Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Man Who Knew Too Much

The Man Who Knew Too Much; thriller, UK, 1934; D: Alfred Hitchcock, S: Leslie Banks, Edna Best, Peter Lorre

St. Mortitz. During their winter vacation, Mrs. Lawrence is openly flirting with a stranger, Louis, while Mr. Lawrence is making fun of her with their daughter Betty. When Louis gets assassinated, he tells her to get a secret message from his room before he dies. Mr. Lawrence finds the message, pertaining secret information about a planned assassination of a diplomat, but since his daughter gets kidnapped, he has to keep his mouth shut. However, tracking a phone call, he and his friend Clive find the criminal gang led by Abbott in a church. Just as his men plan to assassinate the diplomat during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Mrs. Lawrence screams and thus he is only wounded. The police start a siege of the gang's hideout and thus Lawrence and Betty are saved.

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the few directors in cinema who directed two films with identical titles. Similarly like Sluizer, who directed his thriller "The Vanishing" both as the dutch original and the American remake, Hitchcock remade this classic 22 years later again under the same title, "The Man Who Knew Too Much", probably ironically concluding that he cannot be worse than himself, anyway. The original from 1934 is a raw, but surprisingly robust crime film that steadily raises its thrills after a kitschy-lax opening: the dentist sequence is an early example of director's sense for exquisite suspense, the idea that the bad guys have their hideout in a church is wonderfully ironic, Peter Lorre is great as the bad guy whereas small humorous touches give the film additional spice (such as when Lawrence is trying to warn his partner Clive in the aforementioned church during the choir by "disguising" his singing with these words: "Clive...Clive...Cliveeee...The womaaan at the our leeeeft..."). Technically an stylistically the movie is indeed paler than the remake, though it manages to surpass it at some moments nonetheless, such as in the fantastic Royal Albert Hall concert where the danger is heightened while the audience is waiting for the music note when the assassin is going to strike.


1 comment:

J Luis Rivera said...

I like the original better than the remake. It's so british that I think it just doesn't work with Stewart and Doris Day.