25 June 2016 | robert-temple-1
Myrna Loy is really scary in this rarity
This is a very unusual film, not least because Myrna Loy, best known for cheerier films, here plays an extremely sinister character. What is more surprising is that she is extremely convincing in that kind of role. There must have been another side to Myrna! Even more unusual, she plays an Anglo-Indian woman. For those who don't know, that means people who were born in India during the Raj who were half English and half Indian. The Anglo-Indians experienced a great deal of prejudice in India because they were not accepted by the Indians, being 'half-breeds', and were also looked upon as inferior by the English. Here, Myrna has a huge chip on her shoulder and is obsessed with resentment at having been treated in a humiliating manner at her boarding school by the other girls. She is, not to put too fine a point on it, dangerously mad. She is determined to get even despite the fact that it is so many years later. She tracks down the other twelve 'girls', now obviously women, and starts killing them one by one. I first came across this film under the title TREIZE FEMMES ('thirteen women'), and wrongly dated 1936, as a DVD release in the RKO Series by Editions Montparnasse in Paris. On its rear cover is the boast, in the form of a quote from Serge Bromberg: 'A rarity never distributed in France' (in French of course.). Well, things have changed, it is now widely available, as more and more forgotten old movies get released. Another reason for the French to get excited was that the film was directed by the French-born director George Archainbaud, who emigrated to America when he was 25 and became a director of 146 films, including the TV series THE LONE RANGER (1949-50), HOPALONG CASSIDY (1952-54), ANNIE OAKLEY (1954-57), and a host of other such Americana. He was therefore very drastically 'un-Frenched' in his new environment, something that the French find incomprehensible, fascinating, and also alarming. The film includes a somewhat subdued performance by Irene Dunne, who four years later would become an eternal icon for her starring role in SHOW BOAT (1936). Both Irene Dunne and Myrna Loy doubled up and played two of the other twelve girls who were minor characters, though this was not revealed in the credits. Another interesting feature of this film is that Myrna uses hypnotic powers to wreak her vengeance. Spell-binding stuff!