Movie Review: The Thirteenth Guest (1932)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1932 murder mystery starring Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot.

Synopsis: Thirteen years ago and just prior to his death, Marie Morgan's father held a dinner party and revealed he was leaving the majority of his fortune to a mysterious 13th guest who wasn't in attendance. Summoned back to the house following her 21st birthday, Marie discovers she is the target of a killer seeking to learn the truth about who the 13th guest was and steal her father's money.

Review

It had been a while since I watched a classic murder mystery so, when I had a bit of free time at lunch earlier today, I decided to watch this film, which I've been wanting to see for a while. I didn't know a whole lot about this particular movie, other than the fact it starred Ginger Rogers, and decided to give it a try. As it turns out, it was actually somewhat interesting.

I think the thing that really stood out for me when I watched this film is it had a solid mystery. Basically, we knew two things about the killer. He/she was after the fortune Marie's (Rogers) father left behind and that person attended the dinner party he held thirteen years earlier. What we don't know is whether or not that person was the mysterious (and absent) thirteenth guest and if Marie is the only target or if other family members are also in danger.

Adding to the mystery is the long list of potential suspects. It's obvious most of Marie's relatives don't care for her. And, since they were all at that dinner party, any one of them could be a killer. In fact, even though he seemed genuinely upset when he thought she was dead, I couldn't even rule out her own brother (James Eagles).

There were a couple things about the movie I did find I didn't like. For one, I thought the filmmakers were a little too quick to show how the killer was killing his victims. For me at least, part of the fun of this movie was trying to figure out how people were being electrocuted and the movie would have been better had that part been kept a secret until toward the end.

The movie also had a bit of a "sequel" feel to it. I say this because there were some characters, such as the main protagonist, Phil Winston (Talbot), that were portrayed in a way that made me feel like I was supposed to have watched an earlier film that formally introduced them and gave their backstories. I even ended up looking the film up to see if there was another movie that had the same characters and, as far as I can tell, there wasn't.

While this wasn't a huge deal, the movie was still enjoyable to watch, I did feel like there were a lot of missing pieces as a result. In Winston's case, for example, I really didn't know anything about him. Was he a former police detective? Or, is he just someone who solves mysteries for fun? And, why is he the first person the police captain (MacDonald) calls when there's a murder? Considering the movie is only about an hour in length, adding an extra 10 minutes or so of backstory wouldn't have made it overly long.

The Thirteenth Guest

Guests at a dinner party where the host died reassemble 13 years later.

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Final Opinion

The movie could have taken the time to give us a better introduction to each of the main characters. However, overall, I thought it was a decent mystery and would recommend it if you're looking for a movie in this genre you can watch in about an hour.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 04/13/2017, StevenHelmer
 
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