In the opening scene of College Girl Murders (1967), a mad scientist invents an “undetectable” poison gas, and promptly murders his assistant with it. The poisoner then shows up in a foggy British cemetery, and sells the new toxin to a shady criminal, who departs with the cryptic phrase “Wait right here. You’ll get your reward right away.” Seconds later, a monk wearing a scarlet hood appears out of the fog, unfurls a luminous white bullwhip and uses it to break the scientist’s neck!
What the hell is going on here?
Welcome to the bewildering world of the “Krimis,” a delicious subgenre of crime film native to Germany, and based on the writings of Edgar Wallace, a prolific English novelist/journalist/playwright who had already been dead for 30 years by the time the Krimis movement took off.
Wallace’s avowed formula for a successful novel included “crime and blood and three murders to the chapter,” but as you can see by the monk-with-a-whip example cited above, the murders tended to be anything but straightforward. Killers in Wallace stories never simply shoot someone when they can send a trained orangutan after them, or dress up in a skull mask and kill them with a specially designed steel glove.
This kind of overly complicated homicidal nonsense is in glorious abundance in College Girl Murders, a campy ’60s time capsule that’s as silly as it is sinister. After the pre-credit monk-in-the-cemetery scene, an unseen criminal mastermind recruits an imprisoned pickpocket to take part in a ludicrous murder plot. The prisoner is smuggled out of jail, and tasked with handing a booby-trapped bible to a schoolgirl. The girl goes to church with her classmates, opens up the gimmicked bible, gets a face full of poison gas, and dies screaming. Meanwhile, the pickpocket is smuggled back into prison, giving him the perfect alibi.
Naturally, this outrageous scheme attracts the attention of Scotland Yard, so the killers have to resort to sending the monk-with-a-whip after any witnesses or potential squealers. There; problem solved! After all, there’s nothing suspicious about a whip-wielding intruder sneaking into a girl’s dormitory wearing what amounts to a bright red KKK uniform, is there? The monk is spotted (of course) but gets away through a secret passageway hidden in the fireplace (of course) before the fuzz show up, question the girls and decide that they must be lying about seeing a monk in the first place (of course).
Meanwhile, the pickpocket is given a ridiculous-looking poison-squirting science fiction handgun once the criminal mastermind decides that the gas-spraying bible just doesn’t cut it anymore. More people get killed, including the pickpocket, who swiftly gets replaced by yet another prisoner who gets smuggled in and out of jail in the same manner. While this is going on, shadowy figures watch from hidden peepholes, chauffeurs fetch machine guns hidden in Rolls Royces, the villain behind a desk turns out to be a mannequin with a hidden speaker, the college girls discuss their predicament while lounging around the pool in ’60s swimwear, and the baffled police detectives provide inept comic relief.
College Girl Murders is vibrant, colourful, fast-paced, ridiculous, compelling and lurid in an approachable, almost PG-rated way. It’s fun as hell, and you can watch it for free at amctv.com. If this flick whets your appetite for more Krimi silliness, be aware that Rialto Film produced a whole series of similar movies that await your discovery, such as The Hunchback of Soho (1966) and Creature With the Blue Hand (1967).