Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1956)

“Don’t you realize that Americans dislike having their children stolen?”

MWKTM 1956 Poster

Synopsis:
An American doctor (Jimmy Stewart) traveling in Morocco with his wife (Doris Day) and son (Christopher Olsen) becomes unwittingly embroiled in an assassination plot, and must find a way to rescue his kidnapped son while preventing the assassination from taking place.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, although this remake of Hitchcock’s 1934 British film of the same name was “long regarded as one of [his] lesser efforts of the fifties”, it’s actually a “well-made, truly enjoyable thriller” with a number of “clever and suspenseful” scenes, and plenty of “wit” throughout. Doris Day is surprisingly well-cast as a once-famous singer (now housewife) whose rendition of “Que Sera, Sera” plays a pivotal part in the film’s suspenseful ending. (NB: This song won the film an Oscar, but it’s actually a bit saccharine and repetitive; Hitchcock himself apparently hated it.) Stewart is serviceable but not particularly distinctive in the title role; his “Ugly American” treatment of Morocco during the film’s opening half-hour is truly off-putting, and makes it difficult to sympathize as much with his predicament as one otherwise would. In addition, while it’s somewhat pointless to quibble over plot holes in Hitchcock’s films (he was notoriously indifferent to their presence), I can’t quite get beyond the fact that Day and Stewart allow relative strangers (new “friends” they only just met the night before — Bernard Miles and creepy Brenda De Banzie) to take off with their child in a strange city; then again, without this pivotal plot twist, there would be no story. Watch for composer Bernard Herrmann in a cameo as the conductor at Albert Hall, where the film’s exciting, oft-studied climax takes place. Also of note: skeletal Reggie Nalder as the assassin (has there been a creepier face in cinematic history?).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Doris Day as Jo Conway
    MWKTM 1956 Doris Day
  • The amusing taxidermist sequence — a classic Hitchcockian red herring
    MWKTM 1956 Taxidermist
  • The suspensefully filmed and edited Albert Hall sequence
    MWKTM 1956 Symphony

Must See?
Yes. While it’s not one of his best films, this is certainly worthy Hitchcock viewing — and film fanatics will enjoy comparing it with his earlier version.

Categories

Links:

One Response to “Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1956)”

  1. Not a must.

    Although it’s not a terrible film, I find it a little overrated. The first half-hour is actually kind of a slog as the situation is set up. At that point, something significant does happen; however, although something else significant soon follows, the second half-hour is still a little too sedentary. I know the question marks throughout the first half are supposed to amount to suspense-building, but there’s not much that’s suspenseful about too much exposition.

    The latter half is better but I can’t help but feel the film is hurt by the amount of time it takes to get it going. Besides, even tho things do pick up, and the second part has some interesting detail, it’s not hard figuring out the film’s outcome.

    Strangest line: A friend of Day’s, inquiring about her son, states, “Well, I hope he looks like you and has the doctor’s brains.” (Translation: “You sure are better-looking than your husband.”)

    Fave bit: Stewart gives Day sedatives just prior to telling her what happened to their son.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.