director William Castle
For my little William Castle mini-marathon, I decided to watch his films that I hadn’t seen and I chose to watch them in order of the available movies from Fearnet. While 13 Frightened Girls sounds vaguely like 13 Ghosts (1960) in title, it’s actually quite the departure in content and style.
First off, it’s not a horror film at all, but a kids spy movie, light, comical, whimsical, and with no William Castle gimmick to be seen. It’s about 13 girls (I guess that the gimmick was in the casting of the 13 young women) who are the daughters of diplomats from around the world. They go to a school together, like tween Madelines, but all the fun happens when they go on break and back to their London embassies.
The intrigue surrounds the American “Candy” who is in puppy love with Wally, her father’s top spy operative. Overhearing a blip of information about a Soviet who wants to seek asylum, Kathy finds herself in madcap dangers, in visiting her friend from “Red” China, Mai-Ling, whose uncle and his henchmen have killed the asylum-seeker, apparently to keep some Cold War secrets secret.
You know, it’s super silly, aimed at a pretty young audience, playing off of the kittenish cattyness of young teenage girls from a much more innocent age. The intrigue is pretty whimsical too. It may not be great by any estimate, but it’s actually kind of cute. Actually maybe it’s pretty cute. Saccharine too, but cute.
It’s kind of funny because there are stereotypes upon stereotypes as you would expect in a 1963 image of representatives of the world, etched in super short-hand. But it’s not nearly as offensive as it could have been. Perhaps it’s not too bad in that department.
It’s interesting because the girls from the Communist countries like Russia and China and (Germany?) are cliquish but they exclude Mai-Ling mainly because she is the youngest girl at the school. So Candy genuinely befriends her, though she gets up to all kinds of mischief in her striving to solve the mysteries. And in the end, when the girls are separated by the clashing ideologies and suspicious adults, there is a mild sadness in this friendship between two girls from these very different worlds.
The film is not all that deep in any area, but I did think it was kind of interesting, it’s playing with these various cultural images, particularly at the point in the Cold War that the film was made. It’s far from profound but it was kind of sweet. I actually kind of wished I’d watched it with Clara. I think she would have liked it.