Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Hour of 13 (1952)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios always had a flair for making period films, especially those with a Victorian setting.....and they made quite a number of them, too. Being quite a savvy production company, they also discovered that a good script is worth repeating. Hence, many of the Victorian-era thrillers that the studio made in the 1930s and 1940s were later remade. One such film was The Mystery of Mr. X (1935) which they remade in 1952 under the title The Hour of 13

Robert Montgomery starred in the original film as dapper gentleman thief Nicholas Revel. A killer known as "Mr. X" is on the loose in London targeting police constables. By a strange coincidence, his latest killing occurred the same night and in the same location as one of Revel's latest robberies. In order to clear his name, Revel decides to play an amateur detective and track down the fiend himself, all the while dodging the suspicious eye of Police Commissioner Sir Herbert Frensham (Henry Stephenson). 

The Mystery of Mr. X was based on the novel "X vs Rex", written by Philip MacDonald (The List of Adrian Messenger). Howard Emmett Rogers worked it into a quick and thrilling script and MGM had another winning Robert Montgomery picture in the theaters. 

What works once can work again, hence, seventeen years later, producer Hayes Goetz blew the dust off the script and hired screenwriter Leon Gordon to rework it into a vehicle for MGM's young star, Peter Lawford. What resulted was a charming gaslit London mystery that holds up quite well for its age. 

This time, Nicholas Revel is tracking down the killer known as The Terror. The police - primarily Inspector Connor (Roland Culver), believe that if they find the thief who stole Lady Elmbridge's emerald, they find the Terror. Since Revel stole the emerald, he wants the real Terror caught before they fence him in for a series of murders he did not commit. 

The Hour of 13 was made at the MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, England and, while there are not many location scenes, the film sets are excellent and perfectly evoke that Jack-the-Ripper setting of old London. 

Peter Lawford is not my idea of a gentleman thief (Stewart Granger would have been excellent in this part) but he is surprisingly good. In fact, it would have been nice to see him in a series of Nicholas Revel mysteries. Playing his leading lady is English actress Dawn Addams who had a long career with MGM and an even longer career working in television. Also in the cast is Michael Hordern as Sir Henry Frensham, Derek Bond, Leslie Dwyer, and Colin Gordon. 

The Hour of 13 is available on DVD via Warner Archives.


  1. I'm always up for a Peter Lawford film -- especially one that's new-to-me! Thank you for sharing both of these (as I'm also a huge Robert Montgomery fan)!