Director: Alfred Vohrer
Dark Sky Films/MPI

The Italians might have had their giallos, but the Germans had “krimis,” a series of stylish murder mystery movies, most of which were based on the writings of Edgar Wallace. A popular series of black & white thrillers began during the late 50s and early 60s, but by the end of the swinging decade, they were starting to shoot them in color, giving them an alluring angle and a new look. Longtime series director Alfred Vohrer had helmed two color krimis based on Wallace in 1967: the more commonly seen THE CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND and the more rare THE COLLEGE GIRLS MURDERS, now available on DVD from Dark Sky Films. Fans of hip 60s Eurocult items are going to find this one hard to resist!

Also known as THE PRUSSIC FACTOR but shown in its homeland as THE MONK AND THE WHIP, THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS starts off with a very outlandish pre-credit sequence, making it appear more like science fiction or horror than the mounted mystery that’s about to develop. A nutty scientist with an even nuttier hairdo apparently develops a poison that kills victims instantly. He uses his lab assistant as the first guinea pig, opening a book which lets loose the deadly substance right into his face. Then, he visits a cemetery where he is to sell the formula to an unseen buyer, but a hooded monk dressed totally in crimson pops out to strangle him to death. The opening credits are then revealed, and they’re quite kitschy and psychedelic, accompanied by the jazzy score by Martin Bottcher, which permeates the entire film effectively.

As hired by an unidentified master criminal, a petty thief periodically escapes his prison cell by hiding in a garbage can, and into truck. This is so he can go on a killing spree of knocking out female students at a local college, yet no known motive is given, only the cash that’s lining his wallet for his dirty deeds. First, one girl gets it in church when a Bible is opened up in her face. Other girls are killed in similar fashion, but sometimes the gas is shot out from a futuristic looking gun contraption. Soon the police are on the case and they have to deal with a main suspect who’s supposed to be locked away, a handful of perverted male teachers and handymen strutting around the school, a large swimming pool with an underground window to accommodate Peeping Toms, the red-garbed monk and his perpetual crack of the whip and a series of baffling killings that seem to keep piling up.

THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS has a madcap, flashy style that makes it one of the more unusual krimis of the period. The hooded monk killer is an interesting character that steals every scene, and apparently he's connected to an earlier film in the series titled THE SINISTER MONK (the English dubbing makes reference to the film). With Bibles and pistols that shoot poisonous gas, the film is very gimmicky, modeled after the popular trend in 60s spy movies and TV shows. The central villain sits behind a desk with his back to visitors while his larger-than-life voice is heard over a loudspeaker. His office is furnished with a complete aquarium (filled with exotic sea creatures), and a pit of hungry alligators is on hand so that a pretty heroine could be dangled over it in a cage!

With a great number of red herrings thrown in, THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS has a decent ensemble cast, but lacks a bonafide star with the charisma of say, Klaus Kinski. Joachim Fuchsberger is good as the inspector who’s always ten steps ahead of his much older counterpart, the bumbling Sir John (Siegfried Schürenberg, playing a character carried over from several other entries in the series). Fuchsberger would later player a similar role in a much more violent film based on Wallace and centered on school girl killings: WHAT HAVE THE DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972). The main heroine is played by cute brunette Uschi Glas, who went on to star in SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS (another film based on Wallace), and Jess Franco fanatics will recognize a very young Ewa Strömberg (briefly seen as an early victim), who would go on to star in VAMPYROS LESBOS and SHE KILLS IN ECSTACY, among others. If you struggle to place the face of actor Günter Meisner (as a creepy driver named Greaves), you’ve probably seen him in a number of international productions, yet most know him as Mr. Slugworth from WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971).

Dark Sky Films presents THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS on DVD with a transfer that was culled from a rare 16mm film element. The image is presented full frame, and it’s my guess that the film was originally hard-matted at 1.66:1 and then zoomed in to fill the TV ratio. Even so, compositions are never compromised too badly, with several shots looking a bit tight on top or on the sides. Colors are well saturated throughout, and although there is some film dirt and grain present in spots, the presentation is pleasurable overall. The mono audio delivers an adequate representation of the English dubbed track, with some scratchiness noticeable. The only extras are a photo gallery that includes some black & white stills and poster art from the original German release. (George R. Reis)