Monday Movie: Number 17, by David Bax
Every Monday, we’ll recommend a movie–it could be a classic, an overlooked recent treasure, an unfairly maligned personal favorite or whatever the hell we feel like–and we’ll tell you where to find it online.
Number 17, an early sound film from Alfred Hitchcock, is never going to be considered one of the master’s crowning achievements. It barely even qualifies as underrated. It has very little in the way of suspense but it does have, in abundance, one of the director’s other strengths, comedy. Essentially a crime farce, Number 17 unfolds when a gang of jewel thieves, a hobo, a dead body, a cop and some neighborhood folks all find themselves in the same abandoned house (for some reason).
What follows is a confounding series of secrets, concealed identities and slapstick violence that, frankly, doesn’t seem to make much sense. This is not The Big Sleep, where you only realize in retrospect there were plot holes. No, it’s never clear what’s going on at any given moment. Then again, it’s just like The Big Sleep in that it’s a ton of fun.
At least Hitchcock gets to execute an early version of one of his grand finales, even if it’s on a tiny budget. No one’s going to confuse Number 17’s obvious model trains and buses on a collision course with the Mount Rushmore ending of North by Northwest. But, when it’s over, you’ll find yourself like many of the characters: Dazed, confused and hopefully alive.
Number 17 is available to rent on Amazon.