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Man Who Knew Too Much

The Man Who Knew Too Much

5.0 1
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Leslie Banks, Edna Best, Peter Lorre


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Alfred Hitchcock thought so much of the plot of his 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much, and so little of what he'd done with it, that it was the only one of his movies that he ever remade, in a much longer and slower moving version two decades later, starring James Stewart and Doris Day. His judgment has always seemed unfair, given that he had very little


Alfred Hitchcock thought so much of the plot of his 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much, and so little of what he'd done with it, that it was the only one of his movies that he ever remade, in a much longer and slower moving version two decades later, starring James Stewart and Doris Day. His judgment has always seemed unfair, given that he had very little money to spend on the first version, and that he was breaking new ground at almost every turn with the 1934 version (including setting new levels of violence in the final shootout). There are also several excellent performances in the movie, including Peter Lorre's first in an English-language film; and, of course, it has the beautifully staged Royal Albert Hall assassination scene to recommend it (much of the setting for which is a total illusion), along with the potency of the political aspects of the plot and some piercingly dark humor. That earlier film, mostly thanks to Hitchcock's having bought it up in order to remake it, fell out of copyright in America and has no official distributor (though, presumably, the Hitchcock estate would have first claim on the best materials). This DVD is one of perhaps a dozen versions of the film that are out on the market, no worse than any of them and perhaps slightly better than most. It is intact, and the sound is all there and well balanced, which has always been one problem with British movies of this vintage that are not in authorized distribution. And the contrasts are steady and the picture quality is consistent. The problem is that the image never gets past an annoying level of softness -- certain details resolve while others remain stubbornly out of reach of the eye and the technology. A proper 35 mm source would reveal a lot more to the eye, whereas this one will occasionally make viewers wonder if their eyesight is going. The quality of this release is almost equal to that of the best laserdisc that was ever released on the movie, without the problems of laser-rot or the inconvenience of having to change sides, and at about a quarter of the cost. In its defense, the packaging includes reasonably full credits and the 18 chapters devoted to the movie are well chosen and break it down very nicely into its major plot points and scenes. As usual with this series of DVDs, the coda provided by actor Tony Curtis -- whose sole connection to Hitchcock is simply that he was once married to Janet Leigh -- is totally irrelevant. The menu, which must be accessed to open, is fairly easy to navigate, and for reasons best known to themselves, the producers have included the trailer from the 1942 Universal film Saboteur as a bonus. With Robert Cummings in character addressing the audience, it does (as do most Hitchcock trailers) add new wrinkles to the presentation of the film, and it also looks better than some stretches of The Man Who Knew Too Much.

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Though Alfred Hitchcock would remake the movie himself in 1956 with a bigger budget, the original 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much is arguably a more historically significant and aesthetically interesting film. It was Hitchcock's first true international hit. Though he wouldn't have a major success in America until The Lady Vanishes, Man and the subsequent The 39 Steps helped establish the director's distinctive style and lay the groundwork for his popularity. Along with Hitchcock's trademark blend of suspense and humor and blurring of the normal and abnormal, the film also features his characteristically grand showpieces, most memorably the recreation of the true-life "Sidney Street Siege" and the famous Albert Hall scene. The film was also significant as German actor Peter Lorre's first English-language part. Having fled Nazi Germany in 1933, Lorre had to learn his lines phonetically, but he steals the film as the cruel but melancholic bad guy, and his difficulties with English barely show. The actor would go on to give memorable turns in such notable Hollywood productions as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon.

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Special Features

Introduction by Tony Curtis; Bonus clip of the original theatrical trailer for Hitchcock's "Saboteur"; Digitally mastered from the best available sources for the highest quality possible

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Leslie Banks Bob Lawrence
Edna Best Jill Lawrence
Peter Lorre Abbott
Frank Vosper Ramon Levine
Hugh Wakefield Clive
Nova Pilbeam Betty Lawrence
Pierre Fresnay Louis Bernard
George Curzon Gibson
Cicely Oates Nurse Agnes
D.A. Clarke-Smith Insp. Binstead
Celia Lovsky Actor
Henry Oscar Dentist
Guillermo del Toro Interviewee

Technical Credits
Alfred Hitchcock Director
Michael Balcon Producer
Arthur Benjamin Score Composer
Charles Bennett Screenwriter
Curt Courant Cinematographer
Edwin Greenwood Screenwriter
Alfred Junge Art Director,Set Decoration/Design
Louis Levy Musical Direction/Supervision
Peter Proud Art Director,Set Decoration/Design
A.R. Rawlinson Screenwriter
Hugh Stewart Editor
Emlyn Williams Screenwriter
D.B. Wyndham-Lewis Screenwriter

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Credits [1:20]
2. Swiss Ski Resort [5:12]
3. The Fatal Dinner [3:25]
4. Hotel Room Search [5:11]
5. Betty Kidnapped [:45]
6. Interrogation/Uncle Clive [3:06]
7. Secret Agent Gibson [6:32]
8. The Dentist in Wapping [7:32]
9. Tabernacle of the Sun [8:31]
10. Fight in the Tabernacle [2:06]
11. Uncle Clive Gets Help [2:54]
12. The Police Arrive [2:40]
13. Reunited With Betty [3:32]
14. Royal Albert Hall [5:03]
15. Assassination Attempt [1:15]
16. Only a Flesh Wound [2:35]
17. Shout-Out [10:04]
18. Bill and Betty [1:48]
19. Conclusion [1:31]
20. Tony Curtis' Parting Words [:37]

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The Man Who Knew Too Much 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
monty1 More than 1 year ago
The British films of Alfred Hitchcock have always been his best. And films like The Man Who Knew Too Much from 1934 (not to be mistaken for Hitchcock's remake from the '50s) stands proudly with such titles like The Lady Vanishes and 39 Steps. I have loved the original Man Who Knew Too Much all these years. Seeing it so many times from crummy public domain prints, Criterion has given this classic from 1934 a new life! This version is digitally restored and looks fantastic for a film I thought was beyond repair for a good copy to be released to home video. This disc is not up to the beauty of The Lady Vanishes, but comes close. I film us fans thought was long gone out of existence has been rescued by our friends at Criterion. I look forward to adding Hitchcock's early work to my video library and show my friends where the genius got his beginnings. The original Man Who Knew hold up much better than the slicker remake Hitch would make some twenty years later. If you want the suspense that early Hitchcock films give us, then do not hesitate to include The Man Who Knew along with The Lady Vanishes and 39 Steps. These all are great blu rays and the detail on all these discs are beyond what any other studio could produce except for Criterion. They respect the classic films and it shows in these early works by the one and only Alfred Hitchcock.