Following the Civil War, retired gunman Ned (Donal O'Brien) invites twelve of his closest friends to a ranch on the Mexican border to outline his plans for their future. He is going to marry Marybelle and thus inherit an old silver mine once belonging to her father, Old Man Owens, which they will the work together, putting their pasts and differences, including fighting for different sides, behind them:
“Bellman: he has a nasty little habit of letting his hands get into the collection boxes. I don't want to know about it.”
“The Ross brothers: they have $2,000 price tags on their heads. I can't recall, I got a lousy memory.”
And so on.
The plan soon goes awry when the stagecoach arrives with all on board, including Marybelle, dead.
Worse, the other passengers are soon revealed as undercover government agents, whose deaths are sure to soon bring further unwanted attention.
Ned professes not to care about this, however, only wanting revenge against Marybelle's killer or killers, whom he suspects to be amongst the assembled party.
The most likely suspect is cardsharp Tim (Maurice Poli) who arrived late and makes a hasty exit, along with Joe the Mexican, soon thereafter.
But is everything as straightforward as it seems? What if, for example, Tim is a Judas goat?
Directed by Guiseppe Vari under his Joseph Warren pseudonym, The 13th is a Judas is an intriguing spaghetti western with a pronounced mystery element to it. Though relatively short on action, it benefits from strong central performances from O'Brien and Poli that keep you guessing as to their motives; a rousing yet tense score from Carlo Savina; a well-crafted story from writer Adriano Bolzoni, and some reasonaby clever incorporation of Christian religious references into the material, like the arrangement of the 13 men at the wedding table a la the last supper or Ned's reminding his bickering friends that the Reverend Bellman has prepared a sermon for a wedding, not a funeral.
Trivia buffs may care to note that Ted Rusoff has a credit for additional dialogue, while it sounds like Carolyn De Fonseca provides the voice for one of the Mexican women.