Season’s Greetings, everyone! ’Tis the season to be busy and you’ll stay that way snatching up Blu-rays if Severin Films has anything to say about it. Here are two recent releases to consider:
Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory (1961): It’s an early giallo! No, it’s a monster movie! Actually, it’s both. Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory is a stone-cold gas; beautiful, evocative photography from Renato Del Frate (The Holy Nun) and solid direction by Paolo Heusch (Violent Life) highlight this tale of a reform school for girls that has enough red herrings and blackmail amongst its tale of lycanthropic dread. When a new teacher (Carl Schell – The Blue Max) arrives at the school, some of the girls begin to turn up dead, and are thought to have arrived at their station due to wolf attacks. But you and I know better; and with a clever script by Ernesto Gastaldi (All the Colors of the Dark), one is kept on their toes regardless that we know where it’s going. Filled with eerie moments and solid suspense, Werewolf is a pleasant surprise for those who need to scratch that flea-bitten itch. Extras include:
The interview with Gastaldi is well-informed, and it’s great to have the soundtrack; the best feature for me, however, is the booklet “Directions To Be A Werewolf,” which is a riot and has one longing for the days of good old-fashioned hucksterism. Not that this solid film needs the boost, but it adds to the fun.
Movie Score: 3.5/5, Disc Score: 4/5
Byleth (1972): Now here’s a horse of an entirely different color (white, to be exact), yet still an even more exotic blend: a whole lotta sex, a bit of blood, gothic atmosphere, and a touch of deviltry. We’re speaking of Byleth (1972); subtitled The Demon of Incest (did I forget to mention that part?), it is equal parts icky and lascivious, yet fairly mundane considering the subject matter.
Duke Lionello (Mark Damon – Crypt of the Living Dead) returns to his ancestral home after being gone for a year to find that his sister Barbara (Claudia Gravy – Sadist Erotica) has up and married in his absence. You think he’d be happy, but he’s always had… feelings for his sister; at the same time he arrives, red-headed women (just like Barbara!) are dying at the hands of a cloaked killer who uses a three-pronged garden hoe to cut their plans short. (At least that’s what the implement looks like to me.) Could the killer be the resurrection of the demon Byleth? Will the Duke get busy with his sister?
All questions are answered, in a somewhat slow and methodical way; Byleth is in no particular hurry to get where it’s going, nor is it all that interesting once they get there. For a film with as notorious a reputation as this, it’s rather on the tame side today. (I understand we’ve come a long way since the early ’70s; yet I’ve seen similar films from the same era that would make this blush.) Spaghetti Western guru Leopoldo Savona (Apocalypse Joe) does his best, however, to keep the gears greasy right until the finale.
But, for fans of Euro-trash, it has enough to recommend: plenty of full-bodied nudity, mysterious goings-on, and a handful of effective, if fairly bloodless, kills. While it doesn’t muster enough oomph (or yuck) to keep me enthralled, Byleth will work for those in need of sleaze, Italian style.
Movie Score: 3/5, Disc Score: No Extras
So, there you have it: two more releases from Severin Films that couldn’t be more different, yet each appealing to a certain sector of the horror realm. Pick them up for your werewolf-loving aunt and Euro horror-loving uncle this Christmas. And tell them Severin Films sent you.