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The Man Who Knew Too Much (DVD, 2006, Anamorphic Widescreen)
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Que Sera Sera:The Man Who Knew Too Much
May 3, 2009 (Updated May 3, 2009)
Review by George Chabot
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Doris Day, Hitchcock, Suspense, James Stewart
Cons:A bit long and slow moving at first
The Bottom Line: A remake of Hitchcock's 1934 black and white thriller, this one features Doris Day as an atypical Hitchcock blond. Worth watching.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
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Alfred Hitchcock, had two film careers; basically starting in his native England and working nearly twenty years making movies for Gainsborough, British International and similar firms, later being hired by David O Selznick to make movies in Hollywood where he had his biggest successes.
Here, apparently channeling director Cecil B DeMille, Hitchcock began to remake his movies; at least he started to, with this remake of his 1934 work of the same name he had made as a young director in England. While I feel both movies have their merits, neither one is among Hitchcock's top works. The 1956 movie did get the Oscar for best song for Que Sera Sera sung by star Doris Day. Hitchcock's usual composer Bernard Herrmann also got in a rare film appearance as orchestra conductor in the Royal Albert Hall sequence near the film's end. Hitchcock himself stated the 1956 version was superior to his earlier work.
This time, rather than a London setting as in his first take he set it in Morocco, with Americans James Stewart and Doris Day as protagonists. Stewart is a medical doctor and Day is a former stage singer who gets to sing a tune or two during the movie. Day is a blond but unlike Hitchcock's typical passive fetish blonds like Tippi Hedren or Grace Kelly, Day actually has a personality and does a few unexpected things which adds to the movie. This was due to Paramount demanding Hitch give Doris Day something to do including singing a song all of which gave a new dimension to Hitchcock's use of a leading lady.
The plot is set in motion by a stranger whom the pair meet, then see killed later where the dying man in disguise is just able to whisper to Stewart a garbled message, something about - a killing is going to take place in London - and passes him a clue. Meanwhile another couple they met kidnaps their son to ensure their cooperation and silence. This conspiracy shows they are in the middle something much bigger thing than first appeared. But the dauntless two are only more determined to stop the plot and get their boy back. How that plays out involves a symphony, a cymbal clash, and an assassin. I'll let you see that for yourself.
As a con, the movie is a little slow moving in the first act and doesn't get really moving until the killing and kidnapping scene.
James Stewart was used several times in Hitchcock's oeuvre - Rear Window and Vertigo were other movies he appeared in and both are highly acclaimed so Stewart's everyman quality is well in evidence. The real revelation is Doris Day who has big shoes to fill playing opposite Jimmy Stewart and not being overshadowed, which she is not. Day's performance of Que Sera Sera is fit well into the storyline and also foreshadows the importance of music in the finale with the orchestra playing that symphony and the assassin waiting for that cymbal clash.
The DVD is from Universal, a part of their Alfred Hitchcock Collection. The 120 minute movie is presented in color in 1.85:1 format. There is a making of documentary featuring Pat Hitchcock, the late director's daughter that is worth seeing.
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