A New Day For The Man Who Knew Too Much --- Part One
|The "Imposing" (says the original caption) Gaumont -British Studio|
Gaumont would get the message and modify region-based habits/talk in order to crack our markets, same as Hammer would later with its US-popular horrors. Did Hitchcock aim The Man Who Knew Too Much toward colony targets? It wouldn't seem so based on final product, although the subject had to have come up in discussions among Gaumont brass bidding for
The Man Who Knew Too Much is suddenly a whole different experience thanks to Criterion's upgrade. They found a fine grain off the camera negative (courtesy BFI) after preliminary go at Selznick's print, which was badly worn. What was for years a tough title to properly see now glistens. Insight to Too Much troubled past is evident in William K. Everson's program notes for an 11/19/71
And now, thanks to crisp delivery, many are calling The Man Who Knew Too Much the Master's best of his British period. I'm inclining toward that, thanks much to Criterion's rescue. Has anyone noted how an old movie's stock rises, sometimes dramatically, as result of disc clean-up and release? Lots of canons get readjusted when a lamb long sheared comes back with wool restored. Earlier prints and DVD's I had of The Man Who Knew Too Much never inspired multiple watch within a week, but here comes Criterion with Blu-Ray brilliance that I've sampled twice in 48 hours. Too Much was for too long not enough --- now it's me that can't get too much of it. Consider what High-Definition did for The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes (Steps till now notoriously difficult to see in good quality) and the fact much of Hitchcock's British work is streaming in HD. It's enough to inspire reassessment of the lot and perhaps renewal of one-time snooty critic posture that AH in the
So which was better, this 1934 original or Hitchcock's 1956 remake? The director said something interesting to William K. Everson in Criterion's 1972 interview extra: He couldn't, as in dared not, confine major name James Stewart to the villain's lair for the whole of a third act; a star so big must stay proactive throughout, but what did that do to artful structure from the original? Much as I like aspects of 1956's remake, it essentially ends, at least for me, at Albert Hall. What comes after seems badly anti-climactic and not a little ludicrous (Doris Day sings and the kidnapped kid upstairs joins in?). We lose '34's rooftop finish and realize how badly it was needed, but Hitchcock had shot his bolt a year before with To Catch A Thief, which more or less borrowed the climactic device from The Man Who Knew Too Much. I'm guessing Hitchcock regretted that in spades once he decided to go forward with a remake.
The 1956 version is also long, 120 minutes as opposed to the earlier 75. Location shooting is fine; needed, of course, to maximize value of VistaVision, but faking
Part Two of The Man Who Knew Too Much is HERE.