(director: Richard Benson; screenwriter: Julian Berry; cinematographer: George Patrick; editor: Julian Attenborough; music: Francis Berman; cast: Curt Lowens (Director Swift), Carl Schell (Dr. Julian Olcott), Barbara Lass (Priscilla), Maureen O’Connor (Leonor MacDonald), Maurice Marsak (Sir Alfred Whiteman), Mary McNeeran (Mary Smith), Annie Steinert (Mrs. Sheena Whiteman), Herbert Diamonds (Police Inspector), Alan Collins (Walter Jeoffrey); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Forrest; Alpha Video; 1962-Italy/Austria-dubbed in English)
A well-crafted and atmospheric Italian horror film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-crafted and atmospheric Italian horror film directed by Richard Benson (“Diary of a Rebel”/”Una Vita Violenta”/”La Morte Viene dallo Spazio”), whose real name is Paolo Heusch. Problem is that Julian Berry’s script is a dog and the wretched dialogue is a howl. It was released as a double-feature with the British film Corridors of Blood in 1962, one in which Boris Karloff had a minor role in. The dubbed in English American version had a scene in which Marilyn Stewart and Frank Owens sing the rock song “The Ghoul in School.” It plays only during the opening credits.

Dr. Julian Olcott (Carl Schell, brother of Maximilian) is the dedicated new science teacher at an isolated girls’ reformatory in the country (which looks like the English countryside), that features a gothic mansion on its grounds. The doctor has a questionable past because he killed a female inmate at the mental hospital he worked at, as he experimented with an antidote for lycanthropy and the inmate took an overdose. Acquitted at his scandalous homicide trial for medical neglect, Julian’s boss at the hospital recommended him to the director, Swift (Curt Lowens), who has an interest in werewolves. Julian is happy to be in this gloomy dump because there are plenty of wolves in the woods and he’s free to continue his work on the experimental antidote, as the director is an enlightened educator looking to make a better society by going beyond the conventional.

During Julian’s first-night at the progressive reformatory, the inmate hottie slut Mary Smith (Mary McNeeran) is killed by a pair of powerful hairy claws in the woods and her body is mutilated. Julian becomes a suspect, since there were no murders until he arrived. But Mary’s best friend and fellow inmate Priscilla (Barbara Lass, Polish actress and the first wife of Roman Polanski) discovers that Mary was blackmailing the respectable but married oily school patron and administrator, Sir Alfred Whiteman (Maurice Marsak), who was screwing her and pretending he could get her a release, and thereby believes he’s the killer.Slimy Alfred sends the sinister school caretaker Walter (Alan Collins) to retrieve the love letters that he wrote to Mary, that will soil his reputation, which results in Priscilla being attacked in the woods by the same monster that killed Mary–but she escapes.Alfred’s loyal wife Sheena (Annie Steinert) tellsPriscilla her slimy husband is a philanderer but not a killer, as the deaths mount and some of the best suspects are among the dead.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

There’s not much of a mystery in this monster whodunnit, despite everyone in the school being a suspect, as we soon learn that Swift’s assistant, Leonor (Maureen O’Connor), is madly in love with her boss and covers up that her dreamboat is a werewolf. We learn that Swift became a werewolf because of a failed laboratory experiment and can be controlled only by injections of Julian’s antidote given him by Leonor, as during a full moon he reverts to being a werewolf and kills randomly if not drugged.

Though it sets an eerie gothic mood and works well visually, playing out as a cross between a German expressionist horror pic, a whodunnit thriller and an American female prison pic, the awkward English dubbed dialogue and the incoherent story take away most of the points it might have scored as entertaining nonsense.It’s not a good pic, but is far from being one of the worse horror pics, as some critics thought.