I first heard of The Man Who Knew Too Much a few years ago. I saw a little of the movie on television before I decided to pick up the DVD.
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The Man Who Knew Too Much is actually a remake of an earlier Hitchcock movie of the same name. The basic plot remains the same, though several things are changed for this version. Both movies are based on a story by Charles Bennett and D.B. Wyndham-Lewis.
American couple Benjamin and Josephine (Jo) McKenna are on vacation in Morocco with their young son Hank. Ben and Jo talk to another traveler, Louis Bernard, on a bus and make plans to have dinner together that night. Louis cancels the plans at the last minute, so Ben and Jo go out to a local restaurant where they meet a couple from England, Edward and Lucy Drayton. The next day both couples and Hank go to a marketplace where they witness a man killed. The man turns out to be Louis in disguise and he whispers something to Ben just before he dies. While Ben and Jo are stuck at the police station, Hank is taken as a way to make sure Ben doesn't talk. They end up trying to deal with things themselves because they are afraid for their son and travel to London.
Things do start off a bit slower in The Man Who Knew Too Much. That time is used to introduce the characters and set up everything that will lead to Hank being taken and Ben and Jo trying to deal with that. Hitchcock has used a slower pace to set things up in some of his other movies as well. I do think the slower pace works for this movie. The situation is a bit complicated, so it does need a proper set up for things to make sense. I wasn't bored by the slower scenes, though some people may feel differently. The pace does pick up after the murder as more things start happening. The end does drag on just a tad long. One situation is resolved in a very well done sequence while something else takes longer to work out. That is the part that drags out just a little long. Again, I wasn't bored by what was going on, but I do think it could have been handled a bit better.
I think there is a decent amount of mystery to what is going on in The Man Who Knew Too Much. Louis does seem a bit mysterious and secretive with how he avoids certain questions and quickly changes plans. Jo is suspicious of a few things fairly early, but that doesn't stop her from doing a few things that I think aren't that smart. I personally would be more cautious around strangers in a foreign country, especially if I had a child. Ben and Jo don't exercise much caution at times. That might be because of when the movie was made. At that time, I don't think people were as cautious as they would be now in some situations. It isn't that they are stupid. They just accept something at face value that they shouldn't have. Several scenes are suspenseful, mostly later in the movie. Suspense and tension slowly build for much of the movie. There are a few humorous moments in the movie, like when Ben is struggling to figure out how to sit comfortably in the restaurant. Once more starts happening, humor isn't used anymore. I think that is a good idea because it probably wouldn't have worked well after Hank was taken. There really isn't much violence in the movie.
Music plays a fairly important role in The Man Who Knew Too Much, something that is a little different from other Hitchcock movies. Jo is described as a former stage performer and she mentions having performed in London and Paris at one point and Broadway is also mentioned. Shortly after they arrive in London, some of Jo's friends show up at the hotel and talk about her former career briefly. I don't know if she was in musicals or operas or just sang different songs. Jo does sing a few different times in the movie. She sings a song with Hank their first night in the hotel. The song, Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera) won the Oscar for best original song for 1956 and become very popular. The song works as one for a mother to sing with her son, but it is still just a bit odd for it to be in a Hitchcock movie. Jo sings another song late in the movie and a performance of Storm Clouds by Arthur Benjamin plays a part in an important scene.
Ben is a doctor and the family first went to Paris for a medical convention. After it was over, he and his wife decided to do some more traveling around Europe before returning home. He has to deal with a very bad situation and he does that fairly well. He seems like a nice guy, though he does show a bit of temper a few times. James Stewart does really well with the part. Jo is a former performer who says a few things that make it seem like she has a few regrets about giving up her career. She does freak a bit when she finds out that Hank has been taken, but that reaction seems believable. Doris Day does really well with the part and her singing is beautiful. Jo and Ben have a few disagreements, but overall they seem to have a happy marriage. They do make a believable married couple.
Hank is Ben and Jo's young son. He really isn't shown that much since he is taken as part of the plot. He seems like a nice enough boy and doesn't come across as annoying. Christopher Olsen does fine with the part. Louis Bernard is the man the McKennas meet during a bus ride. He seems very friendly, but he is very careful about what he actually shares about himself. He is a bit mysterious. Daniel Gelin does well in the few scenes he has. Lucy and Edward Drayton are also tourists. They seem very nice, but they may be hiding something. Several other minor characters turn up throughout the movie, some a few times.
Doris Day - Jo McKenna
Brenda de Banzie - Lucy Drayton
Daniel Gelin - Louis Bernard
Bernard Miles - Edward Bernard
Christopher Olsen - Hank McKenna
James Stewart - Ben McKenna
Alfred Hitchcock - Director
I picked up The Man Who Knew Too Much on DVD when I found it on sale. I'm not sure if there is another DVD version other than the one I have or not. My copy has the anamorphic widescreen version of the movie. There are production photographs, the re-release trailer, and a featurette. The Making of The Man Who Knew Too Much has some of the crew and Hitchcock's daughter talking about the making of the movie. Hitchcock's reasoning for remaking one of his own movies is shared. Several photographs from the filming are shown and it is explained how some of the scenes were filmed. The featurette is interesting and worth checking out.
The Man Who Knew Too Much is another entertaining movie by Hitchcock that has been overlooked by some people. It is definitely worth watching.
Alfred Hitchcock Movie Reviews
The Birds ~ Dial M for Murder ~ Family Plot ~ Lifeboat ~ The Lodger ~ North by Northwest ~ Notorious ~ The Paradine Case ~ Psycho ~ Rear Window ~ Rebecca ~ Rope ~ Sabotage ~ Strangers on a Train ~ Suspicion ~ To Catch a Thief ~ Vertigo ~