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   THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) 

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CAST
James Stewart
Doris Day
Brenda De Banzie
Bernard Miles
Ralph Truman
Daniel Gélin
Christopher Olsen
Alan Mowbray
Hillary Brooke
Alix Talton

DIRECTED BY
Alfred Hitchcock

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 112 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller

Won Academy Award for Best Song.


Hitchcock apparently liked this story so much he filmed it twice, early on in his career in 1934 and later at the height of his popularity with his favorite leading man. Though the basic story is the same, the location got more exotic, switching from the winter slopes to the desert of Morocco. The teenage daughter become a young son, but the essence of the story is the same – every parents worst nightmare. Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart play a successful American couple who get accidentally drawn into an assasination plot that results in the kidnapping of their son. Day is fantastic as the distraught mother who will do anything to get her son back. Quite a different turn for her and she does the role justice.

Hitchcock took a chance on her, not knowing whether the audience would accept her as one of his cool, blonde leading ladies, but her vocal talent, which is used as a major plot device, makes her presence indispensible and something other actresses of the time probably would not have been able to pull off. He, of course, didn't look very far for his leading man, but that's because Stewart's intelligence, humor and indignation make him the perfect Hitchcock foil. Stewart and Day are quite wonderful together. They seem like a happy married couple who still enjoys each others company. Though Day's character gave up a successful career on the stage, it's apparent that she loves her husband and her new life and doesn't regret her decision. She's the sort of character you'd imagine Lisa Fremont from REAR WINDOW would be like 10 years later.

The film opens with the McKenna family on a bus to Marrakesh for a little adventure after a week spent in Paris at a medical convention. Ben (Stewart) spent time in Morocco during the war and wanted to share his experiences with his wife Jo (Day) and their young son Hank (Olsen). They make the acquaintance of a secretive Frenchman named Louis Bernard after Hank creates a scene on the bus. Bernard's help extricates them from a potentially sticky situation, but something about his demeanor doesn't sit well with Jo. He never answered any questions about himself, only pumped answers out Ben. He dismisses her paranoia until it becomes clear that something isn't quite right with Bernard. He meets them for drinks and is supposed to join them for dinner, but suddenly leaves in the middle of cocktails. The McKennas find his behavior quite rude, but are appeased by the appearance of another couple, the Draytons. The foursome strikes an easy rapport and agree to meet the next day to attend the local street fair. It's here that things get ugly. Everyone is having a good time when, out of nowhere, Bernard appears in the middle of the marketplace in disguise with a knife in his back. He collapses in Ben arms and tells him a secret that will put the safety of his family in serious jeopardy.


"Don't you realise that Americans dislike having their children stolen?"

Filled with terror, Ben and Jo band together to stop the plot and save their son. The location moves from Morocco to London as they close in on the killers. The last half hour is filled with so much tension, you'll think your heart is going to explode. The final scene ends with typical Hitchcock humor. Having never seen the original version, I have no idea which is better, but have no doubt about the quality of this remake. It is first class all the way, from its locations to its music, to its art direction and casting. There is no stopping Hitch's brilliance at this point in his career. Nobody makes an audience squirm with fear and delight better. Music plays a major part in this film, giving Doris Day a wonderful chance to use her talents in a whole different medium. I'm surprised she didn't garner more acclaim for her performance here. Stewart is Stewart, what more do you need? I can't say this will become one of my favorite Hitchcock films, I prefer my leading men of the Cary Grant variety, but it's definitely one to watch.



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