Monday, January 13, 2014

Triskaidekaphilia: '13 Days to Die' (1965)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

Another discovery from the depths of Amazon's instant video offerings, 13 Days to Die is an Italian-German co-production whose original title translates as The Curse of the Black Ruby. The version I saw was awkwardly dubbed into English, but I doubt that hearing the original dialogue with subtitles would have made this spy thriller any less tedious and soporific. The best thing about the movie is that it was shot in Thailand and features plenty of local color, although deployed in the clumsiest, most obtrusive way possible. Hero Ralph Tracy (Thomas Alder) travels to Thailand at the request of its prince, who hires Tracy to track down a sacred necklace that was stolen from a museum. The thieves have been sending the prince one jewel from the necklace a day, with the warning that after the 13th jewel is sent, the prince will die (hence the movie's English-language title).

It's not clear exactly what Tracy's profession is -- he appears to be some sort of secret agent, but his services are also obviously for hire. Whatever he is, he's presented as pretty much the world's greatest human being. He handily dispatches all of the bad guy's henchmen in the poorly choreographed fight scenes (in which punches always land somewhere in midair), solves the convoluted mystery with ease, wrestles both a tiger and a crocodile, outwits diabolical geniuses and heads of state, and resists the charms of the beautiful Thai museum director/secret princess (er, spoiler alert). He has two sidekicks who provide extra brawn but seem mostly superfluous; mainly their function is to serve as a sounding board for Tracy's awesomeness. The movie's theme song consists entirely of jaunty instrumental music with the words "Ralph Tracy" whispered at regular intervals.

Of course, Ralph Tracy is really Rolf Torring in the movie's original German, which does sound sexier. And despite the copious fight scenes, the Thai scenery and the presence of various exotic animals, 13 Days to Die is terminally boring. The plot is needlessly complicated, the dialogue is bland and delivered poorly by the voiceover actors, and the shooting style is haphazard and sloppy (also, Amazon's version is in black and white for some reason, even though the movie is in color). It actually took me two days to finish watching the 99-minute movie because I kept falling asleep. It would be nice to say that this was a hidden gem worth wading through many pages of Amazon search results to find, but the truth is that it probably deserves to stay hidden.

No comments: