Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Clumsy and awkward, even Hitch himself said it was the work of a talented amateur. The 1956 remake is much more polished and Hollywood-ized causing many to prefer the original. You’ll hear my opinion after I see the remake. And you read it out loud. Because, you know, voices. Like many films that fall into the public domain, the audio and video quality suffers. I turned the sound all the way up and tolerated the pop and hisses. Also, I had some difficulty following which character was which. It became easier once that person was shot. Oh, spoiler alert.

The story, in a nutshell, is a family is on vacation and befriend a man who turns out to be a spy. He is shot and quickly tells mom about some super secret information in his hotel room. Dad finds it but British intelligence and bad guys are wise. M5 pressures mom and dad to give up the info but they won’t because the baddies have kidnapped their annoying little girl. So, Dad becomes an amateur sleuth to save the day.

Man, a little over the top with the British politeness thing. Lot’s of “Terribly Sorry” and “Not quite”’s of pre-WWII England. Not a mystery, exactly, because we pretty much know who the bad guys are. We don’t know their plan, but I must admit I’m not sure I recall what it was even now. This was Peter Lorre’s first English speaking role. When he met with Hitch he smiled and nodded through the meeting because he didn’t understand English. He learned his lines phonetically.

When comparing this film with his own 1956 remake he said this was “the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional." Clearly rough but somewhat charming and definitely British, the second was a Hollywood production through and through. The Man Who Knew Too Much was likable but forgettable and sometimes hard to follow. Unless you find a copy of a fully restored version, consider skipping it. AMRU 2.5.

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