing the blade that they could have jumped him thrice over before he got it out. However, another patron has a switchblade (man, tough crowd) and soon Walter is overpowered. Luckily, though, Swift walks in and breaks things up.
We cut to Priscilla resting in the infirmary, presumably from shock, since she wasn’t physically harmed. Suddenly, a *gasp* shadowy form rears up and…it’s only Olcott. Whew! I mean, it could have been a cat leaping at her or a hand grabbing her shoulder or something. They have a little heart-to-heart, and Priscilla is about to reveal her fears about Sheena’s death when Sandy comes in. Joking around, Sandy grabs Olcott’s arm and *gasp* he winces in pain. Hey, that means he could be…! Needless to say, this puts a kink in the conversation.
Cut to Swift’s office. He’s bitching to Leonor. He’s tired of covering for Whiteman’s skirt chasing, but can’t afford to endanger the Institute’s reputation. This is interrupted by Sandy’s sudden entrance. She fearfully explains about Olcott’s injured arm and her belief that he’s the monster. Leonor notes that this is a tad sketchy as evidence. Swift tells Sandy to keep quiet about this while he investigates things. Then he sends her off and has Tommy send for Olcott.
Olcott reports to Swift’s office. Swift asks his opinion on the attack, and Olcott states his belief that a ‘lycanthropus’ is involved. Swift says his religion is beside the point. (Ha, I’m so funny.) Actually, Swift’s reaction is surprisingly mild considering Olcott’s assertion. “Please explain this to me further,” he asks. Realizing (somehow) that he’s being interrogated, Olcott settles in to tell his tale. Olcott explains about the incident that ended his medical career. He was working at a mental hospital. Once patient was a young woman accused of murder, although, as he notes, she “could not absolutely recall killing anyone.” Apparently believing that this is the kind of thing that would stick in your mind, he became more involved in her case.
“She seemed perfectly normal,” he continues. “I must add, I was in love with her.” He further notes that during a full moon, “she would lose control of herself, and transform absolutely.” Hmm, a couple more appearances and ‘absolutely’ is going to give ‘assassin’ a run for its money. Noting that her “face was like a beast,” he continues that “professionally, I wanted to help her.” After some work, he discovered a “temporary antidote.” Here we get into a good patch. Olcott notes that this would be easier using medical terminology. Swift invites him to do so. The subject? Our old friend, the pituitary gland. Man, what a versatile gland that’s proven to be over the years.
Olcott proceeds to spit out a dense wad of verbiage regarding werewolfism (See IMMORTAL DIALOG). In a nutshell, wolf pituitary glands represent a stopgap measure against the transformation. Leonor asks if he, having seen her body, believes that Mary was killed by a “lycanthropus.” Wasn’t Lycanthropus that cartoon character always exiting “stage right”? “I’m almost sure of it,” he confirms, further noting that “I continued my studies in this matter.” He also replies that he’s not sure if lycanthropy can be entirely cured or not. “But that’s not of importance anymore,” he enigmatically asserts. Uh, why not?
Olcott explains how he’s been trying to capture one of the local wolves, so as to extract its gland. Swift replies nonlinearly (no surprise there) by asking if Olcott had ever experimented on himself. “Once,” he recalls. “I had to find out what it would be like for a normal human being.” Huh? He wanted to discover what a treatment designed to temporarily halt werewolfism would accomplish on a non-werewolf? Whatever. Presumably this is meant as another clue (or red herring) pointing to Olcott as the werewolf, because Swift finally asks to see his arm. Olcott admits that he’s injured it. He also acknowledges that werewolves carry no memories of their nocturnal activities.
Swift urges him to halt his experiments until things blow over. Olcott refuses, hoping to find a cure for whoever is being victimized by the curse. This would seem to contradict his recent statement that a total cure was “not of importance anymore,” but then, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Suddenly, in fact, he’s brimming with compassion for the poor soul. He disagrees with Swift’s assertion that the fellow would have to turn himself in if cured. “It’s not fair,” Olcott exclaims, “for a lycanthropus to be treated like a murderer.” Quite right. After all, murderers murder people, while the werewolf, er,…never mind.
We cut to that night. The camera lingers over a pretty inmate sleeping with her shift up over her knees. I mean, c’mon, we’ve got a girl’s dormitory here! Waste not, want not, am I right? Man, I can’t wait until they remake this for cable. Think of all the blown opportunities here. Why, there’s not even a shower scene in this picture! Not one! Can you believe it?! Anyway, we see Walter sneak into the room. In a not terribly believable bit, he manages to skulk around searching for the letters, with circa twenty girls lying right there. Oops, it gets better. Seeing that Sandy wears her bureau key around her neck, he attempts to retrieve it. This rouses her and she begins to struggle. He replies to this by smothering her with her pillow (!), non-fatally it proves, and which really takes a lot less time than you might have thought. When he attempts to search the bureau, though, someone finally awakens and begins screaming. Letters in hand, he flees the room.
Walter, proving why he’s a caretaker and not a brain surgeon, flees upstairs, emerging up by the school’s bell tower. He’s spotted by Swift and Olcott, who have appeared in the courtyard in response to the commotion. Walter is halted in his escape by the fact that the door opposite to the one he just came through is locked. I don’t want to beat a guy while he’s down, but that seems like something a caretaker should know. He attempts to climb up onto the roof, but that gimpy arm ain’t helping and he takes a fall. Well, that’s one less werewolf suspect, at least.
The onlookers rush forward. Taking advantage of the turmoil, Swift manages to pocket the letters that Walter had stolen. Olcott heads off to phone the police and is called to by Priscilla, standing in the infirmary door. He explains about Walter’s death and his attack on Sandy, leading Priscilla to conclude that he was the werewolf. Olcott disagrees. Well, duh, of course Walter wasn’t the werewolf – we’ve still got nearly twenty five minutes of running time left. Actually, though, Olcott fields another argument entirely. Walter owned Wolf, you see, and, as he explains, “dogs can’t stand the odor of wolves!”
We cut to Swift’s office, where he’s presenting Whiteman with the letters. The abashed Whiteman maintains that his appetite for the young ladies is “like a compulsion inside of me!” Hmm, sounds like something a werewolf might say, eh?
Priscilla and Olcott are next seen jumping the Institute wall and heading into the forest, hand-in-hand. Which is pretty weird, as just a short while ago she was wondering if Olcott was the werewolf. Attempting to clear the air between them (because, you know, they’re love interests), she admits that she knows of his background. “Is one mistake really so bad?” she asks. I guess some would answer that when that mistake entails the death of the woman you loved, well…yes. Olcott, however, is of another mind on the matter. “No,” he replies, “but it’s a battle. You can’t escape the past if it keeps following you.” Priscilla responds with approval to this display of his sensitive, mournful side.
We cut to Whiteman at his house, packing to get out of Dodge. He’s interrupted, however, by Olcott and Priscilla ringing his doorbell. He ushers them into the front parlor and Olcott begins interrogating him. Stating that they have no intention of exposing his affair, he asks Whiteman for a rundown of the events the night Mary died. Whiteman, remember, now has the letters, and therefore knows that Olcott has no proof of the affair. Despite this, though, he soon folds under Olcott’s mild browbeating. What a wuss! He retreats upstairs to retrieve the letters, and, unsurprisingly, takes the coward’s way out by shooting himself. Well, that’s two down. At this rate we should have the werewolf’s identity pretty soon.
We cut to a ‘wolf’ in the woods. I say ‘wolf’ because it’s patently a German shepherd, presumably the one who played Wolf, dyed black. Yeah, that’ll fool us. Just like we couldn’t tell that the Killer Shrews were collies. We’re pretty gullible that way, I guess. Anyhoo, this *cough* wolf ends up in a trap. Then the mysterious figure we saw killing Sheena Whiteman steps forward and tosses a net over it. Soon a sedative is readied and…
Cut a the sedated dog, er, wolf up on a lab table. The Mystery Person is now wielding a scalpel, I’d guess so as to perform a radical pituitary-ectomy on the poor beastie. Did I mention that the ‘wolf’ is no longer dyed black? Since its head is covered with a surgical cloth, I guess they didn’t figure they needed the disguise anymore. The camera pans up at this point to reveal that the Mystery Person is…Leonor McDonald. Meanwhile, we see that the second, ‘black’ ‘wolf’ is in a cage, so my mistake. Although I notice that the two ‘wolves’ are never in the same shot, so I still think one multitalented pooch is playing both. You know, like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove.
Here comes, by far, my favorite part of the movie. The werewolf stumbles in, perhaps groggy from just having transformed. Leonor hastens to bind him with some convenient manacles attached to the wall with chains. These are here, I guess, for this very purpose. Although you’d think it a little less risky to chain the guy up when he was still human. Unfortunately, the chains have a great deal of slack in them (!) and the werewolf almost manages to claw her throat out before she slips away.
We see her head back to the *cough* wolf on the table. Soon the gland is plopped into a beaker containing some clear liquid. It dissolves, or something, and Leonor draws the fluid out with a hypodermic. This is where I about dissolved into giggles the first time I saw the movie. For now Leonor has to try to get the needle into the werewolf. This task, however, is made somewhat onerous by the fact that he’s able to move his arms around and maul her while she does so. Here’s a clue, dear: Next time you try something like this, tighten some of the slack out of your chains, Einstein!
So she gets the needle into him and he gets his claws and teeth into her. This is just so darn goofy that you have to see it to believe it. Anyway, the gland-shot starts to take affect, and Leonor slips to the floor as he changes back into — Swift, the director of the Institute. (Gasp!) Aside from not being one of the more technically proficient transformation scenes ever, it’s also not much of a surprise. Again, the werewolf makeup is quite minimal, and we’ve gotten a good enough look at the beast to see that it’s Swift wearing Halloween fangs and sporting beard stubble.
Swift’s relief at being human again turns to horror as he notices his clawed accomplice/lover lying on the floor before him. Miraculously, though, she comes awake and rushes into his arms. Meanwhile, I had a good laugh at what would have happened had she been killed. It might have been a tad bit compromising to be found chained to a wall with a mutilated dead woman lying on the floor. She points out that it’s necessary to give him a second injection. “I know,” he replies, which is moronic because how could they possibly know this? Is there some kind of standard procedure for this kind of thing?
Now that things are looking brighter, Leonor admits (for our benefit, no doubt, and just in case we were too stupid to figure it out) that it was she who killed Sheena Whiteman. Because, if you’ll recall, Sheena had seen the werewolf and known it was Swift. Thus the lame makeup is actually a function of the script. Of course, this leaves us wondering what possible motive Sheena would have for keeping Swift’s secret. Other than so that she would have to be killed.
Here the screen explodes with unintended comedy. Swift reminds Leonor to get cracking on the second shot. He, meanwhile, stays chained up, just in case. However, she had left the cage door open (!) and the shot sedating the ‘black’ wolf has, just now, worn off. The wolf bounds out and gives Leonor her second mauling of the evening as Swift thrashes around, still chained to the wall. I mean, really, it’s like a Mel Brooks movie or something. So she’s getting torn up and Swift impotently keeps kicking his leg out, yelling “Get away from her!”
Anyway, Leonor is toast, which we knew had to happen once her guilt in Sheena’s death became clear. Meanwhile, sure enough, Swift is chained to the wall with a butchered woman near his feet. But then (stop it, you’re killing me!) the mangled Leonor gets up off the floor a second time (!) and manages to give Swift the key to the chains before expiring. Man, that chick was tougher than Rasputin! Anyway, in a rather hammy, eye-popping moment, Swift goes nutsoid and beats the wolf to death with a club.
We cut to the girls standing around the class room, presumably the next day. They are arguing over whether Walter was the werewolf. Then a grim looking Swift enters and they take their seats. He explains that Leonor won’t be teaching class today, having left the school. (I’ll say!) He then gives a wiggy little speech about how only God can judge people and leaves the room. I’m telling you, that guy’s got some issues.
The next day everybody’s at Walter’s funeral. The guy playing Swift, meanwhile, is really cranking up the ham-osity. The Inspector notices his elaborate facial maneuvers and misconstrues his problem. “Be calm,” he suggests, talking about Walter. “He got what he deserved.” From this I would guess that the Inspector thinks that Walter was in fact the killer. You know, this guy isn’t exactly coming off like Sherlock Holmes or anything. I mean, considering everything that’s happened, don’t you think Leonor’s sudden absence would draw a bit of his attention?
In any case, Swift is close to coming undone and begins freaking out. Meanwhile, Wolf begins (eventually) barking at him, because of the ‘smell of the wolf’ thing, no doubt. Animals. They always know. Priscilla tries to remove the dog, which breaks loose and runs away. Olcott, taking note of Wolf’s reaction, smells a wolf, er, rat. He nonchalantly walks over to Swift and posits that Wolf was upset over his master’s death. “It’s true,” Swift agrees, “perhaps he feels guilty over Walter’s death.” Wow, it’s like he’s really talking about himself, isn’t it? Swift, can’t you see, you’re just projecting!
That night we see Priscilla once again sneaking through the Institute gate, which I guess no one is locking now that Walter’s dead. This isn’t earning Our Heroine any brainiac points, either. Hearing animalistic panting, she investigates, which, under the circumstances, probably wouldn’t be my first reaction. However, it’s just Wolf, who appears and tugs on her skirt in order to lead her somewhere. She follows and is led to a piece of ground he starts digging at. Wolf does a really nice job of it, too, neatly revealing the buried Walter’s face. I guess the idea is that Swift hid Leonor’s body in Walter’s coffin. Which, naturally, makes zero sense. If he’s going to bury a body anyway, why bother?
Running back to the Institute, she bumps into Swift. She blurts out about Walter, and of course Swift decides she has to die. He takes her inside, supposedly to give her something to steady her nerves. After stepping ahead a bit, though, she turns to find Swift missing. She discovers him standing across the courtyard with his back to her. Gee, what’ll happen now? Sure enough, he slowly turns around to reveal that’s he’s *gasp* transformed. Yeah, whew. How dramatic. This, needless to say, again makes no sense. Are we to believe that he can control the transformations all of a sudden? Since he can’t really hurt her (she’s the heroine, and besides, the movie’s almost over) he’s begins to slowly stalk her, although she was standing a foot away from him when he spun around.
Just when he’s leapt at her and only had about ten or twenty or thirty seconds to start clawing or biting her, though, Olcott appears. Our Hero raises his pistol and gets a shot off. Actually, considering the time he had, he should have been able to empty the gun into him. Apparently Oclott missed anyway, as the werewolf closes in and puts a strangle hold on him (?). Olcott begins to falter and soon Swift is choking the life out of him. Hey, dude! You’re a werewolf!! Claw the guy, for heaven’s sake!! Bite him! Sheesh, lycanthropes today!
Olcott collapses under this onslaught, just in time for Priscilla to rouse and be attacked again. So Swift drops Olcott, grabs her and again has plenty of time to claw her up. Then Olcott recovers. (I’ll telling you, this is the lamest werewolf in cinema history. OK, except for that one in Werewolf. Mighty close, though.) He raises his gun and fires again. He must be a pretty good shot, shooting in the dark with his wee .25 and managing not to hit Priscilla while he’s at it. At this point I half expected Swift to make it back over to Olcott and begin choking him again, but no. He finally, finally, keels over against a wall.
With Olcott and Priscilla at his heels he staggers into his office and falls to the floor. There, per tradition, he economically turns back into his human form. Dying, he tells Olcott that it’s better this way, which is what werewolves always say after they’ve been fatally shot. Of course, few in this picture expire quickly and he lingers on longer than Richard Harris in Tarzan the Ape Man. Well, OK, maybe not that long. In any case, he confesses all his crimes, I presume so as to again tie up the strings that were already tied up a while ago. For instance, he gasps out that Leonor is in Walter’s grave. Well, duh!
Finally he expires and we get to dwell on the tragedy of it all. Rather than call the cops, Olcott and Priscilla walk back outside into the garden. I assumed they were going to kiss, but instead we just cut to a fountain and then the end credits. So we are left to ponder the mysteries of the universe. For instance, whatever happened to that “Ghoul in the School” song promised in the opening credits?
OK, I have to admit, compared to the rest of the film’s reviewed here, this isn’t that bad. It’s certainly no Frankenstein Island or The Uninvited. Still, I have a some affection for this film, and consider to be a bit of a minor gem. For instance, the film runs a scant 83 minutes (although the missing song indicates a greater length), so there’s little time to get boring. Also, the filmmakers do put in some work. The picture supplies a comically large assemblage of werewolf suspects and makes sure that everybody’s acting suspiciously at all times. This is augmented by the nearly continuous playing of the ‘menacing’ score throughout the first half of the movie. The stilted dubbed dialog helps. As does the pacing. The film keeps getting progressively sillier with admirable momentum, climaxing in the hilarious lab scene where Leonor keeps getting mauled like a character out of a Monty Python sketch.
There’s a couple of obvious and amusing plot holes, too. For instance, how did Swift become a werewolf? When? Was he killing folks before the events shown here and nobody noticed? Actually, considering the quality of the local police, this seems possible. Again, what possible motive could Sheena have had not to blow Swift’s cover? And why didn’t the police ever search Mary’s effects? And why were they so sure Priscilla was lying about the letter? Was Swift supposed to know he was a werewolf? Isn’t it a little weird that of the bountiful six corpses the film provides, only one was the work of the werewolf?
Then, of course, there’s the beauteous Barbara Lass, here playing Priscilla. Lass was a dewy twenty years old at the time, and just looks smashing. No matter how many beautiful women you see in movies, now and again one really catches your eye. Lass is one of these for me. Lass’ biggest brush with fame was to be married for a time to Roman Polanski (!). According to the Internet Movie Database, she died in 1995 at the much too young age of 55.
Priscilla and Swift engage in this typically terse and linear conversation after she discovers that the letter threatening Mary has gone missing:
Priscilla: “You must believe me, Mr. Swift. It was here. Who could have taken it? Whoever did, must have known that I left it…”
Swift, admonishing her: “Don’t be malicious and accuse your companions just because you can’t deliver this letter! You are the only one who has seen this letter, and we have to believe your words.”
Priscilla: “And my report doesn’t count at all for you!”
Swift: “It’s not for me. It’s the police who need the facts. You better return now. I understand that you’re upset about the death of your friend. However, I can not excuse your conduct.”
Priscilla: “Mary was just assassinated. No one will convince me she was torn up by wolves!”
Science! Olcott explains about the werewolf in his past:
“The pituitary gland controls the function of the hormones, influencing the sexual organs and the thyroid. And as a direct reaction it can cause a psycho-physical transformation. My colleagues refuted this theory of mine, and I have proven it, unequivocally. For example, in every lunar cycle the pituitary gland…acts strangely. And becomes enlarged. At the start of the transformation. Our psycho-controls upset the balance of the neuro-glandular system, causing incredible distortions in the skin, hair and teeth. In this state the patient cannot be saved. I was successful with the extract from the brain of a wolf, while I was experimenting on her. One night, she gave herself an overdose. Perhaps I made it too strong. And the police then accused me of…killing her.”