The Hour of 13
Cast & Crew
In 1890 London, while Scotland Yard is trying to apprehend "The Terror," a criminal who has been murdering policemen, jewel thief Nicholas Revel discusses his next job with cohorts MacStreet, an insurance appraiser, and cabbie Ernie Perker. The plan calls for Nicky to steal the Calgary Emerald, which is insured by Mac's company, then Ernie will come forward a few days later, saying that he found it in his cab, and the three will split a £5,000 reward. Although Mac and Ernie think Nicky's plan to steal the emerald at an engagement party being given by Scotland Yard chief Sir Herbert Frensham for his daughter Jane is too risky, Nicky convinces them that it is foolproof. On the night of the party, Nicky easily steals the necklace, then, after removing the stone, throws the setting out the window. Unknown to Nicky, a constable patrolling the grounds has just become The Terror's latest victim. When Nicky jumps from the window, he discovers the body, but quickly runs away, not seeing the necklace. The police find the necklace next to the body, and Inspector Connor announces that whoever stole the emerald is also The Terror. Reading the newspaper account, Nicky is only mildly concerned and reassures the nervous Mac and Ernie that they will go through with the insurance plan as soon as Scotland Yard catches The Terror. Some time later, Jane's fiancé, Sir Christopher Lenhurst, is being given a party by members of his regiment. During the drunken revelry, they wager Chris that he cannot steal a policeman's helmet, and Chris accepts the challenge. He finds a helmet on the street and takes it back to the party, not knowing that it fell off the head of another murdered policeman. The next day, Connor is showing Sir Herbert an embroidered "L" on an expensive linen handkerchief found at the murder scene when Jane comes into his office and innocently mentions that she bought it for Chris. When Nicky reads that Chris has been arrested as The Terror, he knows that it is impossible as Chris had been out of the country when two of the crimes took place. He decides to help by appearing at the arraignment and testifies that he was riding in a taxicab when he saw Chris pick up the constable's helmet. His story is corroborated by Ernie, who also comes forward, saying that he was the cab driver. Although Connor is suspicious, Chris is cleared of murder and sentenced to a day in jail for stealing the helmet. When Jane thanks Nicky, he asks her to lunch, where he reveals his plan for capturing The Terror. He proposes that the newspapers report another attack but say that the victim survived and can identify the killer. Jane likes the plan and invites Nicky to dinner to explain it to her father. Sir Herbert also finds merit in it, but Connor dismisses it as too complicated. Because Jane likes Nicky, she offers to help him develop other plans by giving him inside information from Scotland Yard. For the next two weeks, while Chris is confined to quarters, Nicky and Jane see each other every day. Meanwhile, Connor has Nicky investigated, certain that he is both the jewel thief and The Terror. At the end of Chris's confinement, he is jealous when he finds Nicky having dinner with Jane, and relieved when their evening is cut short. Ernie waylays Nicky before he arrives at his flat and tells him that Connor has been inside for some time. Connor reaches the building lobby before Nicky, and a constable tells him that another murder has just taken place between Sir Herbert's house and Nicky's building. Connor then goes back to Nicky's flat and asks him to accompany him for a talk. As Nicky exits the cab they take to Scotland Yard, he gives Ernie a tip, wrapping the paper note around the emerald, which Nicky sneaked out of his flat. During their talk, Connor tells Nicky that The Terror sends postcards to the police before each murder, all postmarked at either 1:00 or 3:00. The next day, while Nicky is waiting for lunch with Jane, Mac shows up, nervously telling Nicky that he now has the emerald but wants to get rid of it. Jane and her father soon join them for lunch and Mac slips the emerald to Nicky. At Scotland Yard, Connor's investigation comes up with information that Mac, though seemingly honest, has been living beyond his means. Later, Jane goes to Nicky's flat and tells him that Connor has been questioning the emerald's insurance appraiser and the case will soon be broken. Nicky is about to tell her the truth about himself, when Chris knocks on the door. He thinks that he has been summoned by Nicky, but actually Connor had lured him to the flat with a phony note. Nicky hides Jane in another room and tells Chris that he has been spending a lot of time with her, then lies that he is not in love and plans not to see her again. After Chris leaves, Jane soon follows, certain that her feelings for Nicky have not been reciprocated. A few minutes later, Ernie arrives, warning Nicky that they must turn themselves in immediately so that they will be in custody when The Terror, who has just sent another postcard, commits another murder that night. Nicky still hopes The Terror will be caught, but to prove how impossible that is, Ernie marks a map, indicating the murder sites spread throughout London. When Nicky looks at the map, he realizes that the marks form most of the letter T and deduces the location of that night's murder. He asks Ernie to obtain a constable's uniform for him, then eludes the police who are watching his flat and goes to the murder site. He tells the patrolling constable that he is the officer's replacement, then takes over the beat. Soon The Terror lunges a sword at Nicky, but misses, after which Nicky chases him into a warehouse. The two scuffle over Nicky's gun, then The Terror falls from the warehouse elevator. A few minutes later, Connor arrives with several policemen, who had been summoned by the suspicious constable Nicky replaced. Before he dies, The Terror, who is recognized by Connor, reveals that he had planned to kill thirteen policemen, one for each year he had been imprisoned. Soon reporters arrive and hail Nicky as a hero. The emerald is found in The Terror's pocket and Connor says that he was sure that the robbery and the murders were connected. Later that night, Nicky is packed to leave his flat when Connor arrives to tell him that Mac has finally confessed everything. As they drive off in a cab, Connor assures Nicky that the courts will not be too hard on him, considering that he caught The Terror.
Howard Emmett Rogers
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
A. W. Watkins
The Hour of 13
First, The Mystery of Mr. X (1934) made the mistake of revealing the killer's identity in the opening credits, an error the producers of The Hour of 13 avoided. Second, The Hour of 13 makes excellent use of several topnotch British actors, including Dawn Addams, Derek Bond, Leslie Dwyer, Michael Hordern, and Colin Gordon by filming at MGM's British studio facilities. Also invaluable was the contribution of John Addison, the prolific scorer of British films who composed and conducted the score for The Hour of 13, along with the participation of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Peter Lawford, who was just a few years away from his escapades with the Sinatra "Rat Pack," makes a stylish, debonair leading man. Though he wasn't particularly fond of The Hour of 13, he did admire the cinematography by Guy Green. "He even managed to make my nose look halfway human, which is a fantastic feat in itself!" Lawford later admitted. In addition to a top notch supporting cast of British character actors, the film also takes full advantage of its London locations. At times the atmospheric recreation of the city during the 1890's is reminiscent of director Carol Reed's Vienna based film, The Third Man (1949).
Director: Harold French
Producer: Hayes Goetz
Screenplay: Leon Gordon, Howard Emmett Rogers, based on the novel X vs. Rex- Mystery of the Dead Police by Martin Porlock
Cinematography: Guy Green
Editor: Raymond Poulton, Robert Watts
Art Direction: Alfred Junge
Music: John Addison
Cast: Peter Lawford (Nicholas Revel), Dawn Addams (Jane Frensham), Roland Culver (Connor), Derek Bond (Sir Christopher Lenhurst), Leslie Dwyer (Ernie Perker), Michael Hordern (Sir Frances Frensham).
by Scott McGee
The Hour of 13
Working titles of the film were Sign of the Eagle, T for Terror and T for Terror (Sign of the Dead Police). Some contemporary sources also listed the title as The Hour of Thirteen. The novel on which The Hour of 13 was based was first published in England in 1933 under the title X v. Rex by Martin Porlock, one of several pseudonyms used by author Philip MacDonald. The 1934 American and all subsequent versions were published under the title Mystery of the Dead Police and ascribed to MacDonald. The film's credits read, "Based on a novel by Philip MacDonald." As noted in the Hollywood Reporter review, The Hour of 13 marked the first lead role for English-born actress Dawn Addams, who had made her film debut in M-G-M's Night into Morning (1951, see below).
The Hour of 13 was shot at M-G-M British Studios. MacDonald's novel was previously filmed by M-G-M in 1934 under the title The Mystery of Mr. X. That version was shot in the United States, directed by Edgar Selwyn and starred Robert Montgomery and Elizabeth Allan. The 1934 and 1952 versions are very similar, although the later version was set in 1890, whereas the 1934 version had a contemporary setting. Additionally, in the earlier version, "Nicholas Revel" and "Jane Frensham" get together at the end.