Derrick – murders in the villa idyll Würmtal – district of Munich

The Würmtal is considered a haven of harmonious and high-priced life, a sophisticated spot in the south-west of Munich, where you can linger. But the supposed idyll is also the scene of gruesome crimes, from robbery and murder to terrible crimes in relationships. At least that’s how the creators of the by far best-known and most popular crime series on German television, Derrick, saw it. There were 281 episodes, always starring Horst Tappert as chief inspector Derrick and Fritz Wepper as assistant inspector Harry Klein. The two played between 1974 and 1998 in the hearts of millions of viewers worldwide. Derrick is a cult. Even the public accusations that Tappert was a member of the Waffen SS did not change his popularity. However, in 2016 – eight years after Tappert’s death in Planegg – ZDF decided not to repeat any of the series.

(Photo: SZ graphics)

A number of the films were set in the Würmtal, at least in the area between Pasing and Starnberg. One of the reasons for this may have been that Horst Tappert lived in Gräfelfing himself. The genuine Würmtaler is also buried in the community. Another reason was certainly the residential ambience of the area: luxury villas with huge gardens, little industry, tranquil landscapes. The morbid charm of so many villas appealed to the directors: Good and evil often seemed to lie side by side here. Many of the locations of that time have changed radically since then: instead of the old and sometimes ramshackle villas, new buildings have emerged, often resembling the more functional Bauhaus style, in which young families live today who can afford the expensive Würmtal. The traces of Derrick have been erased, there are hardly any eyewitnesses left. Only a few buildings are still standing.

SZ series: Turned off - film sets around Munich: Derrick and his assistant Harry Klein (Fritz Wepper) in a typical scene.

Derrick and his assistant Harry Klein (Fritz Wepper) in a typical scene.

(Photo: imago images/United Archives)

An exception is the Mühlthal S-Bahn station, which is now closed and which plays a prominent role in the first episode of the crime series entitled “Waldweg”. It’s about the murder of a girl: “The domestic student took the train to Munich in the afternoon. She only returned late at night, after going to the cinema. On the way from the small train station to her boarding school, the girl died Forest was attacked. Since the murder happened at the same place, Chief Inspector Derrick thinks he can convict the perpetrator with a trick.”

SZ series: Turned off - film sets around Munich: The Mühlthal train station, which has since been shut down, made its big appearance in the first episode.

The Mühlthal train station, which has since been shut down, makes its big appearance in the first episode.

(Photo: Nila Thiel)

Patrick Heisch recorded it meticulously. The 50-year-old IT manager from the Stuttgart area is head of one of the largest fan clubs ( Research on Derrick without him is hardly conceivable. Heisch has seen all 281 episodes, some more than once: “My parents and grandparents watched the Friday night thriller regularly. At some point when I was eleven or twelve, I was allowed to be there,” he says. “I was fascinated by the good screenplays by Herbert Reinecker and Helmut Ringelmann, the outstanding actors, the music and of course the numerous locations in and around Munich. It’s a hobby of mine that I live intensively.”

Other thrillers were also filmed in western Munich

Heisch has contacts with production managers and actors, he has worked in Arte productions and he knows a number of locations personally. Why Derrick? “Because he doesn’t get along with gunfights or wild car chases.” In addition to the screenplays, actors such as Curd Jürgens, Will Quadflieg, Ernst Schröder, Rudolph Platte, Lilly Palmer and Susanne Uhlen fascinated him. He liked the episodes from the 1970s and 1980s best: at the Birket in Lochham or in Graefelfinger Otilostraße, for example, where crime scenes like “Snowfall” or “A New Life” were filmed, in the urological clinic in Planegg, which at the time looked completely different than today, in Gauting in a company on Grubmühlstrasse and in the villa on the Waldpromenade. There are also Tatort episodes with Tatort inspectors Batic and Leitmayr, who are still active today, in Gräfelfing – Heisch knows the content inside out. A villa in Graefelfingen’s Grawolfstraße was available for the “Second Home” series, and two villas in Lochhamer Birket became the setting for the popular series “Under Suspicion” with Senta Berger. But back to Derrick.

Also in Derrick episode 117 “Attack from the Darkness” an important scene of the events is the former urological clinic Castringius, which has since been completely renovated several times and is now a special center for urological diseases. A 25-year-old woman is hit by a car at night and dies on the way to the hospital. Her friend is convinced that it was a deliberate attack – and that she was the real target.

SZ series: Turned off - film sets around Munich: The Schwaneck Castle in Pullach is staged in episode 191 as a spooky psychiatric clinic.

In episode 191, Schwaneck Castle in Pullach is staged as a spooky psychiatric clinic.

(Photo: Claus Schunk)

Nevertheless, the filming locations in the Würmtal were rather rare: “Most of the villas that were used by Derrick were definitely in Grünwald, Pullach, Bogenhausen or in Starnberg,” says Patrick Heisch. But not only villas have that certain flair for thrillers. In episode 191 entitled “Abyss of Emotions” from 1990, the camera pans over spooky castle towers and thick walls. One thinks of dungeons in which poor souls vegetate. Rightly so: in this film, Schwaneck Castle in Pullach acts as a psychiatric ward. A young woman, a victim of drug dealers, has lost her ability to speak after taking the poisonous substance and can only express herself by screaming. The attending doctor also seems anything but serious, because he interferes in Derrick’s investigations in a conspicuously intrusive manner.

Whether Isar Valley or Würmtal – as chief inspector Stephan Derrick, Horst Tappert made the south-west of Munich known to the world: the 281 episodes were broadcast in over a hundred countries. In 2004, Tappert was again present as Derrick: In the cartoon “Derrick – the duty calls” he could be heard as a voice.

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