Review: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

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I am the man who doesn’t know enough and then wishes he had never bothered to ask!

Screenplay By: John Michael Hayes
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

There’s something to be said for going to the well once too often. I never thought I would have to include Alfred Hitchcock in that category, but he double dipped his own material with The Man Who Knew Too Much. The original wasn’t any great shakes and the remake is even worse. It’s even more peculiar that The Man Who Knew Too Much is such a shallow effort because it is sandwiched between superb Hitchcock efforts like Psycho, North By Northwest, Rear Window and Dial M For Murder. But, even the great ones can produce a stinker every now and then, if only Hitchcock would have learned from the 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much.

The story in The Man Who Knew Too Much is frankly, preposterous. If one stops to think for longer than a second about what is actually transpiring on their screen their heads might explode from the insanity of it all. To be fair, Hitchcock was never known for his logical plots, but he always had a way of making even the least plausible of stories seem realistic. This was not the case in The Man Who Knew Too Much, from beginning to end it is a laughably fake story.

The acting is serviceable across the board, but the acting also reveals some dangerous areas in Hitchcock’s direction. Doris Day’s character is both a wimp and a strong willed woman, but Hitchcock seems to only want to capture her frail moments with his camera. Jimmy Stewart’s husband is an idiot and he is constantly wrong while his wife is right. Yet, the camera pushes Stewart as the hero and Day as the weaker sex. Hitchcock is all over the place in The Man Who Knew Too Much on the issue of sex, and none of it is appealing.

The later set designs are quite good, but they are canceled out by the earlier set designs. I dare say that Africa has never looked so fake or like a stage in a major motion picture. Then there is the massive amount of rear projection that Hitchcock employs in The Man Who Knew Too Much. Rear projection was always Hitchcock’s Achilles heel, but it has never looked as obviously fake as in The Man Who Knew Too Much, nor has he ever used it as abundantly.

The Man Who Knew Too Much was an idea best left dead after the first try, but great artists have certain ideas they feel they must get right, regardless of the outcome. It should be obvious, but unless you are a Hitchcock completest you can easily skip The Man Who Knew Too Much. Don’t listen to the praise it has received over the years, this is a film not worthy of any high praise, I wish it would leave my memory as soon as possible.

Rating:

**

Cheers,
Bill

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