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review added: 3/20/01



The Man Who Knew Too Much
1956 (2001) - Paramount (Universal)

review by Greg Suarez and Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD

The Man Who Knew Too Much Film Rating: A

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


"Que sera, 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 heartbeat.

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 creepy!

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.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


The Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD




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