For Reel


The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
January 4, 2015, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
3.5 Stars
The Man Who Knew Too MuchThe original The Man Who Knew Too Much is a key film in Alfred Hitchcock’s British period in that it not only was a much-needed financial success for the director, but it started to establish and expand on several key motifs that would permeate throughout the rest of his career. It seems like a transitional film in that way–the surreal, direct address of the giant teeth sculpture above a dentist’s audiences remind one of the jester in Blackmail, while scenes like the Royal Albert Hall assassination are familiar of later films in which Hitchcock utilized larger-than-life landmarks as the setting for his climactic moments. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of The Man Who Knew Too Much is the casual, even naive approach to violence. An early murder happens just as a man pulls away from his dancing partner, addressing his bullet wound with a simple, “oh.” Later, the climactic shootout involves the purposefully restrained Peter Lorre behaving in a way that is seemingly indifferent to the never-ending barrage of bullets. It’s an unusual stylistic choice, one that Hitchcock doesn’t return to in quite the same way throughout his career. The picture mostly works as a curiosity for moments like those (there’s also an amusing but inexplicable diversion involving a sun-worshipping cult), but it seems less complete and thematically coherent than is usually expected of the director.