Alfred Hitchcock himself called this 1934 British edition of his famous kidnapping story the work of a talented amateur, while his 1956 Hollywood remake was the consummate act of a professional director. Be that as it may,... more » this earlier movie still has its intense admirers who prefer it over the Jimmy Stewart-Doris Day version, and for some sound reasons. Tighter, wittier, more visually outrageous (back-screen projections of Swiss mountains, a whirly-facsimile of a fainting spell), the film even has a female protagonist (Edna Best in the mom part) unafraid to go after the bad guys herself with a gun. (Did Doris Day do that that? Uh-uh.) While the '56 film has an intriguing undercurrent of unspoken tensions in nuclear family politics, the '34 original has a crisp air of British optimism glummed up a bit when a married couple (Best and Leslie Banks) witnesses the murder of a spy and discovers their daughter stolen away by the culprits. The chase leads to London and ultimately to the site of one of Hitch's most extraordinary pieces of suspense (though on this count, it must be said, the later version is superior). Take away distracting comparisons to the remake, and this Man Who Knew Too Much is a milestone in Hitchcock's early career. Peter Lorre makes his British debut as a scarred, scary villain. The print of the film used in the DVD release is serviceable and probably comparable to an average 16mm classroom or museum presentation. The DVD also includes a Hitchcock filmography, trivia questions, a director biography, and scene access. --Tom Keogh« less
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 06/25/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"(The DVD version that I am reviewing is the Laserlight release, featuring the introduction by Tony Curtis. All remarks concerning the quality of the disc refer to this edition.)I found THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH to be a bit of a mixed bag. The first half appears choppy and uneven. Things happen without much motivation and the cast seems to confused as to what exactly is going on. Some of the more experimental scenes and moments just did not seem to work terribly well. The direction is unsteady and a touch confusing at times - I'm still not sure what happened during the opening ski scene and I couldn't figure out why a skiier, when suddenly confronted with a child running in front of him, would just scream and cover his eyes.However, at about the midway point, the film settles down and becomes quite entertaining. There are some masterfully suspenseful sequences such as the assassination attempt during a concert and a long shoot-out with the police. Hitchcock managed to milk the suspense for all it's worth without once taking it a moment too far. Peter Lorre deserves a lot of credit for crafting a role that initially isn't terribly exciting and infusing it with just the right amount of necessary style. His character is a joy to watch and Lorre steals every scene that he is in. He gets all the best lines and manages to create a character that's chilling even while he's laughing hysterically at his henchmen. The DVD itself is not bad. The picture seems fine and the audio is quite good. I'm sure that there are better prints available than this, but for the extremely low price, it's a bargain. The bonus footage is a trailer for Alfred Hitchcock's SABOTEUR and is a fairly forgettable extra. And Tony Curtis didn't wear his black, leather gloves for the opening and closing remarks, which is always a good thing."
Very poor picture and sound spoil a good film
Andrew McCaffrey | 05/23/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"A very poor transfer of a very good film.Laserlight have done nothing to restore the print.The picture is dark and washed out.The sound is also very poor.The story has some great scenes,such as the finale in the hall where the assassination attempt takes place,but you have to watch a muddy picture with crackling sound.Wait for another version to come out."
The remake was better...
Just Another Old Music Fan | Richmond, VA | 02/11/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"But this version still has its moments. You can easily see why Hitch loved this story enough to remake it, and once having seen both versions, will applaud his decision to do so.The problem with this DVD is not the content, but rather the technical quality of the transfer. I have seen 8mm home movies with better production values. The sound is particularly annoying, and the video not much better.While I can understand the many imperatives for making this version available, I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone other than a rabid Hitchcock fan, and then only for historical perspective. It is truly a shame to see such a wonderful film rendered so horribly and a stellar Director's vision, treated so shabbily."
Watch It Without Compareing It!
Andrew McCaffrey | 06/15/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I understand why people would compare this and the brilliant remake- I DO TOO!!! But one should watch it every once in a while without compareing it. I saw this version first so I couldn't compare it and I found it to be a real gem. No, not as good as others butnotable Hitchcock. This tale of the kidnapping of a young girl (played by "Young And Innocent"'s Nova Pilbeam)in an attempet to keep vital information about an assasination from being told by the pearents who came upon the information by mistake. It is very enjoyable and has some creative camera and montage work in it. Such as when the mother reads the letter telling her that they have her daughter the camera spins really fast and she faints. There are of course others as well.This really is a great movie and if you haven't seen it you should check it out."
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 02/07/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Alfred Hitchcock's tenure as the "Master of Suspense" truly began with this compact 1934 thriller. After a shaky start, Hitchcock maintains the European intrigue with a series of bravura set-pieces - climaxed by the Royal Albert Hall nail-biter and a lengthy gun battle in London's East End. Peter Lorre's offbeat villainy stands out among a memorable cast. "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is far superior to Hitchcock's overlong 1956 remake."