Thursday, February 4, 2016

"13 Frightened Girls" (1963) d/ William Castle

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Contrary to popular belief, this one isn't about what's on Bill Cosby's voicemail. Instead, it's another offering from the schlock king, William Castle, some extremely light espionage fare that saw the filmmaker put out a worldwide casting call for the prettiest girls from thirteen countries for the production, filming slightly different versions showcasing each girl for their respective homeland. Personally, I would have rathered a plastic skeleton on a wire or a cheap joy buzzer under my theater seat, but that's just me. On board for this cold war Gidget Goes Mata Hari, are the likes of Murray Hamilton, who you'll remember as the mayor of Shark City in Jaws (1975), and Emil Sitka, who you may recall catching a custard pie or two in the mush throughout many Three Stooges shorts. In the lead is Kathy Dunn, who would go on to appear on Days of Our Lives in 1965. The story goes like this...

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"Think of it as payback for the days of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force..."
Candy (Kathy Dunn) is the teenage daughter of an American ambassador, who's home on vacation from a prestigious finishing school with thirteen (fifteen, if you're actually paying attention) other international beauties. She's hopelessly in love with a C.I.A. agent named Wally (Murray Hamilton), a friend of her father's  who's already engaged to one of his colleagues nicknamed "Soldier" (Joyce Taylor) and old enough to be her Uncle Vaughn, the mayor of Amity Island...alright, alright,  no more Jaws jokes. Anyway, Wally's been slacking with his spying, and Candy eavesdrops on her old man (Hugh Marlowe) chewing him a new one during the chauffeured family ride, and if he doesn't provide some valuable information on a cat named Kagenescu pron-fuckin'-to, he'll be forced to seek employment elsewhere. I hear Amity Island is electing a new mayor soon, buddy. Candy vetoes the haughty tennis matches,  formal parties, and hours endlessly yapping on the phone to boys that normally comprises the vacation of a diplomat's daughter, and decides to help her unrequited love keep his job by becoming a secret agent named "Kitten". She dips her pet cat's paw in ink and signs her anonymous tip notes with its paw, too. What an adorable little coquette.

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"...but Alex Kintner was supposed to be my prom date!", sobs Candy (Kathy Dunn).
Naturally, nobody in the entire American embassy can figure out who "Kitten" is, as she gathers more secret information than any agent under employment by the country. She's visiting Mai-Ling (Lynne Sue Moon), the Chinese communist friend she ought not have, when she stumbles upon Kagenescu's body hung on a meat hook in the basement, with her father's letter opener sunk into his bread basket, gathers the murder weapon, avoids detection by crawling on all fours (apparently, the Chinese are incapable of looking down when they're searching for someone), and delivers the vital evidence to dad anonymously through Wally. She courageously thwarts a planned student uprising by vamping it up for a Russian fellow masquerading as a Swede at his apartment, even sending him plummeting from the balcony to his death just as he's about to do the same to her. I can't see Sandra Dee pulling that one off. Things eventually heat up to where those sneaky Chinese kidnap "Soldier", demanding "Kitten" in exchange, hiring a super secret agent named "The Spider" to remove the pesky operative from the Asian equation. Does Candy get eighty-sixed on the job? See this one for yourselves and find out.

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"Steam rice extra unless you buy combo!", exclaims Mai-Ling (Lynne Sue Moon).
Even by Castle's usually pretty tame standards, this one is torentially drippy and twice as bathetic as an hour and a half of Gidget reruns on Antenna TV, save for a few moments where Candy discovers the hanging corpse. Unless you've taken a fancy to Ms. Dunn, who resembles an early sixties version of Miley Cyrus, this is rough terrain for most genre folks to tread, I'd imagine. Castle completists will want to check it out, certainly, but speaking as one, myself, and somebody who's not entirely opposed to watching goofy shit now and again (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as an example...), I didn't draw much from it. Two Wops seems like a good fit for this baker's dozen of chicks, none of which seemed all that frightened by anything that transpired throughout the movie. Unfortunately, that's something we had in common.

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"Cry all you want. I'm taking you to Cleveland."
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