Finally a William Castle movie I haven’t seen. I thought I had seen them all and enjoyed all the gimmicks. There comes a time when you want a little showmanship in your thriller or horror movie which is exactly what we get in 13 Frightened Girls! Castle was no dummy and in 1963 (3 years after 13 Ghosts scared up the box office), he released a movie that played on the title with an iconic Castle gimmick that is barely a foot note in the entire movie. It’s perhaps his most unsuccessful gimmick. Perhaps too light-hearted to feel relevant today. I’ve even read that he want on a multi-country tour with 13 girls who were supposedly representing the 13 girls in the movie. Of course he didn’t find 13 girls from 13 different countries; the great showman lives on.
13 Frightened Girls! Is an espionage picture first and foremost which seems like a stretch for Castle’s usual haunted house, mad scientist fare? Of course the protagonist is one of the 13 girls, the American girl, who falls into the role of spy by accident. Her world changes as the other side, Red China, comes knocking for her. This almost sounds like a children’s Hitchcock movie. Well it comes off charming and funny, but without startle or a scare. The opening sequence is completely devoid of connection to the rest of the picture (the only part of the movie featuring 13 girls, frightened on a bus with a goddamn tarantula on the window).
The shining star… the beacon and the highlight for me is seeing Murray Hamilton, pre-Jaws and post-Twilight Zone. I love this guy. He’s got a good face (as they say), and he’s actually quite funny. That’s probably why he was perfect in his role in the movie Jaws. He plays a spy with a job on the line and the object of the 16 year old girl’s affection. 16 years old… it must’ve been quite a different time in 1963. How scandalous!
This disc comes equipped with a couple trailers and the original gimmick William Castle intro and exit. He explains that the audience member was given a little card and that by wetting the card the audience member might reveal a secret message… DANGER… which entitles the “winning” member to a prize in the lobby from the theater. It’s so out of the context of the film that it feels as gimmicky as it sounds (as opposed to the electro buzzed seats of the Tingler or Emergo for House on Haunted Hill). The cover is the classic movie poster which is perfect except that it’s on the Sony Choice Collection background (a pet peeve of mine).
You can pick up 13 Frightened Girls! NOW! It’s not exactly Castle’s finest hour, but for a non-horror picture with a moderately fun plot and the chance to see Hamilton redeem himself in lieu of the reverse karmic misfortune of allowing the beaches to stay open in Amityville, well… it’s worth a shot.