Saturday, August 21, 2010

'Number 17' is weak early Hitchcock

Number 17 (1932)
Starring: Leon Lion, John Stuart, Donald Calthrop, Ann Casson, and Anne Grey
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A vagrant (Lion) becomes involved with a diverse group of suspicious characters who are drawn to an empty house because of their ties to a jewel robbery.

"Number 17" is an early Hitchcock film, and as far as I know, it's the only time he ventured into the very popular "dark old house" thriller subgenre. It deploys all the standard elements for that genre--the aforementioned old house, plenty of shadows, vanishing corpses, and lots of mysterious characters with devious agendas. However, it's the weakest of his films I've seen so far. It's got those fabulous, graceful, frequent moves from comedy to suspense that mark his early pictures, but it also has a very chaotic story that takes too long to bring to light who the various characters are and what they're up to. (And the confusion isn't helped any by some characters not being who they first appear to be.)

This film is of interest to those who are students of the 1930s "dark old house" genre, and those who feel they want to see every movie Hitchcock made. Everyone else can probably pass on this one. It really has little value beyond being a historical artifact.

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