Friday, January 21, 2011

Alfred Hitchcock - Number Seventeen (1932) (DVD)

This early Alfred Hitchcock thriller is certainly not among the master's best -- and the poor quality of most surviving prints does not help matters -- but Number 17 is an entertaining little journey into mystery. Students of the director and his style will be the most appreciative of the effort, more willing to overlook the awkwardness of much of the film in order to ascertain glimpses of things to come in later films. And there's a lot that's awkward, from the not-really-surprising ending to several confusingly shot sequences (and some excessively choppy editing throughout). The climactic train sequence is emblematic of the film as a whole; portions of it are exciting and effective, but much of it is undercut by poor pacing and timing that just doesn't quite work. Ultimately, it does build up to a good head of steam, but it has to strain mightily to get there. The cast is good, overcoming the underdeveloped nature of many of their roles; Leon M. Lion does especially well in the comic relief lead and Anne Grey is quite effective as the mysterious "mute" member of the gang. John Stuart projects that time-honored British mixture of manliness and restraint, and Donald Calthrop is nice and oily as one of the thieves. 17 is rough going at times, but it's worth sticking out its short running time. -- Craig Butler

SCREEN: 1.33:1
COLOUR: Black & White
AUDIO: English / Musical accompaniment in Dolby 2.0
no pass