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Arnie Judlow, an inmate at San Quentin prison serving a life sentence for murder, devises a daring plan with his wife and his brother Bill to help him escape, part of which involves Bill and Arnie's wife posing as a married couple and moving to a house near the prison. Although the plan appears to go smoothly at first, it soon runs into a few snags--the couple move next door to a suspicious prison guard who knows Arnie and, more importantly, Bill and his brother's wife begin to find themselves attracted to each other. Written by
Opened at MGM's Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, London on September 5th 1957 on a double bill with Blackboard Jungle. Only played for one week and then went on general release from September 22nd as the bottom half of a double bill with Action of the Tiger. See more »
The opening credits are stamped on the screen by a hand. See more »
Definitely worth watching, though could have been much more
The main point of interest, personally, of 'House of Numbers' was Jack Palance, an always watchable actor, despite his resume being a very mixed bag, who specialised in playing villains and intense characters.
Palance, in a dual role as two brothers, is also by far the best thing about 'House of Numbers'. He does fare better as Arnie, the role is meatier and plays to his strengths far more, allowing him to show some menace and intensity without ever going overboard. He does however do a good job too as Bill, the more sympathetic role which sees Palance more appreciatively understated than usual but in comparison Bill is a little underwritten though still easy to identify with. Overall though, he is incredibly effective at differentiating between the two brothers, a demanding task and he does excellently.
It's not just Palance that makes 'House of Numbers' worth seeing though. The rest of the performances are also very good, with Barbara Lang beautiful and poignantly subdued and Harold J. Stone effectively cunning. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer prison warden than the one played by Edward Platt here, and Timothy Carey is very memorable and quite a breath of fresh air. 'House of Numbers' is very nicely made, with beautiful moody photography that never looks jagged or blurry and the prison is an imposing character on its own. André Previn's music score is ominous but also subtle and composed and placed cleverly.
While the story is less than perfect, there are some twists that keep it from being a standard thriller and there is some low-key suspense. The prison escape scheme is at times pretty ingenious. The characters maintain interest and the chemistry between the actors is continually good.
'House of Numbers' also could have been much more. It did need more pace and excitement than what Russell Rouse managed to provide, especially the ending which was rather too sedate for my tastes. The script is underdeveloped and confused, and while it is not dull by all means the story is less than perfect in execution, too often falling into implausibility.
Overall, definitely worth watching for particularly the cast (notably Palance) though with better direction, scripting and more even storytelling 'House of Numbers' also could have been much more. 6.5- 7/10 Bethany Cox
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