11 December 2008

Hitchcock | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
written by Charles Bennett, D.B. Wyndham-Lewis, Edwin Greenwood, A.R. Rawlinson and Emlyn Williams

After sixteen movies and nine years of trying, Hitchcock finally knocks one out of the park. Superbly edited and paced, well acted and written, and filled with suspense, humor and drama; this film is miles ahead of anything Hitchcock has done so far.

Man, that Albert Hall sequence is stellar. Watch it and you'll witness the birth of the "Master of Suspense." A jaded veteran of thousands of horror movies, it's rare for a movie to get much of an emotional response out of me. This sequence from a seventy-four-year-old movie got my pulse going. Hitchcock cuts from the terrified Jill to shots of Albert Hall so that both Jill and the audience can scan for the assassin. As the tempo of the cuts increases , we can see the anguish on Jill's face growing as she struggles to decide what to do. Should she stop the assassination and risk her daughter's murder in retailiation, or keep quiet and risk another world war as a result? What a heavy moral quandry! As the scene speeds up, she breaks under the pressure and screams at exactly the right moment to disturb the assassin's aim. Beautiful.

Albert Hall wasn't the only bright spot. Peter Lorre's great as a soft-spoken, gentleman anarchist. To paraphrase an IMDb user, the film contains the best chair fight in movie history. Half a dozen guys in a room full of easy-to-break wooden chairs = pure awesomeness. The husband and his friend singing messages to each other during the church service's hymn is hilarious. The long gunfight at the end is suprisingly tense. Unlike modern movies where they sound like cannons, the gunshots are given realistic popping sound effects. When a bullet strikes someone on screen, it make no noise at all. This has the affect of making anyone a potential corpse at any second of the movie without any warning at all.

The movie so nice, he made it twice. The only improvement I can possibly see the remake bringing to the table is Jimmy Stewart. I fear the rest will be a disappointment. I can hardly remember the remake at all, so I suppose I shall find out after twenty-five more movies which is the better film. (8/10)

Watched the region 2 DVD released by Network in 2008. I'm not sure why this movie doesn't have a good region 1 release. I'd guess because it's overshadowed by its color remake. This edition uses a scratched-up print, but it's better than any other I've seen.