The College Girl Murders (1967)

The College Girl Murders


AKA: A Monk with a Whip

An all girl’s school is thrown into turmoil when one of their members suddenly drops dead during a church service. Everyone is stunned, and then baffled, when the police come back some days later, suddenly declaring she was murdered. While the police and her classmates are busy trying to discern a motive for the crime, another girl is killed, and a man who is already in prison is fingered for the crime by an eyewitness. So now it’s a mad dash for the police to investigate every possible lead they can, before any more innocent young women wind up dead. And in a school full of mysterious and lecherous professors, there certainly isn’t any shortage of suspicious suspects.


Every description for this film that I can find online is incredibly brief, and sorta makes it sound like that this is some sort of slasher flick. But it’s not. Instead, it’s a West German mystery crime drama, based on the novel The Black Abbot, by British author Edgar Wallace. Wallace was an incredibly prolific writer in his time, having been rumored to be able to write a 70,000 word book in just three days. But beyond penning the first screenplay for the original King Kong, most of his other works are perhaps not as especially well-known today. Unless, I guess, if you live in Germany, because thanks to the production company Rialto Film, which not only produced The Collage Girl Murders, but an additional 30+ other films based on Wallace’s works between 1959-1972, his books are still quite popular over there. Most of the movie’s Rialto made weren’t very well received by critics, but they were prolific and popular enough amongst the populace to not only gain a cult following, but to also help create a whole new terminology for their very niche, “West German movies that are primarily based on novelist Edgar Wallace works” sub-genre: the Krimi, short for Kriminalfilm (or Kriminalroman, which is a type of novel). That’s…very specific, to say the least, and since the film’s were not only produced, but also made by the same relatively small group of actors and directors, they also share a very similar vibe throughout the whole unofficial series. One that helps make the films feel distinct, but isn’t going to be for everyone.


I’m not gonna lie: this movie is very, very odd. There are evil scientists, foggy meetings in cemeteries, a red-clad, whip-wielding monk, prison breaks, bibles spewing poisonous gasses, random secret passageways in the girls dormitory (which was admittedly pretty neat…), a giant aquarium (…also neat…), a literal alligator pit (…finally, a villain I can commiserate with), and the whole thing is set to a boppin “WE ARE IN THE 60’S!” soundtrack that sounds like you should be watching a spy thriller with a certain double “O” agent in it (…Groovy). I swear, a lot of it is so random that it kinda feels like a more lurid Scooby Doo mystery, crossed with the 60’s Batman series (with the acting to match). Very strange occurrences happen (many of them, in fact), there are a couple of action scenes and evidence is gathered by the police. The latter of which seems absolutely and ridiculously pointless, because unlike your typical, say, Agatha Christie story where you can at least try to guess the motives and identity of the killer, the murderer in this case winds up being some heretofore unnamed mastermind whose identity you literally only learn about the second the police yank off their disguise and go “Ha, as I suspected!”. Well, that’s great, Sgt. Skippy, but it would have been nice if you had shared some of those theories with the class about half an hour ago instead of leaving us in the dark. But I guess I shouldn’t complain. After all, that’s still a better alternative than giving away the identity of the bad guy five minutes into your movie like some films do (*sends a side-eyed glance towards Madhouse*).



Oddities aside, I think the thing that’s going to be this film’s “make or break” in the eyes of some viewers, is the inclusion of the film’s attempt at humor. Because….tsk….yeah, it’s pretty bad. Chief Inspector Sir John serves as the harbinger of most of it. I know that he’s supposed to be the comic relief guy, what with things like inconvenient occurrences punctuating his dialogue and him getting trapped in a closet during a stakeout happening to him. But instead of being charming, which I assume they were aiming for, at best he comes off as buffoonish, and at worst utterly incompetent. Declaring that you have to arrest someone the second you learn they’re a chemist isn’t good police work, it’s the kind of thing that’ll more likely get you brought up on false arrest charges these days… assuming anyone listens to him. Thankfully they at least have the more down-to-Earth Inspector Higgins there to help keep him in check. Though, that guy’s cockamamie plan ends up getting two guys killed and another girl kidnapped, so he’s not really all that better in the “competent police” department.


The movie’s other main drawback is that, while the story may be filled with a bunch of bizarre oddities, those oddities are spaced out enough that the plot can often feel like a plodding mess. For a film that features an actual honest-to-God alligator pit that is never actually utilized (that should be a crime), there’s a lot of downtime in here where precious little happens, including set-up. And even in cases where things do happen, sometimes it feels like scenes are being filmed just for the sake of filling air time. There’s an entire subplot involving one convict, convincing another convict to be the “hitman” of sorts. But then that guy screws up and tries to kill the Big Boss, so the first convict is brought in to do the dirty work himself instead, and just…why? Clearly the first guy was more competent and already knew the low-down, and how everything operated. So why go through the trouble of setting all that up? Was it just to make the plot more convoluted? A diversionary tactic? It’s just very odd, and merely one example of one of the many story elements that seem to be included just because they kinda-maybe sounded neat on paper, not because they actually made all that much sense, story-wise.


All that said though, I can see why movies like The College Girl Murders ended up being as popular as they were. Slow parts aside (and there are several of them), this is a pretty fun, easy to watch, rather lighthearted crime thriller. It’s super weird, yes, what with its poison spewing bibles, secret passageways that are only used once, odd attempts at humor, and a monk who somehow manages to snap multiple people’s necks with a simple flick of the wrist and the least amount of effort imaginable. But its weirdness is part of its charm. It’s not a charm that’s going to appeal to everyone. But if you like crime, mysteries and giallo, then this could be an interesting, easy watch, especially if you’re at all curious about this very niche sub-genre of film.

The College Girl Murders is available on a variety of streaming services.

The College Girl Murders is also available on DVD.

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