Dr. Paul Laurent (Charles Boyer) has just returned from a convention in Montreal to his small village in Quebec Province. His wife, Cora (Constance Smith) is at the hospital arguing with her older sister Marie Corbin (Judith Evelyn). Marie believes her sister has been flirting too much with some of the younger men in town, especially Dr. Pearson (Michael Rennie). Cora accuses her sister of being jealous because Paul married her instead of Marie. At one time Paul and Marie had been engaged.
Cora is not the only one who flirts with Pearson. Denise Turner (Linda Darnell), his landlord’s oldest daughter, feigns illnesses just to see him. So far Pearson hasn’t been interested in anyone. All of a sudden people in town start receiving anonymous letters accusing Dr. Pearson of having an affair with Cora Laurent. Cora received one and Paul received one. The letter also says that the town should get rid of Dr. Pearson. Soon others are receiving letters accusing them of various sins.
People start accusing each other of being responsible for the letters. Dr. Pearson believes that someone unbalanced is guilty of writing them. He and Paul discuss the situation. Paul begins an investigation into the psychosis of the letter writer. After a while the letters go from being a slight nuisance to being very troublesome.
Then a hospitalized war hero receives a letter telling him that the doctors have been lying to him and he really has an incurable cancer. The paranoid man slices his own throat. Those that understand what the young man was going through believe it is willful murder. Now that the stakes are high it is more important than ever to find who is tearing this normally quiet town apart.
“The 13th Letter” was released in 1951 and was directed by Otto Preminger. It is an American film noir and is a remake of the French film “Le Corbeau” (The Raven) that was done in 1943 and was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.
Many believe the remake is a pale comparison to the original film. If you have not been exposed to “Le Corbeau” then you don’t know what to expect in the remake. As a noir film “The 13th Letter” is actually really good and underrated. I found the film to be engrossing. It may not be as intense as the original but taken as its own it is still an interesting and well done mystery. The remake focuses on the main characters and their relationships with each other. It is a little more subdued than other films of the noir genre but I didn’t mind it being more of a light mystery and less of a potboiler.