The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Man Who Knew Too Much</strong> (1934)

(On Cable TV, October 2018) Before Alfred Hitchcock immigrated to the United States, before he cast James Steward and Doris Day in the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, there was a black-and-white version of the same story, also directed by Hitchcock in 1934. Now, don’t expect a faithful remake: while both versions share a common premise and significant similarities in their plotting and characters, both films have significant differences as well, which makes it interesting to watch the earlier version even knowing what happened with the later one. Hitchcock famously described the difference between the two versions as “Let’s say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional” and that describes it rather well—the remake is the one to watch if you only have time for one, but there’s a lot to like in the first one too: Having Peter Lorre as a villain is always fun, and the film doesn’t hold back in featuring a big police shootout as part of its conclusion. There’s some sun-worshipping weirdness in the plot, but much of the film is solid thriller filmmaking, as competent now as it was back then—along with The 39 Steps, it clearly shows Hitchcock working at a high level even at that time in his career.

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