About two minutes after I finished watching Mystery of the 13th Guest, I realized no one ever solves the titular mystery. There’s a mysterious thirteenth guest in the first scene; the guest is absent and his or her identity is never revealed. Tim Ryan’s police lieutenant is supposed to be sort of dumb (but smarter than his hilarious, completely moronic–and narcoleptic–sidekick Frank Faylen), but Dick Purcell’s private investigator is supposed to walk on water and he never mentions it either.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film where the title introduces a mystery totally unrelated to the film’s actual plot. 13th Guest‘s mystery is a relatively simple one–which family member is killing off the other family members to get an inheritance. Nothing to do with the missing thirteenth guest.
The mystery itself isn’t bad, but the plot is idiotic. Ryan and Purcell discover the murderer’s method of electrocuting his victims and they leave it set up because they’re too busy. They also don’t tell anyone.
It doesn’t help Purcell’s just terrible. Ryan’s not very good, but he’s competent. Purcell makes the film a chore to get through–the necessity of a solid character investigating a mystery is now clear to me.
Beaudine is an inoffensive director. He doesn’t bring anything to the film but doesn’t take anything away. Unfortunately, that description also broadly applies to the film. Damsel in distress Helen Parrish, for example, is genially useless.
The best performances are Lloyd Ingraham and Jacqueline Dalya in very small roles.
Directed by William Beaudine; screenplay by Tim Ryan, Charles R. Marion and Arthur Hoerl, based on a novel by Armitage Trail; director of photography, Mack Stengler; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by Lindsley Parsons; released by Monogram Pictures.
Starring Dick Purcell (Johnny Smith), Helen Parrish (Marie Morgan), Tim Ryan (Police Lt. Burke), Frank Faylen (Speed Dugan), Johnny Duncan (Harold Morgan), Jon Dawson (Tom Jackson), Paul McVey (Adam Morgan), Jacqueline Dalya (Marjory Morgan), Cyril Ring (Barksdale) and Addison Richards (Jim, District Attorney).