Now this is a treat for me. See, I have seen this movie before..or rather, the remake of it. Granted, it has been several years since I watched it so I don’t remember all the minute details of what happened in it. However, both of them were directed by Hitchcock, so there shouldn’t be too much difference in the style of each movie. So let’s see if I like the original version as I watch today’s movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much.
The plot: In Switzerland, Bob and Betty Lawrence are watching a skiing competition when Betty notices a dog had run on the course and runs out to grab it, causing the skier making his run to crash. As the crowd checks to make sure everyone is ok, the skier, a Frenchman named Louis Bernard who has befriended the Lawrences, says that it is his last night in the country and invites them to dinner. Bob and Betty accept and then head out to watch the finals of a clay pigeon shooting contest, which Bob’s wife Jill is competing in. When they get there, Jill is about to shoot when Betty runs up to tell her about dinner. Jill tells Betty to be quiet and hands her a broach that she had been bought for her, then prepares for her shot. As Jill takes aim, she is distracted when a man watch starts chiming and misses her shot. Jokingly blaming Betty for the miss, Jill watches as her opponent makes his shot and wins the competition. When Louis shows up, Jill jokingly makes a show of leaving with him as Bob, going along with the joke, pretends to break down in tears and blame the winner for his wife leaving him. At dinner, Jill is dancing with Louis, while Bob plays a prank on them, when someone shoots through the window and hits Louis. As he starts to collapse, he hands Jill a key and tells her there is a note hidden in his brush that she must take to the British consul. Jill tells Bob, who has Betty go up to their room while he heads to Bob’s room, unaware that he is being followed. When Bob gets there he starts searching for the note and finds it just before the police and hotel manager enter the room. Bob sneaks out the back entrance and encounters a man, who asks for the note, but they are interrupted by the police and Bob demands they call the British consul. Bob is taken to the manager’s office, where he sees Jill being questioned by the police and he is unable to speak with her. When a porter brings him an urgent message, Bob reads it and then forces his way into the room with his wife, making up some excuse as to why he had to speak with her as he slips her the note. Jill reads the note, which tells them to say nothing or the will never see Betty again, and ends up fainting, and Bob grabs the note and throws it in the fire before anyone else can see it. The two return home, and end up being questioned by some officials but after the bulk of the officials leave, a man from the Foreign Office stays behind. He tells the Lawrences that Louis was one of his men and had uncovered a plot to assassinate a visiting head of state and the details were in the note that Louis had hidden. The Lawrences consider telling the man when the receive a phone call from the kidnappers, who know the man from the Foreign Office is there and warn them not to say anything. Betty is put on the line and Jill speaks with her and tries to get her to say where she is being held but the call is disconnected. Refusing to say anything to the Foreign Office, Bob goes with his brother in law Clive to follow up on their only lead, a dentist’s office. Inside, has Clive fake a toothache so that he can search the outer office while the dentist tends to him, then has the dentist check his teeth. While in the chair, Bob hears a man with a ticking watch enter and walk to a side room. The dentist attempts to put Bob to sleep but Bob turns the tables on him, then quickly dons the dentist’s coat and pretends to be working on his mouth as the winner if the shooting competition enters and speaks with the man with the watch. When they leave, Bob and Clive follow after them and come to a temple for sun worshipers, and Bob recognizes the logo from Louis’ note. Heading inside, Bob notices a woman staring at them and tries to warn Clive but it is too late. The woman calls Bob up to the stage and hypnotizes him, then has the congregation leave except for a select few. Bob is forced to lock the doors, then Abbott, the man with the watch, tells him of his plan. Bob recognizes the shooter from the competition and struggles with him, catching site of a ticket for a concert hall. Bob manages to rouse Clive and tells him to call Jill and have her stop the assassination, then holds off the kidnappers long enough for him to escape. Abbott takes Bob to a house that is connected to the temple, and Bob is reunited briefly with Betty before she is taken away. Clive manages to call Jill and tell her Bob’s message but when he tries to get the police for help, Abbott has gotten to them first and convinced them that Clive was insane and he ends up being taken away. At the concert hall, Jill shows up and looks around for the possible assassin and when she sees the rifle, she screams out, causing the shooter to only graze the target. As the shooter heads back to the hideout, Jill points him out to the police and the follow after him. When the police attempt to enter the hideout, the kidnappers begin firing at the police, killing some of them and forcing the others back. The police get some rifles and a shootout occurs between the police and the kidnappers. During the confusion, Bob manages to get out of his room and sneak into Jill’s room, then attempts to help her escape but they are spotted by the assassin, who was sent to get Jill to use as a shield. The assassin wounds Bob and chases Jill up to the roof of the building, where she is spotted by the police and the stop firing. When they see the assassin chasing her, a rifleman is order to shoot him but he can’t take the shot so Jill grabs his rifle and kills the Assassin herself. The police storm the building and find most of the kidnappers dead but there is no sign of Abbott. Suddenly, the hear an alarm going off and the police fire at a door, then pull it aside to reveal Abbott, who had been hiding behind it and is now dead. Bob’s wound is tended to and Jill and Bob are reunited with Betty, who is still frightened over what happened.
The Man Who Knew Too Much met with mostly praise from the critics, holding an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics had a lot of praise for the film in how it showed glimpses of the greatness Hitchcock would soon be known for. The shootout at the end of the movie was based on a real life event known as the Sidney Street Siege, which happened in the neighborhood that Hitchcock grew up in. Peter Lorre had just left Germany and had a limited grasp of the English language before he was cast by Hitchcock for this movie and wound up learning most of his parts phonetically.
Yes, there are some differences from the remake (obviously), but this is still a good movie. The acting was pretty good, with Leslie Banks (Bob) doing a great job of mixing some humor and seriousness into his role. Edna Best (Jill) and Peter Lorre (Abbott) were also good in their roles, and some of the minor characters did a good job with their parts. The story was pretty good, with a decent amount of suspense to keep you interested but the ending honestly felt a little rushed. I think if the movie was a little bit longer, then they could have fleshed out the ending and not condense it to the last 10 minutes or so. A good movie and definitely something that any Hitchcock should want to watch.
Rating: 4 out of 5