Ruth, a fleet street journalist played by Julia Foster works on the "woman's page" of a national newspaper. She is sent by her editor Gwen Cox (Dinah Sheridan) to investigate a strange weight loss course "Think Thin" at the Chesterton Clinic where they use unconventional methods to induce weight loss. Willis, the house physical education teacher verbally assaults the attendees and brings them down to a quivering mess.
During the course Ruth gets friendly with co-course attendee Ben Faraday (Warren Clarke) and whilst out on a date he tells her that he is infact gaining weight and finds the diet of fatty foods odd. When they arrive back at the clinic to collect Ruths car, she writes her phone number on Ben's hand and drives off. Ben takes a pill which the clinic prescribed and drives home too but on his way home he starts hallucinating and fatally crashes his car. Within seconds the Ashford Brothers undertakers are on the scene.
At Ben's funeral, Ruth is approached by a young apprentice undertaker, Andrew. He knows Ruth is a journalist and he tells her of his concerns about unusual goings on at the funeral directors. He believes that Ben's body isn't in the coffin and they agree to that night break into the church crypt. They gain entry to the crypt and prise open the coffin. Inside is a bandaged body but when Andrew starts ripping away the bandages, there is no body but only a wire carcass. Andrew then takes Ruth to the funeral parlor where he works and they gain entry to the mortuary, to find a decapitated body with Ruths phone number on the hand !
The next day, Ruth waits outside the funeral directors and follows a hearse to the Chesterton Clinic. The Ashford brothers remove a coffin from the hearse and take it inside. Meanwhile the clinic's owner, Mr. Rothwell sees Ruth snooping around and recognises her from her attendance at the weight loss course. The funeral directors accept payment from Rothwell for the body and negotiate a better rate for future deliveries.
After discussions with her editor and the paper's resident doctor, Ruth gets herself admitted to the clinic and a consultation with Rothwell in order for her to investigate further. Rothwell admits her into the clinic the same day.
That night, Ruth sneaks outside and sees Rothwell dressed up in a dinner jacket taking a body bag from the clinic and placing it in his car. She follows him to a large mansion where a party is taking place. She finds a door to a dining room open, and she enters to find a large dining table laid out for dinner. She is discovered by the Sir Humphrey Chesterton who is remarkably polite and invites Ruth to dinner. She is introduced to the other guests and is left talking to a very bubbly old lady who explained how they all met through being the only survivors of a plane crash and that they all meet up once a month. Dinner is served and whilst sitting at the table, Sir Humphrey sharpens the carving knives. Ruth realises why they all meet up for a reunion and runs screaming from the house.
Ruth goes back to the funeral parlor to find Andrew and explain whats going on, but she finds his dead body on the slab. The clinic's PE instructor is there waiting in the shadows and brings a cleaver down on Ruth !
Programme production details for The Thirteenth Reunion
20th September 1980 (UK ITV)
Film locations used for The Thirteenth Reunion
The health club used extensively throughout this episode was infact Hampden House in Great Hampden, a small hamlet about 5 miles west of Great Missenden. This old manor house was infact the headquarters at the time of Hammer House of Horror.
Ben Faraday crashed his car at the top of Casden (a small hamlet near Princes Risborough).
The hearse can be seen driving up from Wendover High Street and also along the A413 when it turns off towards Little Missenden (see shots above)
The shop used for The Ashford Brothers Funeral Directors was in St. Leonards Road, Windsor, next to the "Trooper" Public House (opposite St. Mark's Place)
Thanks to Lee for spotting this one ! and for providing the picture
The large white stately home used at the end of the episode for the reunion is Warfield Hall, Warfield, Berkshire. Thanks to Bob Rocca for letting me know of this location which has eluded me for some time.