The Man Who Knew Too Much

PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1 OF ALL THE WORLD…

manwhoknewtoomuch34While vacationing in Switzerland, the Lawrences’ (Leslie Banks, Edna Best) witness a murder and receives information that should be valuable to the British… but then their daughter is kidnapped. A tightly directed and very enjoyable thriller that became a hit for Alfred Hitchcock, with a married couple that’s drawn into spy intrigues but maintain a stiff upper lip even though assassins are holding their child hostage. Memorable scene at the Royal Albert Hall, and the intense final showdown, which the director ingeniously based on the famous 1911 Sidney Street Siege. Peter Lorre is colorful in his first English-language role.

1934-Britain. 75 min. B/W. Produced by Michael Balcon. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Screenplay: Charles Bennett, D.B. Wyndham-Lewis, Edwin Greenwood, A.R. Rawlinson. Cast: Leslie Banks (Bob Lawrence), Edna Best (Jill Lawrence), Peter Lorre (Abbott), Nova Pilbeam, Frank Vosper, Pierre Fresnay.

Trivia: The title is lifted from a book by G.K. Chesterton. Lorre didn’t speak English and learned his lines phonetically. Remade as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).

Last word: “I had great difficulty getting [the Sidney Street Siege-inspired scene] on the screen because the censor wouldn’t pass it. He called it a black spot on English police history. He said, ‘You can’t have the soldiers.’ And I said, ‘Well, then we will have to have the police do the shooting.’ ‘No, you can’t do that. The police don’t carry firearms in England. If you want to do those Chicago things, we won’t allow it here.’ Finally the censor relented and said I could do it if I had the police go to the local gunsmith and take out mixed guns and show that they’re not familiar with the weapons. Silly. I ignored it, and I had a truck come up with a load of rifles.” (Hitchcock, interview with Peter Bogdanovich)

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