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The Man Who Knew Too Much (Criterion Collection)
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An ordinary British couple vacationing in Switzerland suddenly find themselves embroiled in a case of international intrigue when their daughter is kidnapped by spies plotting a political assassination. This fleet and gripping early thriller from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was the first film the director made after signing to the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation. Besides affirming Hitchcock’s brilliance, it gave the brilliant Peter Lorre (M) his first English-speaking role, as a slithery villain. With its tension and gallows humor, it’s pure Hitchcock, and it set the tone for films like The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes.
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If you have seen Hitchcock's 1956 remake of this movie, don't be afraid to give this one a whirl. The basic plot may be the same, but the settings, characters, and incidents along the way are very different!
First, though, the restoration. It looks incredible. The film could be average and the restoration job would be worth five stars alone. Similarly, the sound is as clean and crisp as you could want. Criterion has knocked it out of the park again.
As to the film itself, it's immensely enjoyable. It lacks the nuance of the remake and the polish that Hitchcock developed as a director, but it's worth seeing for Peter Lorre's performance alone, his first in English. A performance he delivered, I might add, without knowing quite what he was saying, as he learned his lines phonetically on account of not actually speaking English at the time.
At the end of the day, it's classic Hitchcock presented by Criterion. What's not to like?
What a thrill it is to see one of Hitchcock's earliest British films (from 1934) restored to such beautiful life. Criterion's transfer may be one of the best they've ever done, with every frame looking like a crisp still photograph. Deep blacks, bright whites and virtually no discernible blemishes prevail throughout the entire 75 minute running time.
The extras, meanwhile, are quite the added treat! A 1972 interview with Hitchcock, conducted by journalist Pia Lindstrom (the daughter of Ingrid Bergman), is hugely informative and entertaining. Hitchcock appears here in good humor and shares many wonderful anecdotes about his films.
Finally, the film itself. "The Man Who Knew Too Much" was Hitchcock's return to form after a series of disappointing and mostly unsuccessful pictures. Here one begins to see the successful combination of humor and dread that would highlight his greatest films. With this release, Criterion has completed a must-have trilogy of Hitchcock's best British films (the other two being "The 39 Steps" and "The Lady Vanishes", both also available on wonderful Blu-ray editions). If you already own one of those poor-quality, cheap boxed-set versions of TMWKTM, it's time for an upgrade. For the Hitchcock fan, this Criterion edition is pure gold.
Top international reviews
Personally, I love to pick up my banjo and sing "Whatever will be will be..." to anybody who will listen...but nobody wants to !!! (hahaha) Anyhow - the "original" "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is not terrible. Criterion Collection did an excellent job transferring this so called "gem" to DVD. But please take note: This 1934 flick is for HITCHCOCK fans only....and for those who want to see (or to collect).... ANYTHING BY HITCHCOCK !!!
It's your business and taste is personal. I highly recommend the 1959 over this "original" one... but by all means do whatever you like. After all, whatever will be, will be !!! - RBW
Even though Hitchcock would later say that this early 1934 film of his was by a talented amateur & would go on to remake it over 20 years later, It still does have its charm.
It's plot simply is a vacationing family has their child kidnapped by a terrorist group in order to force the parents to aid in an assassination of an important public official. This terrorist group is simulator to the black hand, the group behind the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which is believed by many to have been the spark that inginited World War 1.
In the film It is expected that this new Assassination will bring Europe once again to all out WAR. Remember this film is from 1934, 5 years before world war 2 actually began.
Peter Lorre is amazing in this film has the terrorist leader.
I like the movie, but I find it little bid boring.