Even for a William Castle movie 13 Frightened Girls! is a lightweight offering. It’s a mildly amusing spy spoof movie featuring a 16-year-old girl amateur spy.
This 1963 movie is unusual for a William Castle movie in not involving any of the elaborate gimmicks that made his movies so much fun. The only thing approaching a gimmick in this one is the use of five different alternative opening sequences for use in different markets. One of the girls has won first prize in Latin and as a reward has been given the privilege of driving the school bus to the railway station from which the girls will depart on their holidays. In the Swedish version it’s the Swedish girl who wins the prize, in the French version it’s the French girl, and so on.
Miss Pittford’s academy for Young Ladies is an exclusive Swiss boarding school reserved solely for the daughters of diplomats, diplomats from all over the world. Her 13 current pupils include girls from Britain, the US, France, Germany, the Soviet Union and even Red China.
The American girl Candace Hull (Kathy Dunn) is to spend the holiday with her father, the US Chargé d'affaires. Of more interest to her even than her father is Wally Sanders (Murray Hamilton), the local CIA bureau chief. Candace has had a crush on Wally for years and now that she is sixteen and considers herself to be a woman she is determined to get Wally.
Unfortunately things have not been going well for Wally and he’s on the point of being recalled to Washington. As an espionage agent he’s proving to be a bit of a washout. Candace decides to save his career. What Wally needs is a star agent, someone who can bring him some spectacular secrets. She figures that a girl attending a boarding school composed entirely of diplomat’s daughters should be in a pretty good position to discover some secrets, and who is going to suspect a 16-year-old girl? So Candace becomes Kitten, spy extraordinaire.
As it happens Candace soon stumbles across some secrets in the Red Chinese embassy, thanks to her friendship with Mai-Ling, the daughter of Khang (Khigh Dhiegh), a top official there. Khang is a Red Chinese master spy, but he’s no match for Kitten. Soon Wally is on top of the world, with the mysterious Kitten feeding him high quality intelligence. Wally has no idea of Kitten’s real identity.
Of course things don’t keep running this smoothly forever and eventually Khang kidnaps Wally’s girlfriend and fellow spy Soldier (yes, she’s called Soldier) and threatens to kill her unless Kitten’s identity is disclosed to him.
Murray Hamilton is quite good as Wally. He’s not your average movie spy. He’s middle-aged and slightly weather-beaten and he’s no glamorous action hero James Bond type. Kathy Dunn is adequate as Candace. This movie represented the high point of her very brief acting career. Khigh Dhiegh has a lot of fun as the villainous Khang. Look out for the glamorous future star of the cult TV series The Champions, Alexandra Bastedo, in a small role as the British girl at Miss Pittford’s Academy.
I’m not sure that this movie was really such a good idea. Castle was very much at home in the horror genre but this is essentially a teen movie and probably needed an even more campy approach than Castle’s. In spite of that it’s still moderately entertaining in a very undemanding way.
This movie is available as part of the William Castle Collection DVD boxed set. Extras on the disc are limited to the five different opening sequences mentioned earlier. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced and is excellent.
This is not a movie that would be worth a purchase but if you’re a William Castle completist it’s possibly worth a rental.