The technical challenges of this 1932 "old dark house" mystery are largely what appealed to Alfred Hitchcock, who uses a staircase quite inventively to create a series of emotional and dramatic thresholds from which to te... more »ll a story (adapted from a play) about a policeman, a hobo, and a gang of jewel thieves. Besides the technical temptations of filming in the house, Hitch turns (as he often did in the early days) to models to create an exciting chase-climax between a train and a bus. A very minor work, indeed, but revealing of the director's early interest in transcending dull material with exercises in what he termed "pure cinema." The print of the film used in the DVD release is serviceable and probably comparable to an average 16mm classroom or museum presentation. The DVD also includes a Hitchcock filmography, trivia questions, a director biography, and scene access. --Tom Keogh« less
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 12/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hitchcock co-wrote this British comic thriller early in his career and it is very entertaining. Based on a Jefferson Farjeon play about a hobo stumbling across a body at Number 17 on a windy night, Hitchcock compensated for the smaller budget often afforded him during this period in Britain with droll humor and the lighting of photographers John J. Cox and Bryan Langley. The results are fun to watch.
Leon M. Lion is excellent and quite amusing as the bum who has the misfortune of entering Number 17 and discovering the body. John Stuart is also fine as Gilbert Fordyce, a mystery man who comes across the body only moments after Ben (Lion) does. Before they can collect their thoughts a young girl (Ann Casson) quite literally drops through the ceiling into Fordyce's arms. Her father has gone missing and only a telegram regarding a Suffolk necklace traced to Number 17 and a man named Shelldrake offer any clues to the mystery.
Soon there is a flurry of people at Number 17, including a lovely girl reportedly both deaf and mute. Anne Grey is very beautiful in the role and has some fine moments as Hitchcock balances the humor and mystery perfectly, with just a dash of romance on the horizon. Part of the fun is figuring out who are the good guys and who the bad.
Fordyce gives a bus full of tourists a wilder ride than bargained for in an exciting race with a train which leads to an enjoyably romantic finale. The special effects during the chase often cited as cheesy really aren't that bad for this time period in British cinema and hardly scrutinized by viewers caught up in the fun.
It takes a bit to get going but once it does this is very good Hitchcock and compares well to his more heralded films before moving across the pond. Don't waste your money on a dvd, as no prints of this film are spectacular, and you are just as well off to get it less expensively on vhs. Great fun for a rainy night!"
Hitch called it a 'disaster': he was wrong.
darragh o'donoghue | 01/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Number Seventeen' offers early proof of Hitchcock's mastery of, and thriving in, confined spaces. The first two-thirds of the film takes place in an abandoned townhouse, whose physical and atmospheric character - its vast emptiness, with corpses and killers lurking in the shadows; its three-storey staircase on which the events take place, giant silhouettes flashing on the wall; its maze-like landings and rooms concealing unexpected surprises; its rotting woodwork, threatening to collapse the whole house; its forbiddingly geometric exteriors - has much more presence than the atrocious actors, prattling on with some nonsense about stolen diamonds in a plot that was obviously based on a stilted, but popular play.The film begins with one of those bravura silent Expressionist sequences Hitchcock was so fond of in his early films. On a blustery night, our first image is of a stray hat blowing into the screen, eventually followed by its owner, the film's enigmatic hero. He stops at the grounds of a large house, with an ancient 'For Sale' sign; curious, he enters. The half-comic, half-terrifying Grand Guignol that follows, intercutting shadows, candles, mysterious strangers, doors opening and shutting, slow creeps up staircases, is extraordinary. Even furing the interminable dialogue scenes that follow, Hitch overcomes boredome with brusque but witty editing and compositions. There is one more terrific set-piece indoors, when the hero and the nominal heroine are tied by villains to a landing banister at the top of the house, which suddenly collapses. You can tell Hitch is itching to get out for some fresh air, though, and jumps at the chance to follow the crooks on their getaway train. Here begins one of the greatest chase sequences in the cinema. The hero is pushed off the train, commandeers a coach full of passengers and at lightening speed, chases the train across country. Due to some bumbling and accidents.., the train has lost its driver and is hurtling towards destruction. The crosscutting of the two interrelated movements, and the mix of cinematic formalism and 'human-interest' stories, is breathtaking. And, brilliantly, it doesn't end there..."
It's a fairly good film--so I'll give it a definite maybe
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 04/06/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Number Seventeen wasn't Alfred Hitchcock's choice to make; and I can understand why. The script provides a mediocre plot that can be confusing as people change their identities without any notice; and the short time span of the movie doesn't allow for much character development. On the other hand, there are very good points about this motion picture. After a slow beginning the plot moves along at a good pace. The ending is rather fast paced; it's guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat! Another thing we get here is that trademark Hitchcock "creepiness" factor; much of the movie takes place in an old abandoned house late at night without any electricity. The few people there have just a candle or two to light their paths and the "things that go bump in the night" enhance the thriller factor of Number Seventeen. In addition, the cinematography is quite good.
When the action begins, we see a solitary man walking along the street late at night; and after chasing his hat along the sidewalk he enters an abandoned house. He quickly meets Ben ((Leon M. Lion), a homeless man already inside who calls him "guv'nor." Other people also come to the house two or three at a time not too long after the first man did; but they remain mostly anonymous--at first. We then learn that they are a group of jewel thieves who stole the Suffolk necklace with its many diamonds. The crooks are led by Sheldrake (Garry Marsh) and there's also the somewhat shady Henry Doyle (Barry Jones); and they are meeting at the old house to run away with the necklace to Germany.
However, most of these people are in for a little surprise. One of the men is actually Detective Barton (John Stuart), who is hot on the trail for these jewel thieves.
You would think Detective Barton would have backup and just clamp down on the jewel thieves while they're all assembled there; but he does not do this. Goodness knows why! (Again, this isn't the best film I've ever seen.) This sets up a massive chase scene in which the crooks run away after typing up Barton and a young girl from next door who is innocent.
But who precisely has the Suffolk necklace after all? The answer may surprise you! What about Barton--can he catch up with the crooks before they leave England for Germany? How does Henry Doyle figure into all this? Watch and find out!
Overall, I agree with reviewers who write that the ending chase scene is a major highlight of this movie; it's brilliantly done. The "houseful of horrors" factor adds a lot to the film, too. This isn't Hitchcock at his best; but for people who want to see what he was doing earlier on in his career this is a good place to start. "
Well worth seeing
Louise Kolbeinsen | England | 11/23/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I liked this film. While there are some weakness, particularly the final chase scene which was obviously a train set, overall the movie is quite good.
The story focuses around a stolen necklace, and a series of colourful characters, including a cockney who was a scene stealer, a deaf mute woman, a rather nosy lead actor and a number of "bad guys". Well worth watching, particularly if you keep in mind that this film is over 70 years old, and still holds its own"
Suspence and model trains collide in this action thriller
Louise Kolbeinsen | 07/07/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fun, suspenseful, cryptic movie. Eight strangers come together in a dark, creepy house by an English railyard, Three intend to make off with a stolen piece of jewelry.The acting is good and the story advances quickly from murder mystery to thriller.Two segments make this movie worth watching. First there is the empty house. Hitchcock, through slow-moving cameras and great use of lighting, creates a haunting atmosphere and builds nearly unbearable suspense.The second must-see is the final chase scene. Hitchcock uses miniatures to convey most of the action: a train, a bus, a ferry, and even a motorcycle. The expert editing of the scene saves the special effects (which are reminiscent of old Godzilla movies) and makes for great pacing."