This obscure, black & white, 80-minute, French murder-mystery concerns a young woman named Beatrice who has been bludgeoned to death and dumped unceremoniously in the woods by thugs at the outset of the film. "Secret File 1413" is complicated whodunit that doesn't boast a rogue's gallery of suspects. Meaning, there aren't any red herrings. A pugnacious private eye named Gilles Cauvin (Jean Danet) sets out to get to the bottom of the dead girl's homicide, but he doesn't have an easy time. Similarly, everything is suitably muddled in this dubbed American-International television release but it all boils down to blackmail. It doesn't help matters that the Sinister Cinema copy of "Secret File 1413" is in pretty rugged shape. You won't find any breathtaking action scenes in this dreary gumshoe yarn. The four quarter high speed chase scene with cops in cars and on motorcycles pursuing the villains in an ambulance to an airfield is as exciting as this lackluster epic gets.
The inquisitive Gilles starts out by following the leading lady, Doris (Claudine Dupuis), to the night club where she performs called Scarlet Angel. Doris and Gilles are old friends, but Gilles is really interested in Doris's young, impressionable sister, Caroline (Françoise Vatel). She explains later to stocky Parisian police inspector Rossi (Henri Vilbert) that she spent the evening with the dead girl. Naturally, suspects lurk in the shadows, and our intrepid, older hero isn't afraid to get his hair mussed. It seems like every time that he has a fight, he throws his opponent down, but then his adversary retaliates with greater force and knocks him out. Meantime, the manager of the night club, Lambert, has an incriminating roll of film that Wanda, one of the dancers, steals from his office. When she examines the film, Wanda snarls with unbridled contempt, "That Snake!" Doris is hiding in Lambert's office when the girl takes the film. Before Doris can get out of the office, Lambert walks in on her, and they discuss her contract over drinks. Later, after Lambert cannot find the film, he dispatches his armed henchmen to retrieve it. He believes that Doris may have it. They visit Gilles and Doris, and beat Gilles up, but they don't find what they are looking for on the premises. This is the second time that Gilles has gotten beaten unconscious. When he awakens, Gilles utters the most memorable line in the movie. When Doris inquires about Gilles' condition, the private eye replies, "Like an elephant has taken up residence in my head. The chief suspect, it turns out, is the manager of the night club where the leading lady works. He is tall, slim, wears sunglasses, and has a mustache. Eventually, he winds up dead himself.
Later, Gilles' partner in his private detective agency, Olivet (Pierre-Louis), is murdered in cold blood by an assailant who picks the lock to his apartment and blasts him at point blank range with a light machine gun. This murder occurs about 38 minutes into the action. Director Alfred Rode doesn't show us the face of the killer. All we know about this anonymous killer is that he wears a white trench coat, white shoes with buckles, and dark pants. Afterward, Gilles makes his partner's son Peter his new partner. Although he refuses to want to help him, Rossi gives Gilles 24 hours to solve the case. Gilles heads off to Doctor Pira's clinic. He is investigating the case that his late partner was looking into about a Mr. Baranger (Pierre Larquey) who has been admitted to Pira's clinic. Rossi and Gilles figure out that Pira is running a blackmail racket along with Lambert. They use girls to slip knock-out drops into a man's liquor and then take pictures of him for blackmail purposes while the mark recovers in Pira's clinic. Earlier, Pira (Jacques Dumesnil) has run Gilles out of a party where Lambert was using Carolina to do his dirty work. The authorities learn that Lambert has been shot to death in his office with a .32 caliber bullet. The guy is still wearing his sunglasses when they find him on the floor. Meanwhile, the villains have an early version of a fax machine and transmit information to a ship offshore. When the information is developed, it appears to be some kind of contraption. Gilles is convinced that Pira murdered Lambert. He heads back to Pira's clinic with Doris. Finally, our hero wins a hand-to-hand fight with one of Pira's guards who catches him outside nosing around the place. Once he enters the premises, Gilles tangles with three of Pira's men and comes out the worst for wear. Pira injects Caroline and cruises off to an airfield with her with Doris is hot pursuit, closely followed by the authorities. The cops and the villains shoot it out with machine guns at the airfield. Eventually, we learn that Doris killed Lambert who had been stealing money from Wanda.
Popular French singer Johnny Hallyday performs one song in the night club where some of the action happens. André Borly's original music enhances this low-key thriller.
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