Saturday, 21 December 2013

The College Girl Murders - Der Mönch mit der Peitsche (Alfred Vohrer, 1967)

A bizarre figure dressed in crimson is haunting the grounds of a private girls’ school, killing his victims with a whip. Could the lecherous, sweaty chemistry teacher be the culprit? Or is it the gardener (who used to be a circus performer)? The incessantly chewing Scotland Yard inspector Higgins is going to solve this mystery.

I loved the girls’ fashions: the big hair, the pointy bras,
 the vinyl coats and matching boots.
The College Girl Murders is very easy on the eyes - the sets are imaginative, the fashions - outrageous, even the film stock itself has that incredible saturated look which is not possible to achieve anymore. The night scenes set in a fog-enshrouded forest with lights placed strategically behind every tree blasting straight down the lens echo what Mario Bava was doing around the same time, minus the morbid overtones. The College Girls Murders rolls along swiftly, with lots of action and increasingly absurd twists. The final reveal and subsequent explanation is presented in a throwaway and instantly forgettable manner.

The cast of The College Girl Murders features lots of familiar faces, such as Ewa Stroemberg (sporting ridiculous glasses)of Vampyros Lesbos fame and Siegfried Rauch (Contamination). Higgins’ superior, Sir John, is played by Siegfried Schürenberg who would appear in a similar part in Jes Franco’s The Devil Came From Akasava (1971). You may also recognise the fresh and innocent-looking Uschi Glas from Lenzi's Seven Blood-Stained Orchids.
The College Girl Murders is excellent entertainment – fast, colourful and crazy enough to warrant a second viewing.

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Hand of Power/Im Banne des Unheimlichen (Alfred Vohrer, 1968)

I used to borrow Edgar Wallace paperbacks from the library and most of the time would return them after reading just a chapter or two. They're  nothing but the same tiresome cliches recycled ad infinitum. No wonder I would steer clear from the Edgar Wallace films made in Germany by Rialto. Tonight I was adventurous enough to give one of them a shot. I picked The Hand of Power a.k.a. The Zombie Walks.
the story
Lots of shady characters gather for the funeral at a village chapel. Peggy, a nosy reporter with the London Star, is annoying everyone taking pictures as the church organ drones on. The monotony is broken as the dead man is heard laughing in his coffin! The same night the killer strikes, using a scorpion-shaped ring dipped in poison to kill one of the people who attended the funeral. Inspector Higgins of Scotland Yard is on the case.
the cast
Joachim Fuchsberger plays inspector Higgins as a smug, arrogant asshole and deservedly gets his ass kicked on one or two occasions. Ewa Stroemberg and Fred Williams (who would go on to appear in a slew of titles for Jess Franco circa 1970) show up in minor parts. Siegfried Rauch (Contamination, Kelly's Heroes) plays one of the suspects, a shady doctor.

The Hand of Power is set in that fabled '60s universe where cars are always driven at top speed with much swerving, men in turtleneck jumpers have lots of oil in their hair, women are all gorgeous, submissive bimbos and fall prey to clumsy killers readily and everyone - especially doctors - lights up using those enormous lighters.
Ultimately I cannot say I loved The Hand of Power. It was too talky, too conventional and just too lightweight. There were some nice stylistic flourishes, including the trippy opening credits animation sequence, some atmospheric scenes and a kitschy killer wearing a black cape, fedora and an oversized skull mask. There's fun to be had with this movie, just don't expect it to ever take itself seriously.
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