The Man Who Knew Too Much
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James Stewart and Doris Day give magnificent performances as Ben and Jo McKenna, an American couple vacationing in Morocco, whose son is kidnapped and taken to England. Caught up in international espionage, the McKennas' lives hang in the balance as they race to save their son in the chilling, climactic showdown in London's famous Royal Albert Hall.
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Really, this movie should be considered one of the top-tier Hitchcock films alongside "Rear Window," "Psycho," "North by Northwest," "Vertigo," and "Strangers on a Train." (Sorry if your favorite isn't included on that list....yes, "Shadow of a Doubt" is also great....etc...)
Hitchcock's only self-remade movie was remade for good reason -- he tinkered and updated the story until it was a perfectly calibrated example of the "innocent people drawn into a corrupt world and have to navigate it to save themselves" type of storytelling that Hitchcock took to previously uncharted levels of excellence and invention.
There are also interesting themes at play, such as the running theme of sound and how it affects the outcome of nearly every scene of the story. The early scenes also make an amusing travelogue, showing what it was like for Americans to travel in Morocco and experience a different culture back in the 1950s.
When I first saw this movie, I was a little taken aback by the presence of Doris Day, who sings in a couple of scenes. I always thought of Doris Day as the "Pillow Talk" actress, and I considered her to be symbolic of a corny, overly earnest style of American humor of the time period. But watching "The Man Who Knew Too Much," I realized that Doris Day was a formidable, highly competent, serious actress who just happens to also have a deft touch with light humor and a lovely singing voice. She is every bit Jimmy Stewart's equal in acting and star-power charisma, and their scenes together are finely honed examples of two professionals playing off each other with grace and ease, as well as showcasing the strong bond of marriage and mutual-respecting interaction that helps them get through the very upsetting situation they've been drawn into.
My only complaint about this movie is I still can't find Alfred Hitchcock's cameo. Where is he? What scene? Anybody wanna help me out?
As for the movie itself: I consider it first-tier, second-drawer Hitchcock—not one of the director's masterpieces, but certainly one of the best pictures issuing from his extraordinary run at Paramount (1954–60): a notch above "The Trouble with Harry," several notches below "Rear Window." The cast is perfect, from the stars down to the smallest supporting players. In terms of suspense, there's a structural flaw in the storyline that the talented screenwriter John Michael Hayes could not overcome. No one else could have, either: the film's real climax is the Royal Albert Hall concert, which is one of Hitchcock's grandest set-pieces. Really, the movie should have ended there, save for the inconvenient fact that the American parents, played by James Stewart and Doris Day, must be reunited with their kidnapped child. That takes almost another 25 minutes to resolve, and, while necessary, causes a sag in tension. That said, if you don't own "TMWKTM," love Hitchcock, and do not own this movie, I highly recommended it at what (at this writing) is a bargain price for Blu-ray.