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The last directorial credit of Richard Cunha (of Frankenstein's Daughter fame), this plays a lot like a color, Brazilian-set version of some of those early-50s syndicated TV detective shows with established stars such as George Raft or Cesar Romero, which makes sense since Mr. Cunha worked in early 50s TV. The always-reliable Brian Donlevy brings his usual gruff authority to the role of a US detective sent to Brazil to find an woman accused of a crime in the US who has assumed another identity in Brazil. He finds her eventually, but first gets sucked into a criminal plot and meets a mysterious but attractive British lady (at least she speaks with a British accent!) with whom he gets involved. A USA/Brazilian co-production, GIRL IN ROOM 13 benefits from the Brazilian setting, and most of the characters except for Donlevy and three others are Brazilian. The pacing is rather TV-show-like, but there are enough double-crosses and detective-film conventions to keep you watching, and of course Donlevy's understated yet strong presence, the element that holds the film together. A shame Mr. Cunha did not direct more films in the crime/detective genre, as GIRL IN ROOM 13 is a pleasant way to spend 90 minutes on a rainy day. (Don't know if this has ever been on video--mine is taped off a UHF station in the late 80s)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE GIRL IN ROOM 13 : 1960
This is about as low rent as one can go and still have a known name involved. This Brazilian-set, and made production stars Brian Donlevy. It is a detective tale with a bit of a noir story thrown in. This one also features two, yes two, femme fatale types.
Donlevy is an American Private Investigator who is hired by mail to seek out a possible murder suspect wanted in the US. The suspect is now in Brazil. All Donlevy got was a letter with five grand, a ticket to San Paulo, and the name of the person to check out.
Matters immediately heat up when he arrives in San Paulo. It seems that on the flight is a counterfeiter wanted by the local constabulary. The man is smuggling in some plates to be dropped off to a local fake cash ring. The man slips the package containing the plates into the overcoat of Donlevy, when he sees the Police waiting. He then makes a break for it while exchanging rounds with said Police. The exchange of lead proves fatal for the smuggler.
The Police, led by John Herbert, grab up Donlevy and the other passengers for a chat. It seems the Police know all about Donlevy's job in San Paulo. The woman he is looking for, Andrea Bayard, is a "performer" in the club the fake money gang use as a front. Miss Bayard is also the main squeeze of club owner slash gangster, Victor Merinow.
The Police ask Donlevy to stay out of their way. They fill him in on the reason for the shootout etc. Donlevy tells Detective Herbert that he is just in town to do his job. He will try not to step on any toes. The Police drop Donlevy off at his hotel. There, he quickly meets the woman, Elizabeth Howard, staying in the room next door. Room # 13 that is. The good looker and Donlevy make a date for dinner that evening.
Donlevy now steps out for a look around town. Our man Donlevy is now grabbed up for a chat by the fake money gang. It seems that one of them suspects that the plates had been slipped into Donlevy's overcoat. The Police presence had prevented them from retrieving said plates.
The nasty types give Donlevy a round of fist to body questioning. Donlevy, who knows nothing about the plates, is not in a helpful mood. The gang tires and dump Donlevy back at his hotel.
The thoroughly tenderized Donlevy, now contacts the Police and offers to help them in their case. The Police accept the offer, they also drop off Donlevy's overcoat which he had forgotten at the Police Station. Now he needs to get cleaned up for his date with the pretty Miss Howard in Room 13.
Donlevy and Howard have a night out on the town and stop at the club to catch Miss Bayard's act. We find out that Miss Bayard has been stepping out on her gangster boyfriend, Merinow, with a young playboy type. Donlevy also discovers the package in his overcoat. Now he must decide how to play the angle.
The game of cat and mouse now starts as Donlevy tells Merinow that he does indeed have the missing plates. He is willing to hand them over for a piece of the action. He figures that Merinow is not the big boss, and says he will only hand the plates to whoever is in charge. He also finds time to question Miss Bayard about the murder in the States she is wanted for. Bayard claims the killing was in self-defence. She also makes a few moves on our P.I. The straps on her slinky gown always seem to be "slipping off".
Now we have cross and double cross popping up all over the place. The playboy type has managed to get hold of the plates and offers them to Merinow. Donlevy had left them with Miss Howard for safe keeping. Miss Howard though turns out to be keeping time with the gigolo as well. The plates turn out to be blank and Merinow quickly puts the gigolo in the closet. Then, we find out that Miss Howard is really the big cheese in the counterfeiting ring.
Needless to say numerous guns are produced and shots exchanged with Merinow, Howard and Bayard each collecting some unneeded heavy metal. Bayard survives and is soon proved innocent by Donlevy of the State-side killing. It seems that Howard had been the one who hired Donlevy by mail. It was all part of a long winded plan to take control of the counterfeit ring.
I find it difficult to decide if this is nifty unseen, gem, or a ratty el-cheapo south of the border low renter. A bit of both I'm going to say. With a better crew, and a tighter story, this could have been an excellent low renter. Having said that, I have seen far worse films.
Donlevy was at this point in his career, willing to take anything offered work wise. He was still a few years away from HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI and GAMERA THE INVINCIBLE. His work here is solid as he does a good P.I. take. This appears to be the only film Elizabeth Howard ever made. Andrea Bayard some will recall from, CURUCU, BEAST OF THE AMAZON. The main villain, Victor Merinow, was on screen from 1953 to 1977. His only film of note was, MACUMBA LOVE.
The director of this bottom feeder was, Richard E. Cunha. Cunha is well known to fans of low budget 50's sci-fi as the director of, SHE DEMONS, GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN, MISSILE TO THE MOON and FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER.
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