The Man Who Knew Too Much, or rather, The MEN Who Knew Too Much
I watched both versions of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much recently (1934, and the 1956 remake). The remake I have seen numerous times, but this was a first viewing experience for the 1934 version. There are noteable differences between the two, but the most important element remains: Arthur Benjamin’s Storm Clouds Cantata. Could anything be more effective for an assassination? And next time you watch the DVD, be sure to turn the subtitles on. The lyrics are hilarious: “Finding RELEASE!”
British version: Starring Leslie Banks, Edna Best, Peter Lorre, and Neva Pilbeam. While vacationing in Switzerland, Mr. and Mrs. British couple (Banks and Best) get mixed up in a plot for assassination, and their daughter (Pilbeam) is kidnapped to keep them quiet. I could say this a thousand times… but these movies would be so much better with subtitles and better sound! Especially when I found out that this was Peter Lorre’s first English-speaking picture and much of his script was learned phonetically. That being said, he was the best part – he made a fantastic villain. In many ways, this film was a significant milestone in Hitch’s career. From here on out, he only gets better. The cinematography was superb. The story is fast-paced, witty, and intense. Anyway, all in all this version was excellent. I can see why many prefer this to the new one.
However, my preference still lies with the 1956 version for one reason: James Stewart. My second celebrity crush ever (next to Cary Grant) – I can’t help but love him in anything. As I mentioned earlier, there are significant differences. For one, Nova Pilbeam is now a boy! (Christopher Olsen). Hitchcock himself thought this to be superior, and I must admit it has a “finished product” feel. In fact, there is an actual REASON the man knows too much. In fact, Monsieur Louis Bernard was looking for a couple just like them. Too bad the other couple got to their son first… I’m also a fan of the interesting red herring scene at the taxidermist’s (Norman Bates anyone?) I’m not always a fan of Doris Day, but she does some of her best acting here. Is her “Que Sera, Sera” a little over the top? Yes. (It’s more like QUEEEEEEHHHHHHHH sera, seraaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!) But it works for the film. Heck, it won the Oscar for Best Song that year.
Anyway, both are top-notch thrillers. But only one has Jimmy. 8/10 and 9/10