‘Number Seventeen,’ 1932

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a small commission when you shop following these links.

Hitchcock’s Experiment in Thriller Tropes


“Number Seventeen,” a 1932 British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is a lesser-known work that tends to be sidelined in discussions of his more iconic films. Known for its bewildering plot and quick pacing, the film is a blend of thriller, mystery, and even comedy. It has often been viewed as a minor entry in Hitchcock’s catalogue, yet it merits consideration for its idiosyncratic approach to storytelling and genre conventions.

Experimentation with Genre

Though the film suffers from narrative inconsistency, “Number Seventeen” is interesting precisely because of its fragmented structure. Hitchcock plays around with the elements of the thriller genre, throwing together a motley group of characters in a mysterious house, only to subvert expectations with odd injections of comedy and surreal events. This cocktail of genre elements can be seen as an early form of Hitchcock’s enduring fascination with pushing the boundaries of audience expectation.

Technical Aspects

The film lacks the nuanced camerawork and meticulous staging that Hitchcock would later become famous for, yet it’s not devoid of interesting technical elements. There is a notable use of miniatures and some creative camera movements that make it stand out from the typical productions of its time. Despite its limitations, “Number Seventeen” showcases Hitchcock’s willingness to innovate within the constraints of budget and technology.

Place in Hitchcock’s Filmography

“Number Seventeen” is important in the context of Hitchcock’s early British period, as it showcases the director still honing his craft. While the film is not as technically accomplished or thematically rich as his later works, it displays a restless energy and willingness to experiment that would inform his more mature films.

Narrative Quirks and Storytelling

This film is in some ways an anti-narrative, defying logical storytelling norms and instead opting for a form of narrative anarchy. While such an approach could be considered a flaw, it might also be interpreted as an intentional choice, designed to unsettle the audience and challenge traditional storytelling methods. It can be seen as an early indicator of Hitchcock’s ongoing engagement with themes of confusion, identity, and chaos.


While “Number Seventeen” may not be considered a major work in Hitchcock’s oeuvre, its experimental nature and narrative quirks make it a film worth studying. It offers a snapshot of a great director in the midst of finding his voice, a voice that would later redefine the genre of suspense and psychological thrillers. For Hitchcock enthusiasts or students of film history, “Number Seventeen” serves as an intriguing exploration of a master filmmaker’s early, unrefined ideas.