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United Kingdom 1934
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
75 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1934)

Although by today's standards technically very dated it is easy to imagine a far less sophisticated contemporary audiences being thrilled to bits when upper-class London couple, Bob and Jill Lawrence (Leslie Banks and Edna Best) get caught up with a band of shady types headed up by Peter Lorre who are planning to assassinate a foreign diplomat and who are holding the Lawrences’ daughter (Nova Pilbeam) hostage.

What makes the film still impressive today is Hitchcock’s direction which characteristically is distinguished by both its many bravura touches and its general sense of playfulness (we are never told why the group want to kill the diplomat although in a lengthy diatribe world war is alluded to).  Banks and Best are far from compelling but Lorre in his first English-speaking role makes a for marvellously supercilious villain and there are enough nicely odd-ball characters to compensate for the blandness of the leads. Hitchcock re-made the film in 1956 with James Stewart and Doris Day but failed to capture the brio of this version.

FYI: The sequence in the Royal Albert Hall was actually shot in the studio by using a painting reflected with a mirror into the camera lens/

DVD Extras: Hollywood Snapshots: The Man Who Knew Too Much, an insert essay by Mairéad Phillips, University of Melbourne, Image gallery and the trailer for the 1956 version.  

Available from: Madman




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