Two New MODs from the World’s Most Prolific Director
Known as “the world’s most prolific director,” William Beaudine directed over 350 films—some believe his output was closer to 500 films. In addition, he directed scores of television shows. Reportedly, studios loved Beaudine because his movies nearly always came in on-time and under-budget. More a factory supervisor than an artist, Beaudine is likely to have contributed more b-movies to Hollywood’s vast catalog than any other director. The MGM Limited Edition Collection includes quite a few Beaudine titles, and two have recently been added: The Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943) and One Thrilling Night (1942).
Both The Mystery of the 13th Guest and One Thrilling Night include elements familiar to Beaudine fans—a serious subject (murder) that appears to be a mystery but is actually comedic, stereotypical (often cartoonish) characters, an idiotic police force, one intelligent male “outsider,” and a love interest for the smart guy (she’s not always terribly bright, but she will find herself in need of rescue at some point). Oh…and if there are gangsters (as there often are), they have all the snappy dialogue. Most of Beaudine’s films were b-movies, and are enjoyable because they are mercifully short (we can only stand so much improbability).
The Mystery of the 13th Guest is stunning in its total disrespect for police and police procedures. It stars Helen Parrish as young heiress Marie Morgan who is apparently electrocuted early in the film. The murder scene is staged, with the victim seated in one of 13 chairs surrounding a dining table in a house that has been deserted for 13 years. Furniture draped in sheets adds to the ghostly atmosphere, and—strangely—though the house has been vacant for over a decade, the electricity is connected and there’s a working telephone.
The two detectives investigating the case appear to have a half brain between them, and it belongs to Police Lt. Burke (Tim Ryan). The other detective, Speed Dugan (Frank Faylen, aka Dobie Gillis’ father), sleeps his way through much of the film. When Dugan isn’t sleeping, he’s offering idiotic suggestions, prompting the lieutenant to threaten him repeatedly (and to constantly warn him to stay awake). The guy with a brain is private detective Johnny Smith (Dick Purcell). He is hired by Marie’s uncle (Paul McVey) to protect her, for he fears that someone may try to harm her on this evening when her grandfather’s will is to be finally revealed (after thirteen years).
The powers-that-be at the police department must know what morons the cops are because they allow the private detective to investigate the crime scene, participate in interviews, and run down leads independently. The district attorney (Addison Richards) has a better relationship with the PI than with the cops, and allows him free rein.Continued on the next page