Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Top Films: The Men Who Knew Too Much

In 1934, Hitchcock made his first movie involving international espionage. The Man Who Knew Too Much is the story of and ordinary couple caught up in circumstances beyond their control when a spy confides in them, as he lies dying. To keep them silent, the spies kidnap their child. This forces the couple to do what they can without the help of the authorities. Hitchcock returned to this “spy” setting several more times in his career, but actually decided to remake this film 22 years later. Why? Perhaps it was the most relevant story from his British days, and Hollywood wanted him to update one of these. Maybe it was a case of Hitchcock wanting to readdress his first effort in the “favorite” genre, now that he had more experience and resources. He once said that the first film was the work of a talented amateur, whereas the remake was that of a professional.

Whatever the reason, there are two versions of this story. They share several thematic elements and even some scenes. Both couples have a relationship with certain problematic aspects. Both have confusion arising from a place name being confused for that of a person. Both have a scene with the protagonists holding a “conversation” singing in church. Of Course, the main shared element is the climactic assassination attempt during a concert.

Which is the better film? That is hard to say. The remake is technically superior and has better character development. However, the original has the wife kill the assassin, as she is a skeet shooter who actually competed against the sniper earlier in the film. Doris Day’s big contribution is to simply sing really loudly and badly an annoying rendition of “Que Sera, Sera.”

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