Sunday, November 27, 2005

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) - Alfred Hitchcock

I haven’t seen Hitch’s original 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much, but I’m going to wager it’s better than this 1956 bloated Hollywood version. This movie feels like someone took a small little thriller and literally inflated it like a helium balloon, blowing about a half hour of dead air and more exotic locations into the movie to make it feel bigger. From what I gather on IMDB, the original is 75 minutes as opposed to the remake’s 2 hour run time. So maybe this is the case.
   
Problem is, no one bothered to inflate the plot along with the run time. Jimmy Stewart plays a doctor, McKenna, vacationing with his family (Doris Day and son) in Morocco. There they meet a nice, if not a bit suspicious Frenchman on a bus who invites them out to dinner but snubs them later on.
That night, the McKennas befriend a nice English couple instead. But while touring the marketplace with them the next day, the strange Frenchman turns up in the town square with a knife in his back and an urgent message for McKenna about an impending London assassination attempt. By the time McKenna digests all the information, he realizes that the nice couple has run off with their son.
As you can guess, the kidnapping and the impending assassination are linked. As you can guess again, the search for Stewart’s son will send him on an international race against the clock. You won't be surprised when Stewart screams out the words: “Give me back my son!”
 
And therein lies Man Who Knew Too Much’s problem. After being bombarded by countless Harrison Ford / Mel Gibson “my son (or daughter) has been kidnapped” movies, this one seems relatively tame, even if it helped invent the genre. The villains aren’t that insidious and you never really believe for a second the kid is in danger. And although Hitch tries to heighten the suspense on some “walking through London” scenes, you never really believe Stewart’s in much danger either.
 
Hitch does add some amusing comical business throughout, either as an effort to pad the run time or just plain screw around (considering he’d already made this movie once before and was probably bored out of his wits). There’s Jimmy Stewart spending a solid minute or two trying to get comfortable on a Moroccan floor seat cushion. Jimmy Stewart following a bum lead to a taxidermist’s shop where the only nefarious thing the people are up to is stuffing wild pheasants. And there’s the four minute interlude of Doris Day and her son singing “Que Sera Sera” in the hotel room, which of course you know will have to pay-off somewhere in the climax.
 
Did we really have to hear the whole song? And did this movie need to be made again? No. Probably not.

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