Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 3/20/01
The Man Who Knew
1956 (2001) - Paramount
review by Greg Suarez and
Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits
Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/B+/A
Specs and Features
120 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:17:59, in chapter
12), Amaray keep case packaging, The
Making of The Man Who Knew Too Much documentary (with
English, Spanish and French captions), poster art and production
stills gallery with music, production notes, cast and crew bios,
theatrical trailer, re-release trailer, animated film-themed menu
screens with sound, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English
and French (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: English and Spanish
sera... whatever will be, will be... the future's not ours to see...
que sera, sera."
As a relative newcomer to Hitchcock's films, I wasn't sure what to
expect from The Man Who Knew Too Much.
The extent of my knowledge about this film was limited to the fact
that I knew that it was a suspense/thriller, and that it was a
remake of Hitchcock's own movie from 1934. However, I was also aware
that it starred James Stewart and Doris Day, neither of whom I'm a
particularly big fan of. So imagine my surprise when I not only
loved this movie, but now consider it one of the most effective
suspense films I have ever seen. I absolutely could not take my eyes
off the screen - the film's 2-hour running time seemed to fly by in
Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart), his wife Jo (Doris Day) and son
Hank (Christopher Olsen) are on vacation in northern Africa, when
they happen upon an amiable Frenchman named Louis Bernard (Daniel Gélin).
After being snubbed by Bernard for evening plans, the McKennas
become fast friends with the Draytons (Brenda De Banzie and Bernard
Miles), a British couple they meet at dinner. The next day, the
McKennas and Draytons are enjoying an afternoon of sight-seeing,
when the McKennas witness a murder in the marketplace. Ben rushes to
the victim in hopes of saving his life... and quickly realizes that
it's Louis Bernard. With his dying breath, Bernard reveals a secret
message to Ben involving an assassination plot. Shocked by the news,
Ben can't figure out why he was the recipient of this dreadful
information... that is, until the Draytons kidnap Hank and
mysteriously vanish. It seems that the Draytons were supposed to be
Bernard's contact for the information, but he mistook the McKennas
for them. The Draytons threaten Hank's life if the McKennas reveal
to the police what they've learned. So the McKennas travel to
England in hopes of finding Hank themselves. As they get closer to
finding their son, the details of the assassination plot are
revealed, and the couple finds themselves in ever growing danger.
Try as I might, I really can't think of anything negative to say
about this film. The acting is superb by everyone involved. James
Stewart and Doris Day are very convincing in their roles and, with
wonderful delivery and emotional involvement in the story, they
definitely add to the suspense. Reggie Nalder plays the assassin (in
a small role), and the guy is just creepy. His unusual, almost
skeletal, countenance and eerie way of carrying himself really
hammers home the message that this character is nefarious. Careful
observers (or those who use the Internet Movie Database) will
recognize him as the vampire Mr. Barlow in 1979's
Salem's Lot. Told you he was
But, wonderful film or not, The Man Who
Knew Too Much on DVD has its good points and its bad.
Although it looks okay, be warned: this disc was not mastered from
new source elements. The DVD looks like it was made from an early
1980's, analog video master and not a restored print. The best
evidence of this is that the opening titles look off-white instead
of the intended brilliantly textured gold. Add the fact that the
print looks absolutely filthy and is riddled with horizontal
scratches (sure signs of excessive wear damage that should have been
cleaned up before the transfer) and you've got something of a mess.
For the home theater crowd, note that the original Paramount logo
was removed from this print and was replaced by the Universal logo
(except the studio kept the audibly recognizable VistaVision sound
cue under it).
The sound, on the other hand, is quite good. It's on par with the
rest of the Alfred Hitchcock Collection DVDs. The dialogue is clear
and well presented, without distortion or other defects.
Once again, in terms of extras, we get all the benefits of a
Laurent Bouzerau special edition. There's a great documentary about
the making of the film and its history, from Hitchcock's original to
its re-versioning. Sadly, Jimmy Stewart has passed on and the
actor's perspective is lost. But the piece still works as a solid
investigation of the film. For those who like their special edition
material subtitled, look for English, Spanish and French subs on the
documentary. Also included on this DVD are a montage of production
stills and marketing artwork set to music, production notes, cast
and crew bios and a pair of theatrical trailers. All in all, another
really nice set of extras.
The Man Who Knew Too Much is
classic Hitchcock in every sense. Too bad it doesn't look better on
DVD. But despite the lackluster transfer, it's still nice to have
the film on disc and the extras are almost worth the retail price
alone. If you're looking for the definitive home theater
presentation of this film... well, this isn't it. But it is the best
we've got for now, so it's worth a look.
Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD