Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

"In fact, should you take the square root of such a number and multiply it by the hypotenuse..."

Genre: Adventure Drama Mystery Thriller

Starring: James Stewart (The Mortal Storm; The Naked Spur), Doris Day (Calamity Jane; Teacher's Pet)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (The 39 Steps; Blackmail)

Overview: When a family on vacation is brought into the fold of an assassination plot, the assassins kidnap their son to keep them silent.

Acting: Well, by now James Stewart is as synonymous a word with Hitchcock as Suspense is, and with good reason. Here he plays an American doctor on vacation embroiled in a sinister plot, and he does of 'Entitlement' just bang on right. Doris Day is known for her musicals... apparently mediocre musicals, but in this she does such a stunning job that when it's needed, you feel it deep down. For someone to play the mother of kidnapped boy and go into hysterics without overacting... man that's hard, but she does it.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The style here is more suspense and tension rather than the highly stylized format that gets my gander up. Hitchcock uses masterful lighting techniques to give streaks of a very un-Feng Shui feel to much of his film. Overall an innocuous style of photography with a certain unsettling subtlety.
Rating: 8

Script: For me it was this category suffered the most in the original. My script predictions turned out quite correct indeed because the characters are richer, the police begging to be let in on the secret is done far more subtly, and the veiled and not so veiled threats are pretty well said. The overall assassination slant could have been so much better delivered however, and I found the explanation scene leading up to it to be unsavoury, puns and all.
Rating: 8

Plot: The story is a touch more sinister this time around. Everything plays out pretty much the same way except that the child is younger and cuter, the kidnapping takes place far later (enough for us to connect with the kid) and those involved are smarter in the end and invite a greater climax. All told a well paced tale with a couple twists.
Rating: 8

Mood: Allow me to digress, because those of you who haven't seen the original 1934 film may not appreciate this one out of context nearly as much. I understand that Hitchcock considered this one the work of a professional compared to the last one, and what I saw, was an entirely different movie with the same core plot elements. Having seen the original enhances the experience rather than detracting from it, and I would recommend anyone interested in doing a double-bill to go ahead and watch these both in the same night. It works. Seem that the theme for Hitch' was coming full circle and tying the ends off some unfinished business.
Rating: 8

That seventh woman on the fifteenth row on the left was totally miscast, I mean come on!

Overall Rating: 80% (Tell Me More!)
Aftertaste: We were impressed with this one, but that came from having seen the first one first. Rather than rehashing the same old WWII onset plot, they made it relevant to the day much in the same way that Apocalypse Now took a contemporary story and kept it contemporary 100 years later. Even Hitchcock tried that with Sabotage, but he didn't pull it off nearly as well.