Beyond Dario Argento and Mario Bava, perhaps the true father of the giallo is Edgar Wallace. And yes, it’s somewhat strange that a British-born writer — in fact, the same man who wrote the original script for King Kong — would beget a uniquely Italian film genre, but sometimes that’s how it works.
Wallace toiled in the army press corps and at London’s Daily Mail, constantly skirting bankruptcy and scandal before he finally became known as the King of the Thrillers. His output was staggering — 170 novels, 18 stage plays, and 957 short stories — with him often dictating his novels just by speaking them aloud as secretaries typed them out. He often worked on three books at once, which was just as well. At one point, he wrote one in four books read in the UK.
Basically, Wallace was constantly on the run from loan sharks and bookies, so he churned out novels to keep them away. It wasn’t until long after his death that his name became even more famous overseas.
Of course, Wallace’s movies had been adapted for the screen for decades, starting with 1916’s The Man Who Bought London and continuing throughout the 60’s with the forty-seven films in the Edgar Wallace Mysteries series.
In 1959, the Danish company Rialto Film made Der Frosch mit der Maske, which started the krimi genre. These films are marked by quick zooms and hidden, yet flamboyant, supervillains. Often, these killers wear a mask and as you watch these films, you can see their influence on the giallo that would come in their wake. Indeed, the very name giallo comes from the garish yellow covers that detective novels by Wallace sported on Italian newsstands.
At the point where The College Girl Murders was made, it’s obvious that the films were not adaptions word for word from Wallace, but used his titles or themes to inform new ways of telling his stories.
There are mad scientists making gases who are soon killed by a monk wearing a red robe and wielding a whip and another lethal gas weapon that’s hidden inside a Bible. Yes, that’s just in the first few minutes of the film.
Jazzy 60’s music? Creeps staring at women from hidden windows in a swimming pool? Frustrated cops trying to put it all together, yet with a red hooded killer always one step ahead? Pits of alligators ready to menace comely young women? Uschi Glas from Seven Blood-Stained Orchids? Ewa Strömberg from Vampyros Lesbos? Yes, this film has all of that and more.
You can watch this on Tubi.