27 Aug 2013

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934)

By David Lee Andrews   Posted at  07:30   PETER LORRE

The Man Who Knew Too Much Cover Now if you pay very close attention to the thirty-three minute mark within the following film, you might notice some bulbous looking chap in a black trench coat crossing the street. But who do you suppose it could be? Is it the Director: Alfred Hitchcock? Or maybe one of his actor's? Like Peter Lorre, Leslie Banks, or Edna Best. Huh? What's that you say? You don't know who it is? Well if I was you then, I'd watch this 75-minute movie made in 1934 for the answer.


The Man Who Knew Too Much (Enhanced Edition) 1934


THE STORY:
Picture the scene. Not so long after an Olympic competition has finally ended, hidden nearby, a shrouded saboteur shoots one of its contestants dead. However, before said contestant can kick the bucket, he quickly whispers the location of a secret document to one of his fellow competitors, who then tells her husband, thus forcing him to retrieve it as soon as possible.

Now I hope you've taken all of that in, folks. Because what I want you to factor in next, is to imagine that the competitor is a great lady called Jill Lawrence (Edna Best), her husband is a nice chap called Bob Lawrence (Leslie Banks), and their daughter, Betty (Nova Pilbeam), gets kidnapped because of what the Lawrence's have in their possession.

Oh, yeah! Straight up! This is one of those adventures. One where Bill and his pal, Clive (Hugh Wakefield), travel from Switzerland to London, and then from a stately home to a dentists chair, figuring out along the way that the mastermind behind this dastardly scheme is none other than two foreign spies known as Abbott and Ramon (Peter Lorre and Frank Vosper), who both want to kill a dignitary visiting Old London Town.

Still. That's most probably why what next transpires all goes to pot when Bill and Clive walk into a church. As a religion looks mean - the Albert Hall is a scream - a siege turns into a shootout - and at the end of the day family is what it's really all about.




THE REVIEW:
Now if I had to sum up 'The Man Who Knew too Much' in one pithy phrase, I'd say that this great film has 'The three C's, baby'. Yeah. 'The three C's'.

Alfred Hitchcock
And, pray tell, what are these 'three C's' I'm referring to? Well, the first 'C' I'm talking about would have to be the word 'Crude' -- because compared to some of today's much more slicker productions, the framing and the contents of certain scenes could easily be defined as 'crude'.

As for the second 'C' on the other hand, I'd use the word 'Character' -- because this movie has it in spades. From how certain characters behave, to how certain characters speak. Bar none, this flick is chock full of 'character'.

The last 'C', though, is a word I didn't think I would assign to a slice of cinema made in 1934. And that is because this 'C' is the word 'Captivating'. Yeah. I'm not messing about, dear reader. All the way through this film I couldn't help but become captivated by the story it was trying to tell. Part's of it were your fairly linear murder mystery. Whilst other parts of it were your espionage type 'film noir'. With all of the different shades of black and white clearly defined in a tapestry made from shades of grey.


Peter Lorre in The Man Who Knew Too Much


The Man Who Knew Too Much Film Poster
But wait up. Before I get too poetic about this piece, pal. Here. Check out these filmic-facts. (1) 'Gaumont British' first released this forty thousand pound production on the same month that Wiley Post first discovered jet stream -- December, 1934. (2) Apart from those scenes shot at Lime Grove Studios, Shepherd's Bush, the rest of this movie was shot on location at Tower Bridge, South Kensington, and the Royal Albert Hall. (3) The only thing this film has in common with the book written by G. K. Chesterton is its name. Alfred Hitchcock, who directed this flick, decided to pinch this title from this 1922 anthology, because he owned the rights to some of the stories within it. (4) This picture was Peter Lorre's first English language film. Most of his previous film work was spoken in his native Hungarian tongue. (5) Despite receiving rave reviews, the producer on this movie, C.M. Woolf, hated it so much, that he only released it as the bottom half of a double bill. (6) The gun battle at the end of this thriller was based on the Sidney Street siege, which was a real gun fight that took place in Stepney, East London, on the 3rd of January, 1911. (7) Alfred Hitchcock remade the film for 'Paramount Pictures' twenty-two years later with James Stewart and Doris Day. It was the only film he ever remade. (8) Not only has this adventure been referenced in two movies -- 'Oliver Twist, and 'The Evil Eye' -- but it has also been spoofed in an episode of 'The Simpsons' and the 'Muppet Babies' respectively.


the Albert Hall is a scream


Hey! Do you know what? I just thought of something else I could compare 'The Man Who Knew too Much' to.

No. Not me, silly. A comic book.

Peter Lorre
Oi! Don't groan. You must know by now that's how my brain works. Amalgamating comics and movies into one fun packed-package. Yet honest to Hitchcock, folk, how this film appears to be shot and structured does make me think of it as something like the Vertigo title, 'Sandman Mystery Theatre'.

Well, if you've picked up this series in the past, you might have a pretty good idea what I mean by this comparison. If you haven't, though, try to imagine a selection of panels on a comic book page, with the tones disaturated, the story enveloping, and the overall sentiment timely and warm.

Oh, yeah! I suppose that's another way of summing up 'The Man Who Knew too Much'! Warm. Very warm. Just like my pithy expression I used at the start of this review -- 'The three C's, baby'. Yeah. The three C's

On an end note, I would just like to mention that I watched this great movie online powered with BT Total Broadband. It’s a really fast service that has some three C’s of it own. Easily ‘connectable’. ‘Cunningly’ quick. And has the uncanny ability to make you ‘cry’ tears of joy at how good it really is. We're all very lucky to have digital TV and can watch movies within seconds of deciding what we want. As long as you have decent broadband speed you can open up the world to something that’s Hitchcock at best

THE RATING: A-

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