The Man Who Knew Too Much 1956 Movie Scene James Stewart as Dr. Benjamin McKenna and Christopher Olsen as Hank kidnapped at gunpoint

The Man Who Knew Too Much [1956]

As you might’ve figured out, I don’t watch a lot of these old movies. And I should as they’re just as good as the modern ones. So, in an effort to bring you the best of the best, I decided to check this one out. The Man Who Knew Too Much is a thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart and Doris Day. It follows an ordinary doctor vacationing in Morocco who accidentally finds himself at the center of an international conspiracy. Considering the big names involved, I thought this was going to be another Hitchcock masterpiece like Rope or Vertigo. After all, all three movies are starring James Stewart. However, this was not the case here.

The Man Who Knew Too Much is messy and melodramatic, ultimately saved by a suspenseful atmosphere. While the main story offers a bit of mystery, prompting you to keep watching the movie, it’s the atmosphere that makes this movie worth watching. The final third is a fucking work of art featuring a memorable and tense finale. A finale in which music plays a crucial role in amplifying everything that’s happening on the screen. It’s also quite interesting to watch the first third as we find ourselves in the exotic French Morocco. Yes, colonial roots are deep and quite fresh in this part of the world.

Oddly enough, French Morocco became just Morocco and gained its independence from the French exactly that year, 1956. You can see what they were trying to do here, to immerse the viewer into another world, far away. From this time distance, these efforts seem a bit clumsy. Most of the scenes run far too long featuring unnecessary reaction shots and other redundant details. The dynamic between Stewart and Day is rather strange. They seem more like strangers than a married couple. Additionally, it’s interesting to watch what was considered acceptable back then. I’m sure you’re going to notice the scene featuring “female hysteria” complete with the “responsible man taking care of business”.

However, if you look closely at the plot you might notice something rather intriguing about Day’s character Jo. Just pay close attention to what actually makes the difference and moves the plot forward and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I dare not elaborate further as that would take away from the value of the first viewing. And this is a movie that’s going to need all the help it can get. I also didn’t like the strange use of backdrops in some of the scenes. You can see that they were on location but probably because of the stability of the camera they had to resort to these tricks.

Apart from this, The Man Who Knew Too Much is actually a remarkably beautiful movie. Especially when you consider the fact that we’re talking about the early fifties. As is the case with almost all of these older but highly popular movies, the restored version looks excellent. I should also point out that this is a remake of Hitchcock’s 1934 movie of the same name. I watched the movie on a whim, one Sunday afternoon and it was a refreshing experience. Something I suggest you do as I doubt it will be good enough as the main course. Then again, I could be mistaken.

This is certainly not the best Hitchcock movie out there. I personally love Rope and The Trouble with Harry, two of his offbeat movies with a macabre twist to them. Finally, you could go the other way and check out a hilarious nineties comedy The Man Who Knew Too Little. Starring Bill Murray and Alfred Molina, it’s pacey, entertaining and it will leave you in a good mood.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Writers: John Michael Hayes, Charles Bennett, D.B. Wyndham-Lewis

Cast: James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda de Banzie, Bernard Miles, Ralph Truman, Daniel Gélin

Fun Facts: Doris Day was appalled with the way the animals were treated on the set and demanding immediate changes to their living conditions.


IMDb Link:

YouTube player