The Man Who Knew Too Much Screen 8 articles

The Man Who Knew Too Much

1934

The Man Who Knew Too Much Poster
  • The climactic shoot-out — random-death-incurring spurts of gunfire in the cozy streets — is as shockingly uncontrollable as it is tense.

  • Hitchcock evokes signs and symbols with enough intense broadness to become personalized for any given observer's trauma-baggage. A shaft of light creeping up—caressing, if you will—the barrel of a gun as it protrudes from a curtain crimp offers the object luster while suggesting the sexual frisson Hitchcock is finessing out of the sequence.

  • Often cited as the first of Hitchcock’s globe-trotting spy thrillers, a format he would revisit periodically for decades to come, it is also part of a less-noticed cycle within Hitchcock’s work: films centered on marriages and the careful negotiations necessary to ensure their survival.

  • Superior to the American remake, markedly inferior to Hitchcock's subsequent '30s comedy-thrillers... For all its bloodlessness, the climactic gunfight is amazingly brutal and chaotic, one of the least movie-ish ever filmed. (Pretty much the only recent example I can think of that compares is The Proposition.) Hitch did improve the Albert Hall cymbal crash the second time around, though.

  • [It] set the comic sardonic tone for Hitchcock’s British thrillers. It’s also my favorite, even better than “Sabotage”—a crazy near-slapstick gleeful dark comedy that ends with a wild shoot-out and racks up a fairly outrageous body count.

  • Nowadays, Hitchcock’s 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much remake is often judged the superior picture, largely for its darker tone and greater complexity, two qualities beloved by critics... There are some of us, however, who stubbornly prefer the original, for its mordant wit, its overcast snowscapes and London nighttimes, its economy of plot and barreling momentum. And not even Hitchcock can keep us from mourning when confronted with a new villain in place of Peter Lorre.

  • This, we might say, is how you integrate set pieces into your movie—narratively, stylistically, and thematically. Others would disagree with me, but nearly forty years of living with this film hasn’t made me change my mind. The Man Who Knew Too Much is Hitchcock’s first thoroughgoing masterpiece.

  • As the criminal honcho, Peter Lorre wears a forehead scar like a concrete fissure and a smile like a veil over an inkwell of ineffable contempt: "You must pay the price for your genius." Hamlet quoted and a fairytale sung ("There came a whispered terror on the breeze..."), that's Hitchcock getting into full swing, his panning and crosscutting at the Albert Hall give an early crystallization of form.

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