Sunday Matinee: The Man Who Knew Too Much

Alfred Hitchcock only ever remade one film, his own brilliant 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much.

The 1934 film has fallen into public domain and there seems to be hundreds of crappy quality DVD’s out there of the film. Fortunately The Criterion Collection has restored the film and released it on Blu-ray.

Leslie Banks and Edna Best star as Bob and Jill Lawrence who are on a working vacation in Switzerland with their daughter. Jill is a sharp shooter and she’s in a clay pigeon shooting competition. They befriend a foreigner named Louis Bernard (Pierre Fresnay) who it turns out to be a spy. He has uncovered an assassination plot and is killed in front of Jill. Before he dies he tells her to retrieve a note from his room and give it to the British consul. Before Bob and Jill can give the note to the British consul, the assassins, lead by a very sinister Peter Lorre, kidnap the Lawrence’s daughter in order to keep them silent. They return to England where they try to track down the assassins and stop the assassination plot.

The 1956 remake stars James Stewart and Doris Day and it uses most of the basic plot but Hitchcock over produces the film. Gone is the sharpshooting wife and in her place is Doris Day who can sing. And she sing does. The original has a dark gritty feel to it, something terrible might happen to the Lawrences and their daughter. The remake doesn’t have the same tension. Everything is bright and you know nothing is going to happen to Stewart and Day. The remake also lacks the evil presence of Peter Lorre. In his place is Bernard Miles who seems more pleasant than menacing. The assassination attempt is identical in both films but the finally rescue is changed from the wife using her sniper skills to using her singing skills.

Hitchcock was quoted as saying about the two films “Let’s say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional” The later may be made by a professional but I’ll take the talented amateur any day.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.