MYSTERY OF THE 13TH GUEST
(director: William Beaudine; screenwriters: Tim Ryan, Charles R. Marion, Arthur Hoerl/from the novel The 13th Guest by Armitage Trail; cinematographer: Mack Stengler; editor: Dick Currier; music: Glen Glenn; cast: Dick Purcell (Johnny Smith), Helen Parrish (Marie Morgan), Shirley Jean Anderson (Marie Morgan, at 8), Tim Ryan (Police Lt. Burke), Frank Faylen (Speed Dugan aka McGinnis), John Duncan (Harold Morgan), Robert J. Anderson (Harold, as a child), Jon Dawson (Tom Jackson), Lloyd Ingraham (Grandfather Morgan), Jacqueline Dalya (Marjory Morgan), Addison Richards (Jim, District Attorney), Paul McVey (Adam Morgan), Cyril Ring (Barksdale); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lindsley Parsons;Monogram Pictures; 1943-B/W)
“The comic relief was irritating.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
William Beaudine (“The Green Hornet”/”Fury of the Dragon”) helms a snappy but dated old dark house crime drama that’s a remake of the more bearable 1932 one with Ginger Rogers. The writers Tim Ryan, Charles R. Marion and Arthur Hoerl adapt it from the novel The 13th Guest by Armitage Trail. It’s a B/W B film from Monogram, a second feature in theaters upon its release.
The dying Grandpa Morgan (Lloyd Ingraham), to read his will, gathered ten of his possible heir relatives, plus his lawyer John Barksdale (Cyril Ring), to his NY country mansion and left the 13th chair next to him empty. Grandpa held out a sealed envelope, which he passed for inspection to his eight-year-old granddaughter, Marie (Shirley Jean Anderson), on the condition that she open the will on her 21st birthday. Her orders are to return 13 years from now alone and open the letter in this same room. Grandpa disliked the family and didn’t trust them except for little Maria.
13 years later the 21-year-old Marie Morgan (Helen Parrish) arrives at night by taxi at grandpa’s house, and the vacant house still has a phone and electricity. She opens the letter and we see the bank combination lock 13-13-13 is written. Suddenly a shot rings out and the cab driver finds Marie has been electrocuted (the phone’s been rigged) and is seated in the same seat she sat in back then. The taxi driver notifies the police. When they arrive they also find the lawyer is dead and seated in the seat he sat in previously.
The cop investigating is the jokey Lt. Burke (Tim Ryan, screenwriter) and his buffoonish sleep-addicted sidekick Speed (Frank Faylen). Also at the crime scene is the smart private detective Johnny Smith (Dick Purcell). He was hired by Maria’s supposedly kind uncle, Adam Morgan (Paul McVey), to look after her.
Spoiler alert: next paragraph.
Soon Maria is found alive, and it turns out the one killed had plastic surgery on her face to make her look like Maria’s double.
The others interviewed by the cops are: Marie’s brother Harold “Bud” Morgan (Jon Duncan), her cousin Tom Jackson (Jon Dawson) and her disagreeable sister Marjory (Jacqueline Dalya).
It’s the cops job to find the killer, who seems intent on hiding in a secret room in the mansion and killing all who were originally there and thereby inheriting all the money.
Nothing made sense. The comic relief was irritating. The plot was clunky. And, the acting was wooden.
REVIEWED ON 1/20/2021 GRADE: C