The Mystery of the 13th Guest Film Details
Overview: A woman of twenty-one opens her grandfather’s will left to her thirteen years earlier, per his instructions. Murder soon follows.
Tagline: IT’S MURDER!…and it’s HORRIFIC!
Review: An Agatha Christie-type old dark house murder mystery, but not by her. The premise is pretty cool: thirteen years ago Grandfather Morgan (Lloyd Ingraham) reads his will to twelve dinner party guests. He doesn’t like any of them, neither family nor associates–so he leaves everything to eight year old Marie (Shirley Jean Anderson) when she turns twenty-one (subsequently played by Helen Parrish). Once back in the present, though, the twelve guests start turning up dead, their bodies appearing in the same spots as at that fateful dinner table. We get some meddling outsiders in the mix; there’s private investigator Johnny (Dick Powell), Lieutenant Burke (Jim Ryan), detective Speed Dugan (Frank Faylen), the D.A., (Addison Richards). Marie is a suspect, as she has an interest in defending her inheritance; plus she discovered the first body. But then there’s her relations Harold, Margery, and Adam (Johnny Duncan, Jacqueline Dalya, and Paul McVey). Not to mention cousin Tom Jackson (John Dawson). Marie recalls that long-ago gathering at the table. A man is skulking around in another room. Investigating, she hears a noise like a gunshot; in a darkened room, we hear her scream, then see her struggle and feint. Burke and Speed take her call. Strangely, though, it looks like Marie is the corpse. She’s sitting at the infamous table, immobile. The doctor says she was electrocuted. At the D.A.’s office, Burke figures they should lock up the whole family–on the theory that one of them must be the killer. With the cops staking out the house, the mystery man moves about again; we see him in the basement. Speed, dolt that he is, flees. He summons Burke, but by the time they return to the house, they find Barksdale, dead in his assigned seat at the table. Now, a real shocker (not an electric one, though): Marie shows up, very alive. The dead woman was a look-alike. In fact, she was a deliberate look-alike, as the corpse reveals that if had plastic surgery done. Marie, in the library, goes to make a call; the masked man is fiddling with the phone wiring, so, no dice. Now she has the feeling that Uncle Adam might be the bad guy. Anyway, more relations show up: Harold, Adam, and Margery. “We’d all cut each other’s throats for a dime,” comments Margery. Now we get the everyone in the same room scene, with Johnny presiding; the result is that they all go to jail. How can a private detective arrest people? Johnny calls Burke with the news. But, later, it’s Burke who has the news: another murder at the house. How’s that possible? Johnny’s giving more orders: to turn the family loose. I suppose to smoke out the murderer. Burke figures that the killer set up the murder before everyone was taken to jail; that’s doubly a good deduction, as the corpse wasn’t seated at the table–no time for staging. As we learn more details, Marie is csught off-guard, grabbed by a masked assailant, and hustled into a basement via a trap door. Tom is attacked by Harold; he was lurking in the same room. Suddenly, he’s in the hot seat. Johnny convinces Burke that Tom was just trying to help Marie. They enter the basement and free Marie, but the culprit runs off. But he doesn’t get away clean. Disguise ripped off, we see it’s Uncle Adam. That’s our mystery. We tie things up with Marie reading a note from Grandpa, explaining that her family is indeed nuts. The only unresolved issue is Johnny making the moves on Marie; he seems to be getting somewhere, so we’ll leave them to it. Nicely done. Everything snaps into place here. The plot has a clever surprise (Marie’s coming back to ‘life’), and it’s hard to pick the guilty diner party-pooper. Watching it over again, Marie’s off-hand comment about Adam shows that a seed of suspicion is planted; but for much of the second part of the movie, it’s Tom who seems the likely suspect. It seems that he was the one that helped the look-alike get fixed up to resemble Marie. A huge red herring, well-played. Just as much as the plot lays out a good story, the performances are very consistent, meshing very well. Parrish makes a convincing leading lady–smart, but vulnerable. That creates an opening for Powell’s wise-guy bravado to help her out, just as she softens his edges a bit. Ryan and Faylen make a good mis-matched couple of cops. It’s great to watch Faylen irk Ryan so much with his antics. As clownish as Speed is, though, he’s the one who actually nabs Uncle Adam. Dalya’s character exemplifies the disdain that the old man had for his family; her role is very small, but it only takes a few of her quips to give us what we need to know. In a brief movie like this, pacing is critical; Mystery of the 13th Guest moves as quickly as possible, keeping our attention with wit and flair.
Country: United States
Duration: 60 min
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Romance
Also known as: The Mystery of the 13th Guest,El huésped número 13