It is rare that a filmmaker has the opportunity or even makes the choice to remake his own work, but that is exactly what Alfred Hitchcock did with ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’. Let’s see if this version is worthwhile or he should have left well-enough alone.
Dr. Ben McKenna (Jimmy Stewart) and his wife Josephine ‘Jo’ (Doris Day) are on vacation in French Morocco with their son Hank (Christopher Olsen). They meet a mysterious but friendly Frenchman named Louie Bernard (Daniel Gelin) but lose track of him despite having dinner plans later that evening. On the bright side, the McKennas meet another friendly couple while at a restaurant.
The next day, while out and about in the street, Bernard staggers toward them with a knife in his back, whispers something to Ben and dies. Local authorities question the couple while Hank is entrusted with the McKennas’ new friends. An ominous phone call warns Ben to not reveal what he has been told and Hank/the other couple have disappeared.
This sets the McKennas into motion as they frantically try to find their son in a strange land while also being involved in an assassination attempt.
This differs from the original in terms of scope, budget, length (this is significantly longer), star power and the director’s mastery of his craft. These increased resources are obvious right off the bat as this is a impressive looking film.
If you get down to it, there are only a few truly big and pivotal moments. Holding onto a little more of the ambiguity for the audience could have made this go a little further because we know fairly early on what is happening, who is behind it and their goal. Keeping the audience in the dark would have been a nice extra layer, but watching the characters maneuver this is entertaining, all the same. A little bit could have been trimmed from the final version of it but there is plenty of room for Hitch’s trademark wit and stylistic flourishes. Replicated from before is an undeniably classic sequence of an assassination attempt in a theater involving a curtain and a sniper.
Stewart and Day are great leads (especially the former) since they seem like a flawed couple that is easy to relate to. The decision to feature Day’s singing initially seemed to be shoehorned in but it is payed off in a climactic scene. It also won an Academy Award, so there is little to complain about with that, in hindsight.
Special features include: The Making of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Production Photographs, Trailers and Production Notes.
Whether you prefer this version of ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ or the previous one, is an entirely personal choice. Even if this isn’t in the very highest echelon of Hitchcock’s body of work, it is still a powerful and important classic thriller.
Add an extra half star to this review.
Rated PG 120 minutes 1956