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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)

Monogram Pictures built a reputation for well made low budget films between 1931 and 1953.  While most of these were in the action/adventure genre, some also dealt with supernatural/horror themes.  Mystery of the 13th Guest is one of those films with a classic “whodunit” story line.  The patriarch of the Morgan family knows his days are numbered.  So he gathers his greedy, hateful family together for one last dinner party.  During dinner he hands his 8 year old granddaughter Marie an envelope containing his will.  The catch is it cannot be opened until her 21st birthday. 

Fast forward 13 years [how convenient!] and Marie shows up at the house to open the envelope.  Almost immediately her relatives end up dying one by one.  Who is murdering all these people?  What exactly does the cryptic message in the envelope mean?  This is the story of the Mystery of the 13th Guest.

Director William Bodine [The Ape Man] does a fine job of keeping things humming along at a decent pace.  While the movie treads familiar territory, it does so in a way that’s still interesting and enjoyable to watch.  The strongest performances come from Helen Parrish [You’ll Find Out] who plays Marie and Tim Ryan who plays the gruff Lieutenant Burke.  While Dick Purcell [King of the Zombies] gets top billing as private investigator Johnny Smith, Ryan bests him in every scene.  Ryan’s performance holds this film together and it would be a much poorer movie without him.

The only annoying feature in Mystery of the 13th Guest is the addition of Frank Faylen as Speedwell Dugan, Lieutenant Burke’s sidekick.  While he is a competent actor/comedian with a long film resume, his sight gags and jokes wore very thin, very quickly.  It’s hard to tell whether this was his fault or the fault of the script writers.

So, if you like murder mysteries, this one is not bad.  It win;t keep you on the edge of your seat but it is a decent film and I found it enjoyable to watch.

RATING: Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.


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