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Man Who Knew Too Much [DVD]

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Product details

  • Actors: Leslie Banks, Edna Best, Peter Lorre, Frank Vosper, Hugh Wakefield
  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Writers: A.R. Rawlinson, Charles Bennett, D.B. Wyndham-Lewis, Edwin Greenwood, Emlyn Williams
  • Producers: Ivor Montagu, Michael Balcon
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English, German, Italian
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Waterfall
  • DVD Release Date: 24 May 2004
  • Run Time: 75 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00028HC7E
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,208 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



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, 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 1956 film has an intriguing undercurrent of unspoken tensions in nuclear family politics, the 1934 original has a crisp air of British optimism glummed up a bit when a married couple (Best and Leslie Banks) witness the murder of a spy and discover 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. --Tom Keogh

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Sep 2001
Format: DVD
The Carlton region 2 copy of "The Man Who Knew Too Much"(1934 version)is a much clearer copy of the classic film that the poor quality Laserlight version and is the one to get.An eccellent film,it has some great scenes and it was nice to see Peter Lorre again as one of the villians.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Jun 2005
Format: DVD
It is hard to overstate the importance of this film, for The Man Who Knew Too Much catapulted Alfred Hitchcock into the ranks of the directing elite and did much to define the very genre of the suspense thriller. The fact that Hitchcock remade this 1934 film twenty-two years later should in no way be interpreted to mean that this original version is an inferior film. Hitchcock may have looked upon the original as the work of a "talented amateur," but critics and fans hail the film as a great success that showed the master truly coming into his own - thanks in no small part to his being given almost complete control of the project.
The Man Who Knew Too Much is a very British film, as personified by the suave, cool, and urbane hero who keeps a stiff upper lip throughout his ordeal. And quite an ordeal it is, as he finds himself hip-deep in a diplomatic brouhaha that could conceivably start another war. It all starts innocently enough, on a family vacation in Switzerland. Bob Lawrence (Leslie Banks), his wife Jill (Edna Best), and their daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam) are having a grand old time, even enjoying the company of a Frenchman, Louis Bernard (Pierre Fresnay). Then Bernard is killed (in a wonderfully subtle way), and his dying words charge Bob to find a hidden document in his room and take it to the British Consul. The bad guys, led by Abbott (Peter Lorre, in his first English-speaking role), are right behind him, though, and prevent him from delivering the important message by kidnapping his little girl. The Lawrences return to Britain without Betty; unable to tell the authorities the truth, Bob sets out to find and rescue his little girl on his own and stop the planned assassination of an important diplomat if he can - but his daughter's safety comes first.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jacques COULARDEAU on 27 Jan 2005
Format: DVD
It's probably not a great film, but it is an early creation by Hitchcock and we can already see some of his art coming out. The action has a rhythm that does not accept any slack moment. Every gesture, word or attitude of all actors are absolutely calculated to be meaningful. No waste of time, no waste of film. The story is meaningless in itself, but it was meaningful in 1934. The danger of a new war was coming and it took some courage to say so as soon as 1934, as soon as Hitler appeared. The role of Switzerland is here shown with clarity. It is a neutral country, hence a country where spies of all sorts can meet and settle their accounts. What's more, Hitchcock had a sense of humor. There are a couple of funny scenes at the beginning of the film that are quite simple and effective, but Hitchcock is already a master because it is when he makes us laugh at something that the plot thickens and the action jumps into gear. Humor is there to distract us and to make us be more surprised by the dramatic turn of events. There is also a certain distanciation between Hitchcock and the British. The scene where the poor father is trying to commuinicate with a German-speaking young Swiss cop, in English or in French, not understanding that it is German he needs is absolutely ironical. How can you pretend to be the masters of the world if you can't even communicate with people in the proper language ? And how can you keep the world safe if you can't even have some security in The Albert Hall where an assassin can enter, kill or try to kill and disappear ? And how can an assassin miss his target because one woman in the audience yells a warning ? Are assassins that emotional and influenceable ? The world is no longer what it used to be.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Skade VINE VOICE on 17 Jan 2003
Format: VHS Tape
This is a superb thriller which entertains for every one of its eighty odd minutes. Leslie Banks and Edna Best play the parents searching for their kidnapped daughter. The pretext (MacGuffin) for all this, involving foreign agents and a planned assassination, is wisely glossed over as the film moves with breakneck speed from one excellent scene to another. Hitchcock's visual ideas are excellent and the acting is superb, particularly the marvellously villainous Peter Lorre who by turns repulses and charms and in the end is oddly moving.
The climactic seige is well handled with the police for once in a Hitchcock film being portrayed sympathetically. The deaths are more than just anonymous falling bodies and the battle is all the more gripping and horrifying.
The 1956 version has more character developement, is glossier and has certain scenes improved (the Albert Hall scene for example), but if forced to choose I'd take this version for its pace,vigour and for Lorre's performance (surely one of the best ever Hitchcock baddies).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Jun 2009
Format: DVD
When faced with the same story directed by the same man, the first more than 70 tears old with somewhat dated acting and a terrible, dark, fuzzy DVD transfer (in the version I watched), and the other in color, modern and slick, glossy and entertaining, with charismatic leads and 45 more minutes of screen time, which do you watch? If it weren't for the intense and lasting irritation of seeing a first-class movie terribly presented, I'd vote for Hitchcock's 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much.

The story is the same. A couple on vacation sees a friend shot. The man gives them a message that must be delivered to Whitehall. A foreign dignitary will be assassinated during a performance in Albert Hall. The plotters, to keep the couple from stopping their plans, kidnap their child. If they deliver the message and alert authorities to the assassination, the couple's child will be killed. They decide to find their child themselves. It builds up to a crashing cantata in the Hall and then the desperate rescue of the child. Not bad at all.

In 1934 Hitchcock dishes up for us a tense thriller with the emphasis on tightly constructed sequences. The humor is there only as a counterpoint. Hitchcock moves the story briskly toward that showdown in Albert Hall, then tops that with a violent shootout that leaves bodies on the floor. Bob and Jill Lawrence (Leslie Banks and Edna Best) are an upper-class British couple, well-bred, smart, plucky and brave. Hitchcock also gives us a creepy, riveting, smiling villain in Abbott, played by Peter Lorre in his first English language film. Lorre learned his lines phonetically; he knew almost no English. Lorre focuses the film as an intense, unpredictable thriller every time he's on screen.
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