The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
"The Man Who Knew Too Much" is iconic because it's one of Hitchcock's only remakes. He made the same movie in the 30s, when he was much less a Hollywood name. Obviously, he thought that the story merited retelling, so he went back and filmed it again, this time with two huge stars: Doris Day and James Stewart.
The story begins as a couple and their incredibly bratty kid are traveling in Morocco via bus. Little Hank, their son, gets up and starts walking around. The bus lurches and he accidentally grabs a woman's veil, ripping it from her face. Then, not realizing how serious an offense this is, he runs back to mom and dad with veil in tow. A kindly stranger steps in to translate the yelling that starts ringing out in the small bus. He pacifies the crowd and returns the veil. Then he starts chatting up the American couple.
Dr. McKenna (James Stewart) and his actress wife Jo (Doris Day) are just vacationing. The good doctor is all too happy to part with as much information as the man asks. He doesn't find it odd that the man manages to suck almost all the important information from his as was possible on the short bus trip. Jo isn't so easily charmed. She makes note of the man's peculiar nature and the way he smilingly interrogated her husband.
Once they arrive at their hotel, there are shady encounters that make Jo's suspicions seem more grounded. Men will knock on their doors and then find excuses to walk away, telephone calls will be made, and dinner dates will be canceled.
While out, the McKennas meet a couple named the Draytons, who take them under their wing and show them a good time.
The man from the bus, Louis Bernard, turns up the next day being chased by police. He is wearing heavy make-up, in disguise. He is murdered in front of the McKennas. Before he dies, he pulls the doctor close and whispers a secret in his ear—a secret that could change the world.
From the opening credits, in which an orchestra plays a loud song and a man clashes the cymbals, Hitchcock is planning and contriving. He knows exactly where everything should be for this movie to be a success.
"The Man Who Knew Too Much" rarely takes the turns you expect it to. It veers from the "set path" and becomes a truly original and gripping thriller. The suspense is high, even if the logic of the film is somewhat questionable at times.
For being so smart, the doctor and his wife can certainly make some pretty dumb decisions...again and again. But maybe that's what makes this movie great, the heroes aren't all that heroic. Their human, prone to making mistakes.
James Stewart is a fine actor, but here he is a little more abrasive to watch. He is out-shined in every scene by Doris Day, who lets the camera play to her strengths.
Mystery, kidnaping, espionage—"The Man Who Knew Too Much" is a wonderful suspense film. It does drag on too long in certain moments, when you can tell that Hitchcock was just showing off, but all-in-all it's quite an impressive movie.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones