Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956)

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956). Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

"The Muslim religion allows for few accidents."

Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart) and his wife, Jo (Doris Day) are vacationing with their little boy Hank (Christopher Olsen) in Morocco when they become enveloped in intrigue. After an acquaintance of his is stabbed, the dying man (Daniel Gelin) imparts information about an upcoming assassination in London to Ben, but before he can do anything about it Hank is kidnapped by the conspirators to prevent McKenna from telling what he knows. Afraid to cooperate too much with police out of fear for Hank's safety, the worried couple go to London and try to find the child themselves. Meanwhile the clock is ticking for a dignitary who doesn't know his life is measured in hours ...  One could quibble about certain aspects of the movie, but for the most part this is a well-acted and suspenseful film with an absolutely knockout climax in Albert Hall. Stewart is fine, and Day -- while she may not be considered perfect casting -- is generally excellent as well; the two have an especially good scene when Ben tells his wife that their boy has been taken. The supporting roles are all very well cast, from Brenda de Banzie and Bernard Miles as a friendly English couple to Alix Talton (Deadly Mantis), Carolyn Jones, Hillary Brooke and Alan Mowbray as friends of the McKenna's who intrude at a delicate moment. Olsen as Hank and Gelin as the murder victim in Morocco are both fine, and Reggie Nalder probably has his best role as a marksman. Richard Wordsworth of The Creeping Unknown and The Revenge of Frankenstein shows up as a taxidermist, and Betty Bascomb makes an impression as weird Edna, one of the conspirators. Bernard Herrmann's dynamic opening credit theme is very memorable, and the film also introduced the popular song "What Will Be, Will Be" [better known as "Que, sera, sera"] as sung by Day. Herrmann didn't compose the songs nor the wonderful "Storm Cloud Cantata" that he conducts during the Albert Hall sequence. The movie has a strong and moving sub-text of the bond between parent and child.

Verdict: Flawed but often exhilarating suspense classic from The Master. ***1/2.


2 comments:

angelman66 said...

I enjoy this one more every time I see it - it contains Miss Day's finest film performance. I wish she had done more dramatic roles...I prefer her performances in this film, in Julie (1956) and in Midnight Lace (1960) to any of her sexless sex comedies or even her musicals--except for her musical drama Love Me or Leave Me.

William said...

I absolutely agree with you about Doris Day -- I liked her in all of the films you mention and thought she was excellent in the Hitchcock film. Day is an acquired taste -- I remember years ago Mad magazine had a field day making merciless fun of the poor woman at every opportunity, possibly because of her "sexless sex comedies," LOL!