13 years before the movie opens, there was a dinner party, at which the 13th guest failed to show up. The master of the manner has died, and left the bulk of his estate to this 13th guest, ... See full summary »
13 years before the movie opens, there was a dinner party, at which the 13th guest failed to show up. The master of the manner has died, and left the bulk of his estate to this 13th guest, but nobody knows who that is. Now someone is murdering the remaining guests, and placing their dead bodies at the table, in the same seat they had occupied 13 years before. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
THE THIRTEENTH GUEST (Monogram, 1932), directed by Albert Ray, from the novel by Armitage Trail, is an acceptable 70 minute programmer murder mystery that stands very well on its own merits. Starring Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot, both of whom would be reunited once more under Ray's direction in A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT (Allied, 1933), another mystery thriller, THE THIRTEENTH GUEST ranks the better of the two, in spite of its current lack of television broadcasts in comparison to the frequent revivals of A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT during the early years of cable TV during most of the 1980s. As with A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT, THE THIRTEENTH GUEST includes no underscoring, with the exception of a Johannes Brahms composition, "Academic Festival Overture," heard during its opening screen credits.
The story begins with a young woman (Ginger Rogers) coming out of a taxi which stops in front of 122 Old Mill Road, and asking the driver to wait for her. She enters the house, which has stood vacant for thirteen years. Noticing the abandoned estate still has telephone service and electric lights, she finds and opens the envelope which reads, "To be handled to my daughter, Marie Morgan, on her 21st birthday." Envisioning the dinner party that was to have taken place 13 years ago, by which her father had died and the mysterious thirteenth guest had never arrived, the girl, after hearing a noise, suddenly screams. The cab driver leaves to notify the police. Called to the case are Captain Ryan (J. Farrell MacDonald, Hollywood's resident cop), and Gump (Paul Hurst), his stooge detective. Ryan summons Phil Winston (Lyle Talbot), a private investigator and womanizer whose catch phrase is "Ah, you go to the devil," (the frequent remark used by Talbot in A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT). Winston finds the girl in question, apparently Marie Morgan, whose cause of death was electrocution, although there are no wires found connected to the seat where she was sitting. While going through the usual channels of investigation, and finding out that Morgan Sr. had written a will leaving a fortune to the 13th guest, John Barksdale (Robert Klein), is also found dead through electrocution. More mystery follows when a hooded mystery man wearing a black cloak is seen (by the avid movie viewer) stalking about the mansion behind the walls pulling a switch that electrocutes any his victims as well as the arrival of Marie Morgan (Ginger Rogers), very much alive, leaving more questions to be answered as to who was that other girl who was killed earlier? Who is this person with the intentions of murdering the former thirteen dinner guests one by one? Is the killer one of the thirteen guests? And what does the slip of paper found reading 13-13-13 mean?
The supporting cast in this production includes: James Eagles as Bud Morgan, Marie's brother; Erville Alderson as Uncle John Adams; Frances Rich as Marjorie Thornton; Ethel Wales as Joan Thornton; William B. Davidson as Captain Browne; Eddie Phillips as Thor Jensen; and Phillips Smalley as Dick Thornton.
While THE THIRTEENTH GUEST is a low-budget production, it was obviously a profitable little item for Monogram because of several imitators in later years, along with the studio's very own 1943 remake, retitled THE MYSTERY OF THE THIRTEENTH GUEST, starring Helen Parrish, Dick Purcell and Tim Ryan in the Rogers, Talbot and MacDonald roles. It's been noted that Monogram frequently revived THE THIRTEENTH GUEST in theaters over the years due the strength of the popularity of its leading star, Ginger Rogers, who was by then just a featured performer. Concentrating more on its creepy atmosphere and unusual occurrences to keep the action going and audiences guessing, the movie does takes time for humor, intentional or otherwise, compliments of Paul Hurst as a comical stupid cop, who could be, at times, more annoying than amusing; as well as one scene which finds the wealthy members of the family being sent to jail and sharing the cell with an assortment of people beneath their class, in other words, low-lifes.
THE THIRTEENTH GUEST, an interesting curio for some and a yawner for others, once considered a "lost" film, was formerly available on video cassette through several distributors, including Matinée Classics and Video Dimensions. Video transfers from each are satisfactory, although picture restoration is evident. Be aware DVD prints from Alpha Video doesn't include original 1932 opening titles, actually a latter 1940s reissue print credited by Equity Studios instead of Monogram. (**1/2)
18 of 19 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?