Thursday, April 30, 2015
Mini-Review - "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1955)
It is interesting to watch Alfred Hitchcock's films out-of-order and find out just how much films like "The Man Who Knew Too Much" pales in comparison to some of his other work, especially "North By Northwest."
That is not to say "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is a bad film, just that everything this James Stewart-Doris Day thriller attempted to do - Average man caught up in a murder scandal, attempting to out run the police, while trying to stop a crime that might soon be committed - was done so much better in Hitchcock's other films.
Part of the reason for this is that "North By Northwest" had extravagant set pieces and outlandish sequences that heightened the suspense of every scene, building up to a climax atop one of the nation's most recognizable landmark. "The Man Who Knew Too Much" has two noticeable locations - the Moroccan desert and a theater. The other reason is that many of Hitchcock's films had a great sense of humor, where the characters could chime in with a funny quip right on the spot, mostly due to the comedic background of actors like Cary Grant. James Stewart, as great of an actor as he is, does not have the best comedic timing, leaving many of his jokes in this film a bit flat.
Not to mention, the first half hour of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" features mostly sight-seeing and James Stewart trying to get accustom to the Moroccan lifestyle. It isn't until the movie is a fourth of the way in that something interesting finally happens. However, once it gets to that point, it does a great job at building up suspense and Stewart and Day give some heartfelt performances.
Overall, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" feels like a dress rehearsal for "North By Northwest." Exotic locales, a story that takes our protagonist all over Europe and Africa, and a Hitchcock pace and atmosphere that we've all come to know and love. It is certainly worth checking out, if only to watch James Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock collaborate.
Final Grade: B-