41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2008
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I bought this DVD and returned it for a refund. The picture and sound quality were horrible. Don't buy any Triad Productions products. My 1-star reviews keep getting removed by these scammers. I will keep posting them!
47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2012
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
The Criterion Collection has done it again! For several years now, they've been filling in the blank spaces in the collections of film lovers, and now it's a newly remastered version of Alfred Hitchcock's 1934 thriller, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. As one of Hitchcock's biggest fans, I'm here to tell you that there has never been a really good print of this early masterpiece available on DVD before, to say nothing of Blu-Ray. Now, thanks to Criterion, we have both!
This was Hitchcock's first version of the venerable spy story; he filmed it again in 1955 with James Stewart and Doris Day (The Man Who Knew Too Much). Fans argue about which is the better version, and the director himself preferred the later one, but I love them both equally. There's something truly charming about the earlier film, and it includes one great performance that doesn't have a correlative in the 1955 version.
The story is simple and straightforward: A British couple (lLeslie Banks and Edna Best) are on vacation in Switzerland with their young daughter (Nova Pilbeam) when the father accidentally learns a deadly secret from a dying man. A political VIP is about to be assassinated in London by a nasty ring of terrorists led by a vicious psychopath (Peter Lorre, giving the great performance I mentioned above). In order to keep the parents quiet about the plot, the villains kidnap the daughter, which leads to...well, see for yourself.
This was Peter Lorre's first performance in English, and he is truly memorable. Banks and Best are excellent, too, and the swift pace of the movie never lags. It's one of the Master's most enjoyable early works, paving the way for later gems like The 39 Steps and North By Northwest, and now Criterion has given us a reason to appreciate it even more. Highly recommended.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
We all know the movie, what everyone wants to know is how this new Criterion restoration looks.
I can tell you that this is the BEST The Man Who Knew Too Much has ever looked. An original Nitrate Fine Grain that was made from the Nitrate Camera Original Negatives was used to make this Blu-ray. Apparently the Nitrate Camera Original Negatives are lost or have disintegrated, so this is the best film master available. This Nitrate film Fine Grain was located in the British Archive.
The Gray Tones are perfect, no loss of details in the shadows or light areas.
The focus may not be as sharp as a modern film, but it is very good. Only the original camera negatives would give a sharper image.
The film condition is near flawless. i believe this was a wet-gate transfer (using a liquid that would fill in any scratches when transferring to video). The source film was fairly free of wear to begin with.
Image stabilization was used to steady the picture of the now-shrunken Nitrate film. So no bouncy image.
The audio has also go through a clean-up and is easy to hear. You won't feel like you are in the same room, but you can not expect much more from a 1934 soundtrack recording.
This is the best that existing films and modern technology will give you.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2007
I agree with Alfred Hitchcock in his assessment that his 1956 remake of this 1934 classic was a superior movie. However, that's only when pressed. Really, despite mostly having the same story line and climactic scene at the Royal Albert Hall, they are two different films.
It's not just because one is in black and white, whereas the other is in color, or that one features British and the other American leads. It's more intangible than that. It has to do with pacing, and that this is a more tongue-in-cheek thriller than the remake. Also, while Hitch never stopped pushing the envelope on visual effects, it's so interesting watching this one, because he was learning as he made it. When Edna Best faints upon learning that her daughter (Nova Pilbeam) has been kidnapped, the camera movement simulates the room spinning round and round. It's a sort of primitive shot, one that Hitch didn't smoothly master until the 1940s. That said, it cannot be denied that Hitchcock's primary visual contribution at this point was in applying the German Expressionist montage sensibility to the British cinema, which was theretofore fledgling.
The acting is all right from the good guys, but it's the villains who are most impressive in this version. Peter Lorre as Abbott is creepy, and quite a polished actor, whereas the British actors were a little awkward in reciting their lines. Lorre was smooth, confident, volatile and simply a pleasure to watch. Cicily Oates as Abbott's religious sect "front" is simply mesmerizing when she hypnotizes Leslie Bank's comic relief friend, Clive. There are some stark Expressionistic shots of her through a glass lens, and as the light intensifies on her face, so does her perverse concentration. Almost zombie, cultlike.
The climax at the Royal Albert Hall was Hitch's largest scale set piece, a tour de force of sight and sound. Arthur Benjamin's soundtrack and his "Storm Clouds Cantata really raised the bar for movie music in those early days of sound, and even influenced Hitch's most famous composer, Bernard Herrmann, decades later when he re-scored the 1956 version. Herrmann had such admiration and respect for Benjamin's Cantata, that he used it intact, even doubling some of the parts and lengthening the score.
All of that said, don't just watch this for academic reasons. It's hugely entertaining, and has lots of great gags and suspense.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
(The DVD version that I am reviewing is the Laserlight release, featuring the introduction by Tony Curtis. All remarks concerning the quality of the disc refer to this edition.)
I found THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH to be a bit of a mixed bag. The first half appears choppy and uneven. Things happen without much motivation and the cast seems to confused as to what exactly is going on. Some of the more experimental scenes and moments just did not seem to work terribly well. The direction is unsteady and a touch confusing at times - I'm still not sure what happened during the opening ski scene and I couldn't figure out why a skiier, when suddenly confronted with a child running in front of him, would just scream and cover his eyes.
However, at about the midway point, the film settles down and becomes quite entertaining. There are some masterfully suspenseful sequences such as the assassination attempt during a concert and a long shoot-out with the police. Hitchcock managed to milk the suspense for all it's worth without once taking it a moment too far. Peter Lorre deserves a lot of credit for crafting a role that initially isn't terribly exciting and infusing it with just the right amount of necessary style. His character is a joy to watch and Lorre steals every scene that he is in. He gets all the best lines and manages to create a character that's chilling even while he's laughing hysterically at his henchmen.
The DVD itself is not bad. The picture seems fine and the audio is quite good. I'm sure that there are better prints available than this, but for the extremely low price, it's a bargain. The bonus footage is a trailer for Alfred Hitchcock's SABOTEUR and is a fairly forgettable extra. And Tony Curtis didn't wear his black, leather gloves for the opening and closing remarks, which is always a good thing.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2000
A very poor transfer of a very good film.Laserlight have done nothing to restore the print.The picture is dark and washed out.The sound is also very poor.The story has some great scenes,such as the finale in the hall where the assassination attempt takes place,but you have to watch a muddy picture with crackling sound.Wait for another version to come out.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This entertaining thriller from Hitchcock's British period is proof that bigger budgets don't always mean better pictures. He remade this in America during the 1950's, in color no less, and while it has some fine moments also, first prize still goes to this more charming and fun to watch black and white original.
This is the film which got Hitchcock noticed and those who haven't seen the original version are urged to do so. Everything is just right in this one, from the script by Charles Bennett and D.B. Wyndham Lewis to the photography of Curt Courant, to the charming atmosphere of early 1930's Switzerland and London. Much like "Sabotage," it may be a tick behind "39 Steps," "The Lady Vanishes" and, my personal favorite, "Young and Innocent," but there isn't a lot to quibble about.
Lesle Banks and Edna Best are excellent as the carefree couple on vacation in Switzerland with their teenage daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam). That happy-go-lucky sense of living it up at dinner parties and ski resorts carried over from the 1920's will change suddenly, however, when their pal Louie is killed while dancing with Jill (Edna Best). He will have just enough breath left to give her an urgent message regarding a planned assasination of a politician which could throw the world in turmoil.
Before she and her husband can relay the message to those who need to know, however, their lively daughter Betty is kidnapped, an insurance policy against their talking. They return to London holding the key to preventing a muder, but must remain silent to save their beloved daughter. Lawrence (Leslie Banks) will not let them go on unpeeded, however, and he and Betty's uncle, Clive (Hugh Wakefield), will follow a trail that leads to a disturbed little criminal named Abbott (Peter Lorre) who tends to apologize for what he must do.
Hitchcock makes effective use of music to build a tense mood of apprehension during a concert scene at Albert Hall where the murder is to occur. While Jill is put in the untenable position of warning the victim at Albert Hall or saving her daughter, Lawrence finds Betty and uses a booldy shootout as an opportunity to help his lovely young daughter escape. Trapped on a ledge with a killer, it may be a mothor's love, and skill at skeet shooting, which will make the difference when Betty's life is hanging in the balance.
There is a nice look and atmosphere to this black and white film which makes it far superior to the 1950's remake. The terrific Nova Pilbeam would star a bit later as the grown young female lead in "Young and Innocent" and it's a real shame she did not get a chance to work with Hitch again. A very underrated film no Hitchcock fan can miss.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2013
NOTE: THIS REVIEW APPLIES TO THE CRITERION COLLECTION STANDARD DVD EDITION OF "THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH"
THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is one of those movies that has been in legal limbo for so long, that one despaired of anyone ever doing the legal, much less the archival and restoration work, involved in returning the movie to some kind of presentable state. Unlike most of Hitchcock's other early British thrillers, whose US copyrights were "merely" shaky (a problem partly solved by the GATT Treaty), or where the underlying story-rights had migrated elsewhere, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH had been remade by Hitchcock himself, who was on record as decisively preferring his later version -- it was all very complicated, and contrived to make the prospect of upgrading the original all the more daunting on its face.
But here it is, looking fresher and newer than anyone in 2013 has a right to expect, with details that have been missing for half-a-century or more from extant copies, and killer sound, too. And this reviewer, having done the audio commentary on Criterion's DVD of THE LADY VANISHES, can say all of this with some sense of authority.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The Criterion Collection has released only a handful of Alfred Hitchock's movies, but they tend to be subtle, psychological movies that are often eclipsed by better known movies like "Psycho" and "The Birds."
And yes, Alfred Hitchock may have preferred his later remake of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" as opposed to his early "amateur" original. But the original has a raw, murky, taut appeal all its own, and it has the veddy veddy British flavor that many of Hitchcock's early hits have. In short, it's unpretentiously enjoyable.
The Lawrence family is vacationing at a ski resort, and hanging out with a friendly Frenchman -- until their last evening, when he is shot during a slow dance with Jill (Edna Best). Bob (Leslie Banks) follows his last instructions, and finds top-secret information hidden inside a shaving brush. He's supposed to take it to the British authorities.
But what they don't realize is that a sinister man at the resort (Peter Lorre) is the leader of an enemy terrorist cell, who is planning to assassinate someone. And to keep Bob from turning in the information, they kidnap Bob and Jill's daughter. Now Bob and British intelligence must somehow free his daughter, while Jill thwarts the assassins...
Hitchcock directed a lot of spy movies, and this one is part of an early trio that includes "The 39 Steps" and "The Lady Vanishes." Each one is pretty amateurish by comparison to his later works like "North By Northwest," but are still tight, enjoyable little suspense movies.
Hitchcock keeps the relatively simple plot moving along at a rapid pace, with a sense of solid suspense and often creepy dialogue ("Tell her they may soon be leaving us. Leaving us... for a long, long journey..."). It's not a slick James Bond-y flick -- the action is dirtier and misty, like the back streets of London. And the climactic scene in a crammed opera house is wonderfully chaotic.
None of the actors are really remembered now, except for Peter Lorre who plays the slimy creep to perfection. But they all carry off their parts well, with Banks and Best carrying their roles as an ordinary couple in extraordinary circumstances. They're completely believable, and a hundred percent sympathetic -- these are the people next door, dragged into a nightmarish situation.
As for the Criterion release, it's gonna be the loving production we've come to know and expect -- a full high-def digital restoration (since the film is rather elderly), a massive interview with Hitchcock from 1972 and an audio interview by François Truffaut, a film critic booklet by Farran Smith Nehme, an interview with the always awesome Guillermo del Toro, and audio commentary by Philip Kemp. Not their most expansive work, but a decent showing for an older movie.
Hitchcock may not have known as much about filmmaking, but the original "Man Who Knew Too Much" had plenty of raw cinematic skill and a powerful knowledge of character.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
One of a series of Hitchcock classics made after the Master escaped making junk like "Waltzes from Vienna", "The Man Who Knew Too Much" was, according to Hitch himself the work of a "talented amateur". I would disagree with that assessment. While this version of "Man" may not have been made while Hitch was at the height of his powers as a director (the 1950's through, arguably, 1963), it shows the same attention to detail, brilliantly thought out and staged sequences that we would see in "The 39 Steps". After failed attempts to remake "The Lodger", Hitchcock finally got the chance to remake his own early work with the 1956 version starring James Stewart and Doris Day.
Hitchcock dreamed up the scenerio for "Man" while on his honeymoon but pitched the idea to producer Michael Balcon as an attempt to adapt one of the Bulldog Drummond stories popular at the time.
While vacationing in Switzerland Bob (Leslie Banks), Jill (Edna Banks) and daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam)befriend Louis Bernard (Pierre Fresnay). During dinner the diplomat is murdered but not before giving Jill that will her to learn of an assassination planned in London. To keep Jill and Bob quiet their daughter is kidnapped.
END OF SPOILERS:
Featuring Peter Lorre in his first English speaking role, "Man" demonstrates that Hitchcock had already begun to develop his skills as a director of taunt thrillers.
In its own way, 1934 version of "Man" although less sophisticated and lighter in tone than the 1956 film, this more compact version of the same story displays wit and ingenuity.
Working in collaboration with the British Film Institute, Criterion has done a marvelous job of transferring this nicely done restoration. Most of the film looks exceptionally good with nice contrast, detail and many of the flaws evident in public domain versions of the film not a problem here.
There are, however, a couple of shots here and there that suffer from a soft image. Two shots of Banks in medium shot are extremely soft and I doubt that it was intentional. It's more than likely that these were the best available versions of those shots as the BFI painstakingly assembled the best version they could from the best surviving elements.
We get a thoughtful commentary track by Phillip Kemp as well as a featurette with film director (and author of an exceptional book on Hitchcock)Guillermo del Toro. The 1972 BBC documentary "The Illustrated Hitchcock" has been trimmed down to around fifty minutes for its presentation here giving a concise overview of Hitch's career. We also get an excerpt from Traffaut's early 60's interview with Hitchcock.
As with all of Criterion's releases, we get a booklet essay by Farran Smith Nehme.
This is a fine restoration by Criterion (at least to my eyes) and the extras are quite nice as well. Is the 1934 "Man" better than the 1956? I'd argue that they are very different films made for different audiences with each one of them having merit.