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13 Frightened Girls

13 Frightened Girls(1963)

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13 Frightened Girls (1963)

Never one to employ half measures, "King of the Gimmick" William Castle staged an international beauty contest to cast his espionage comedy 13 Frightened Girls! (1963). Forsaking the Gothic excesses of Macabre (1958), The House on Haunted Hill (1959), and The Tingler (1959), Castle and screenwriter Robert Dillon (who later penned the grueling French Connection II [1975]), working from an original story by film critic Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., camped onto the vogue for espionage films spawned by Eon Productions' James Bond franchise, starring Sean Connery. Set against the backdrop of several international capital cities (but filmed squarely on the Colombia Pictures backlot, with Lake Arrowhead doubling for Switzerland), 13 Frightened Girls! focuses on the Nancy Drew-like peregrinations of the teenage daughter (Kathy Dunn, from the Broadway run of The Sound of Music) of an American diplomat (Hugh Marlow), who becomes an amateur spy to salvage the career of foundering secret op Murray Hamilton (in Jack Lemmon mode). Getting a jump on TV's The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Castle's comedy alternates lighthearted intrigue with moments of unsettling violence (a body hung on a meat hook, a Soviet spy falling to his death Saboteur style) while introducing a bevy of international beauties, among them Judy Pace (Cotton Comes to Harlem, Brian's Song) and the late Alexandra Bastedo who, a decade later, would head the cast of the Euro-cult favorite The Blood Spattered Bride (1972).

By Richard Harland Smith

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