Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hitchcock Month - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Starring Leslie Banks, Edna Best, and Peter Lorre 
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

This will be the earliest Hitchcock film I'll look at in this Hitchcock month-long fest and while it's not the worst, this one falls apart in the story department.  I'm going to save a bigger analysis for tomorrow's post when I discuss Hitchcock's 1956 remake, but the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much falters greatly in the character development area which does it quite a lot of harm.

The plot is fairly simple (as it is in the remake).  A British couple and their daughter are vacationing in St. Moritz, Switzerland, when they witness their good friend (who unbeknown t them is a British secret agent) get shot in the ballroom of their hotel.  Before he dies, he whispers to the husband that he must pass on information to the British government about an assassination attempt against a European prime minister.  Before the couple can even make it back to England, their daughter is kidnapped.  They are told that if they reveal any information their dead friend told them, their daughter will be killed.

The premise is fine and dandy and, at moments, the execution by Hitch is decent (there's a particularly tense sequence set in a concert hall during the assassination attempt), but the real problem lies in the characters.  Here we have a father (played almost jokingly by Leslie Banks) who is chasing after his daughter's captors.  When he finally catches up with them, they easily capture him and he decides that he's just going to sit around with them and literally break bread and have dinner with the blokes.  I kept waiting for him to go all Liam Neeson in Taken on these guys, but instead, he simply chuckles and has a good laugh.  While the mother fares a bit better, there's never a sense of urgency or fear in either of these characters and, considering their situation, there should have been a lot.

This lack of "realness" in the characters (which also includes a silly and unfortunately "unscary" turn from Peter Lorre as the lead kidnapper) really does significant damage to the story.

As you'll discover in tomorrow's discussion, Hitch certainly learned his lesson when he crafted his remake of this pic some twenty years later.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

2 comments:

  1. You'll see that I delve into that very comment in tomorrow's post...

    ReplyDelete