Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1956)

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

For this first Blu-ray viewing, the setup to this remake of Hitchcock's own The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) was a bit better than I remember. We follow a sugar-sweet American family in exotic Morocco, slowly becoming aware that they are being watched and followed, involved in a vague conspiracy.

Then sudden murder in the marketplace, all cuteness fled. Strangeness: James Stewart, fearing his son has been kidnapped, conceals it not only from the police, but from his wife, actually drugging her before he can tell her the truth.

Back in London, the tension goes slack and the plot wanders for a while. We have a comic visit to the taxidermist before the rather fine assassination sequence at the Albert Hall. Was Hitchcock quoting Powell & Pressburger here? It looks and sounds just like one of their scenes.

Rather than the big siege and shootout of the first film, we have a fairly dull second climax at the embassy, a let-down after the concert.

Plot holes? Good grief. The "plausibles" are not going to like this one.

When I was young Doris Day seemed dull and soapy-clean. Now she has much more grit, but still lacks spice. Maybe if she had played villains? I've read that the director wanted her because he had liked her in Storm Warning (1951).

Her musical contribution is unlike anything else I remember in Hitchcock. Is that bad because it seems like something a lesser director would do, or good because it introduces another element of off-centered strangeness? I think "Que sera sera" (Oscar winner!) is hard to take.

Edith Head costumes. Score by Bernard Herrmann, who also conducts the London Symphony at the Albert Hall. The "Storm Clouds Cantata" chorale was written for the original film and Herrmann provides a lovely new orchestration. We get a full 12 minutes of the music while our heroes race to prevent the assassination, Mom struggling with the dilemma of whether she should or shouldn't.

Available on Blu-ray. Image quality varies from good to excellent.