Directed by William Castle in 1963 and written by Robert Dillon, 13 Frightened Girls (which was originally titled Candy Web) takes place primarily at Miss Pittford's Academy, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in Switzerland, obviously run by Miss Pittford (Norma Varden). Here, the daughters of wealthy socialites and elitist politicians from the world over are given a top notch education. Here we meet a student named Candy (Kathy Dunn), an American. When the class heads into town to visit their fathers, all of whom seem to work at various embassies, Candy and her friend Mai-Ling (Lynne Sue Moon) discover that a secret agent has been murdered.
No normally you'd think Candy would run to Miss Pittford but no, instead she reports the murder to the authorities using the name ‘Kitten' to keep her true identity hidden. This brings ‘Kitten' to the attention of the different diplomats working in the area, and when a Russian spy also turns up dead, various players on the scene start to wonder who this ‘Kitten' really is and what she's really up to. Candy, on the other hand, is determined to uncover the truth behind the killing, and she gets some help from a spy named Wally Sanders (Murray Hamilton), who is connected to her father (Hugh Marlowe). What she doesn't realize is just how much real danger she is going to find herself in the more she keeps sticking her nose into this…
This is an entertaining enough picture if you're in the right frame of mind for it but don't go into 13 Frightened Girls expecting much of anything in the way of scares. The title implies a lot more than the movie actually delivers and then only time we actually get thirteen frightened girls all at once in the movie is when Candy winds up driving the different international attendees of the school in a bus. That's about it, and there's actually fifteen girls, not thirteen. This is not a horror movie by anyone's standards, it's an espionage picture starring a bunch of teenybopper girls. If you're in the right frame of mind for it though, and go in with the proper expectations, you'll probably get a kick out of it even if it's unlikely to ever make anyone's ‘best of' list. This is disposable, light, fluffy entertainment.
Castle keeps things moving at a decent enough pace and the photography in the movie is nice. Here he makes good use of color, the girls' uniforms sometimes contrasting in interesting ways with the sets and locations used throughout the duration of the picture. At times this feels like an older live action Disney adventure movie with some spy related hijinks thrown in to keep things interesting. The cast are okay, Kathy Dunn is likeable enough as the primary lead, she plays her part with enough confidence that despite the improbability of the concept as a whole, she makes for a decent enough ‘junior spy.' The movie also deals in some interesting ways with the Cold War that was obviously still going on at the time, which dates the picture and maybe adds a layer of predictability to it for those of us old enough or well versed in history enough to be familiar with the politics of the era.
This is obviously something that was geared towards a younger audience when first released, so keep that in mind. Tween girls will probably get more out of it than anyone else, and that would seem to be the target Castle was going for here, but if you enjoy family friendly adventure stories crammed with some appealing sixties kitsch and some goofy spy movie trappings, this is an easy, breezy and completely disposable slice of entertainment.
13 Frightened Girls is presented on this MOD/DVD-R from Sony framed at 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is decent and it's safe to assume that this transfer is the same as the one that was released a few years ago. It's a bit soft in spots, which would appear to stem back to the original photography, but colors are fairly vivid and well produced. There are no issues with edge enhancement or noise reduction and print damage is held firmly in check. Not an amazing image, one that leaves some room for improvement, but certainly an acceptable, if slightly outdated, transfer of an older picture made on a modest budget.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital Mono track, there are no alternate languages, subtitles or closed captioning options of any kind provided here. The quality of the track is fine. Dialogue stays clean and clear and while things lean towards the flat side, this seems like a reasonably accurate representation of how the movie should sound. The score has a bit of depth here and there and the effects sound good while the track shows consistently well balanced levels from start to finish.
Extras are identical to the pressed disc that appeared as part of The William Castle Film Collection boxed set release from a few years ago. That means you'll find an original theatrical trailer for the film, a British trailer introduction, the Candy Web trailer, the Candy Web" theatrical opening message from Castle, the Candy Web theatrical closing message from Castle and alternate openings from the film from British, Swedish, French and German sources.
13 Frightened Girls isn't the horror movie you'd expect from a title like that and from a director like William Castle, but it is a fun and entertaining James Bond inspired teen movie. It probably hit some of the right notes when it played theaters back in the sixties and while it's more than a little dated by anyone's standards, that there is half of its charm. Sony's MOD/DVD-R release is seemingly a clone of the out of print disc, making it more affordable than tracking down that release. Recommended for Castle fans, a fun rental for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.