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TV Tuesday: Hammer House of Horror (The Thirteenth Reunion)



Still enjoying my return visit to Hammer House of Horror, I liked the second episode, The Thirteenth Reunion, about the same as the first… perhaps a little more because the ending is stronger. Well, I should say the ending of the main story is stronger. There’s a brief epilogue that could easily have been left on the cutting room floor.

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Until the unnecessary bit, the story does a great job of keeping its mystery, revealing the solution to us at the most opportune time and allowing us the joy of watching the main character, Ruth (Julia Foster), squirm as she figures it out. Overall, the tone is a little more comical, based largely on Foster’s broad performance.

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She’s a reporter for the woman’s page of the newspaper that’s offered the opportunity by her editor, Gwen (Diane Sheridan), to infiltrate a new weight loss program that’s rumored to destroy the self-confidence of its participants. Indeed, the group leader yells and berates women who have lost weight…

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…but praises the men who have gained weight. We’re never in doubt that something fishy is happening, particularly when two men from the morgue start transporting bodies back and forth. Their assistant, Andrew (Gerard Kelly) gets suspicious when he’s not allowed to dress the bodies and connects with Ruth to solve the mystery.

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One of the victims becomes a man whom Ruth meets in class. As they flirt, she writes her phone number on his hand. Later, when his body is discovered headless, it’s this phone number that eventually identifies who he was. That hardly seems like an original idea, but it’s used cleverly here and I like it.

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The Thirteenth Reunion is a tamer episode than Witching Time; this means there’s no nudity. You could also say it’s more driven by its story than its situation. If television shows really do improve over time, we’re heading toward the best one yet. You’ll have to read about Rude Awakening next week, though, same time and channel.

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Hammer Horror Film Connections:

  • Norman Bird appeared in Hands of the Ripper

  • George Innes appeared in Scars of Dracula

  • Michael Latimer appeared in Prehistoric Women

  • Kevin Stoney appeared in Cash on Demand and The Shadow of the Cat

  • Jeremy Burnham wrote The Horror of Frankenstein

  • Peter Sasdy directed Taste the Blood of Dracula, Countess Dracula and Hands of the Ripper

Season 1

Episode 2

Written by Jeremy Burnham

Directed by Peter Sasdy

Starring Julia Foster, Dinah Sheridan, Richard Pearson, Norman Bird, George Innes, James Cosmo, Warren Clarke, Gerard Kelly, Michael Latimer, Kevin Stoney Aired September 20, 1980 (UK) RT 52 min.

Home Video Synapse Films (Blu-ray)

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