The Man Who Knew Too Much

*Originally written in 2003

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – Journeys in Classic Film

Hitchcock remakes his own 1934 film, making it much longer and bringing in stars James Stewart and Doris Day as the distraught parents drawn into an international murder plot. This is another effective mystery from Hitchcock featuring a few exciting and tense scenes, and some good twists.

Dr. Mckenna, his wife, and young son are on holiday in Morocco. When their son Hank accidentally strips a woman of her veil on a bus, Louis Bernard intervenes, easing the situation. Later he decides to meet them for dinner and agrees to show them around. However, he acts suspiciously and Jo Mckenna believes he may be a spy as he asks them probing questions in a clever fashion, never revealing anything about himself. When he is called away on business, declining to have dinner with them, the Doc and his wife go out with another old English couple. They see Bernard at the same restaurant and the Doc becomes suspicious. However, the next day Bernard, (disguised as a local) is murdered, but before he expires he tells Dr. Mckenna of an assassination plot which he must not reveal to anyone else. While Mckenna is being questioned by the Police, their new friends The Draytons look after Hank. When the Police have finished, the Mckennas return to their Hotel to find the Draytons have kidnapped Hank. Without police help, and only their own wits and Bernard’s words they set out to save their son, and stop an assassination.

Hitchcock is in full control here, pulling the viewer whichever way he wants, and James Stewart is as good as ever. Day on the other hand seems out of place, only there to sing a song which may save their son, a song which won an Oscar, a song which is plain annoying. The rest of the cast are good, but hardly shine. The scenes at the Royal Albert Hall are full of suspense, and the preceding scenes as the couple catch up on the Draytons are well constructed. Also, Hitchcock manages to fit plenty of humour in, looking at married life and the arguments which can arise, and the confusion of friends looking in from the outside. Overall an enjoyable film which has plenty of good ideas and moments, but which lacks the finer touches which made some of his other films masterpieces.

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