BEFORE: Because this film is so short (just over 1 hour) I'm pulling a double today. This will not only help reduce my watchlist by 1 (current total: 190) but also, when combined with next Saturday's double-feature, should allow me to reach movie #1,800 just before my annual Comic-Con trip. I blocked this all out on a calendar in a way which pleases me. Linking from "East of Shanghai", Percy Marmont was also in a 1930 film titled "The Squeaker" with Anne Grey.
THE PLOT: A gang of thieves gather at a safe house following a robbery, but a detective is on their trail.
AFTER: This is a large leap back to the type of suspenseful intrigue films that Hitchcock was destined to make - after making mediocre sports films, family dramas and romantic comedies. But he was still working all the bugs out of the process, I think. There are way too many similarly shady characters here, most of them dress alike and it's hard to keep them all straight. Maybe they're all part of a criminal gang that agreed to wear fedoras and overcoats, it's tough to say.
The plan seemed to be for everyone to meet up at this house after a jewel heist, collect the loot and then ride on a freight train to Germany (a convenient wall poster late in the film informs the audience that a service exists where a ferry transports a whole train, rather than the individual freight cars).
Wouldn't you know it, this turns out to be the exact night that 4 random unconnected strangers also decide to explore that house (No. 17 on the block) to, umm, see if there's anything interesting inside? Again, Hitchcock seems to be missing motives, there's just no reason given for some of the characters to be there. OK, one's probably a detective, I'll give you that one, but what about the others? Yes, the house is for sale, but people rarely come to view a property after midnight - maybe things are done differently in London?
Plus, where did the dead body come from? And after it disappeared, where did it go? This is a giant loose end that never got tied up. I demand an explanation.
It doesn't help that the set appears to have been very poorly miked. The sound (or the sound mix) is just horrible. This adds to the confusion over who everyone is and what they're all doing there. The middle part of the film is rather repetitive, with people fighting, getting tied up, managing to get loose and then fighting again.
The climactic chase scene on that freight train heading for the docks picks the film up a little, especially since the detective commandeers a bus and parallel editing informs us that the two vehicles are bound to meet up. But the train and bus are SO obviously miniature models, it's hard to take this action sequence seriously when they keep cutting to long shots of a little toy train.
Also starring John Stuart, Leon M. Lion, Barry Jones, Garry Marsh, Ann Casson, Henry Caine.
RATING: 4 out of 10 sausages