The Thirteenth Guest has a lot of problems, but its biggest failing is Frances Hyland’s script. Hyland doesn’t just have a lot of logic problems, he also has a bunch of lousy humor. There’s Paul Hurst’s moronic police detective, who Hyland relies on for Guest‘s version of comic relief. Hurst whines a lot and annoys J. Farrell MacDonald, who should be a lot better as his superior. Why isn’t MacDonald better? Because Hyland writes in a bunch of jokes about MacDonald being upset about eccentric wealthy people.
But the dumbest part of Hyland’s script has to be protagonist Lyle Talbot’s passionate anti-murder position. He just can’t stand murder… as opposed to being pro-murder. But Hyland also decides to make the dapper Talbot a reluctant genius detective. So, while Talbot can’t stand murder, he apparently can’t stand having to solve murder cases even more.
Still, Talbot gives a strong performance and, at times, he nearly makes Guest worthwhile. There are some other good supporting performances from James Eagles and Frances Rich. In the other lead role, Ginger Rogers is somewhat ineffective. She’s a lot better in her first scene than she is in the rest of the picture.
Ray’s direction isn’t bad, but Leete Renick Brown’s editing is terrible. The low budget hurts Guest quite a bit. Ray isn’t able to establish any settings. It all looks too cheap in daylight.
Guest should have a compelling narrative, but the budget keeps those involved from taking advantage of it.
Directed by Albert Ray; screenplay by Frances Hyland, based on the novel by Armitage Trail; directors of photography, Tom Galligan and Harry Neumann; edited by Leete Renick Brown; produced by M.H. Hoffman; released by Monogram Pictures.
Starring Lyle Talbot (Phil Winston), Ginger Rogers (Marie Morgan), J. Farrell MacDonald (Police Capt. Ryan), Paul Hurst (Detective Grump), Erville Alderson (Uncle John Adams), Ethel Wales (Aunt Jane Thornton), James Eagles (Harold ‘Bud’ Morgan), Crauford Kent (Dr. Sherwood), Eddie Phillips (Thor Jensen), Frances Rich (Marjorie Thornton) and Phillips Smalley (Uncle Dick Thornton).