13 Frightened Girls (1963)

13 Frightened Girls (1963)

“The cover’s unbelievable — it’s a natural, the dream of a lifetime. The daughter of a diplomat can go anywhere she wants!”

The daughter (Kathy Dunn) of an American diplomat (Hugh Marlowe) acts as a spy in order to protect the job of her secret agent crush, Wally (Murray Hamilton).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Amateur Sleuths
  • Cold War
  • Hugh Marlowe Films
  • Spies
  • Teenagers
  • William Castle Films

Three years after directing the gimmicky horror flick 13 Ghosts (1960), schlockmeister William Castle returned to the selling power of this infamously unlucky number with his 13 Frightened Girls — strictly a marketing ploy, since the “13 girls” (beautiful daughters of diplomats from around the world) don’t make a meaningful appearance en masse until the final moments of the film, at which point they’re giddy rather than frightened. Instead, 13 Frightened Girls turns out to be an unrealistic yet fluffily enjoyable tale of a teenage Mata Hari — code name “Kitten” — who is conveniently able to discover one valuable state secret after the other through her friends.

Kathy Dunn — Louisa in the original Broadway version of “The Sound of Music” — is excellent in the lead role: her cheery good looks, blonde tresses, and all-around pluck are reminiscent of her more famous counterpart, Hayley Mills. Though she finds herself in a heap of trouble again and again — and some scenes are genuinely tense — the film’s cartoonish score fortunately reassures us that our heroine won’t ever suffer serious harm. If you’re able to accept the improbable details of the story (why are all the diplomats’ children teenage girls of the same age?); awful performances by the “girls” (most of their acting careers went nowhere after this film); and occasionally stilted dialogue (“Candy, you must go– There is much danger!”), you might find yourself guiltily enjoying this innocuous Cold War trifle.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Kathy Dunn’s appealing, energetic performance in the lead role
  • A fun, if highly unrealistic, “Nancy Drew” premise

Must See?
No. It’s not clear why Peary includes this enjoyable yet minor title in the back of his book, other than its status as a film directed by William Castle.


One thought on “13 Frightened Girls (1963)

  1. Not a must–

    –but, oo, how Nancy Drew! In total agreement with the assessment here – and, yes, Dunn keeps things bearable for the most part. But the fact that Castle directed seems to be what led Peary to include it. It’s a forgotten piece of adolescent fluff and I can’t imagine anyone going to great lengths to even establish cult status for it.

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