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Thirteen women who were schoolmates send to a swami for their horoscopes. Little do they realize that Ursula, a half-breed Asian, is using her hypnotic powers over the swami and them to lead them or their families to their deaths. It seems that she too went to their school, but was forced to leave by their bigotry, and is exacting revenge. Will she be stopped in time to save Laura's son, Bobby? Written by
Robert Tonsing <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There were only 11 women in the movie, not 13. Two were cut to give more scenes to Irene Dunne, who had just had a hit at another studio, earlier in 1932. See more »
After the swami falls in the subway, a passenger train passes by. The bell on top is ringing, but it makes no sound. Perhaps the bell was turned off, like a telephone ringer, because that person does not want to be disturbed. See more »
Irene Dunne vs. Myrna Loy square off in a terror train.
This fascinating, hypnotic RKO 'A' film bombed so badly that the studio withdrew it from release, chopped out 15 minutes (from 74 to 59), and disposed of it on the bottom end of double bills. The question is: Why?
Even after 70 years, "Thirteen Women" is an eerie, lushly produced thriller that provides more genuine chills than in any of today's counterparts. For movie buffs, the real treat is seeing Irene Dunne and Myrna Loy (both of whom within a year or two would emerge as two of Hollywood's most bankable and respected leading ladies) slumming in a nasty pre-Code creeper about a half-caste sorority girl (Loy) who enlists the aid of a sinister spiritualist to exact revenge on the prejudiced campus "ladies" who expelled her from their club a few years earlier. One by one, and by devious means, Loy (still playing slant-eyed fiends, but not for much longer, thank God!)meticulously plots and carries out the not-for-the-squeamish deaths of her victims--until the last one alive, Irene Dunne, happily married with an adorable young son, remains her sole surviving target. After her plans to poison the toddler go awry, Loy goes bonkers and boards the train where the police (it certainly takes them long enough to figure out what's going on) have secreted Dunne until they apprehend Loy. The climax--with a dagger-wielding Loy chasing the terrorized Dunne through one car to the next--is a corker--meticulously copied and working equally well a half a century later in the climax of "Terror Train" (with Jamie Lee Curtis duking it out with a transvestite psycho). Even chopped to 59 minutes, "Thirteen Women" is still a landmark horror film. The most baffling mystery is why audiences rejected it in 1932. Perhaps it was ahead of its time. Depression-era loved mysteries--but uncensored exercises in sheer terror like "Thirteen Women" were too scary for comfort (even today, it provokes an unsettling series of shocks that make it the "Psycho" of the '30s--and even the "Psycho" of 30 years later had to overcome initial critical pans before audiences pounced on it and lapped up every sick, terrifying minute.) Hopefully, the 15 minutes a worried RKO cut from the original prints of "Thirteen Women" will be discovered and restored so we may someday see this unexpected treasure as it was intended to be seen. Meanwhile, even the expurgated version (shown occasionally on Turner Classic Movies--check the listings) is as dazzling and brazen a shocker Hollywood turned out in the early 1930s--before the Hayes Office took over and thwarted any further movie from going as gleefully and sadistically over-the-top as the delicious "Thirteen Women." (Even MGM had to severely edit "Freaks" to placate horrified censors and audiences.)
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