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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Carlton DVD copy of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is the best.
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.
Published on 14 Sep 2001

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The original and best
Having seen the James Stewart version on TV recently, I bought this out of curiosity. It seems a little wooden by today's standard: terribly British and everyone acting as if they were on stage. That said, I prefer it to the re-make. Peter Lorre stands out as a sinister villain with a wicked sense of humour.So much more convincing than Bernard Miles, who was miscast...
Published on 15 May 2012 by GOG


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Carlton DVD copy of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is the best., 14 Sep 2001
By A Customer
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
4.0 out of 5 stars This classic thriller firmly established Hitchcock's fame, 1 Jun 2005
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Man Who Knew Too Much [DVD] (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. The film builds to a wonderfully suspenseful scene as the assassin takes his place, but the movie doesn't end there. The completely satisfying conclusion comes only after a protracted shootout between the cops and the bad guys.
It's a wonderfully made film featuring a tight plot, a number of budget-friendly camera tricks (quite impressive for 1934), and great performances all around. Leslie Banks is wonderful as Bob Lawrence, but Peter Lorre pretty much steals the show. It has been many years since I saw the 1956 remake starring Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day, so I can't really compare the two versions of the film. Many Hitchcock fans have a special regard for the original, though, because this film provides us with a glimpse at the legend that is Hitchcock in the making. Even if you're not a Hitchcock fan (if that is even possible), watch it for Peter Lorre - he is nothing less than the icon of polite, soft-spoken villains.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The young Hitchcock is peeping out of the egg, 27 Jan 2005
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This review is from: Man Who Knew Too Much [DVD] (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. But to apply this kind of humor in 1934 at the war danger that Hitler represented is quite amazing : it sure is a warning about what we could lose if we were not cautious, prudent, careful and vigilant : we could lose the possibility to just laugh at things, a greater loss than anything we could imagine.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classy Thriller, 17 Jan 2003
By 
J. Skade "joeskade" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Alfred Hitchcock and Peter Lorre make for a fine, fast-paced and unnerving thriller, 20 Jun 2009
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Man Who Knew Too Much [DVD] (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.

In 1956, Hitchcock gives us an upper-middle class American couple (James Stewart and Doris Day) with a cliché of a husband who enjoys not knowing anything about foreign cultures and an all-American corn-fed wife in serious need of medication. Hitchcock uses that extra 45 minutes on lengthy, sly humor and colorful tourist photography, neither of which advances the story. Despite Stewart's earnestly laconic performance and Day's overwrought emoting, the bones of the thriller still keep us interested. Still, I had the feeling that with the 1934 movie I was watching one of the best of Hitchcock's English movies and with the 1954 version I was watching just one of his highly professional and entertaining Hollywood hits.

To see what I mean, compare the 1934 sequence in the dentist's office - a struggle silent except for groans and the sound of laughing gas escaping - and the 1956 sequence in the taxidermist's shop. One is suspenseful, almost queasy and masterful. The other is just an excuse for a few laughs.

The clever and tense showpiece of both versions is in the Albert Hall and it works both times. The emotional conclusion, the rescue of the child, is a far different story. In 1954 we have an embassy dinner, Doris Day singly loudly and Stewart and his son walking down the stairs. It works if you have nothing to compare it with. In 1934, the nearly 15-minute shootout brings everything to a murderous climax, with ingenious rescues, violent confrontations and the emotionally satisfying fate of Abbott. His death is, well, kind of fun as well as satisfying. Hitchcock takes the time at the start of the movie to establish Jill Lawrence as a crack shot with a rifle. We learn why he did this now, and it has nothing to do with Abbott.

Peter Lorre, plus Hitchcock's way of building a clever, tense story, makes this movie a pleasure to watch. But let's not forget Leslie Banks and Edna Best. She was a competent star actress who never quite reached the top. I wonder what she might have done without such a frumpy name. She makes Jill a woman who will not have a nervous breakdown. When Jill needs to pull a trigger, she does. Leslie Banks was a fine stage actor who had a decent career in the movies. He was wounded in WWI and was left with half his face paralyzed and disfigured (not horribly but easy to notice). When he played nice guys or heroes, he showed the good side. With bad guys, he showed the damaged side. To see him use those two sides of his face as a charming host and then as a really bad guy, watch The Most Dangerous Game.

Perhaps somewhere there is a fine, restored version of this movie. If so, it would be a pleasure to watch and to own.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not merely the work of a "talented amateur", 16 Aug 2008
By 
IWFIcon - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Man Who Knew Too Much [DVD] (DVD)
Alfred Hitchcock may not have had that much fondness for this, his first attempt at The Man Who Knew Too Much, but history arguably shows that it is a better film that it's big budget remake.

Jill and Bob Lawrence (Edna Best & Leslie Banks) are vacationing with their daughter when they witness the assassination of a secret agent. He tells them of the whereabouts of a hidden document which must be handed over to the British Consuland learn that tells of a plot to kill a foreign diplomat in London. A spy ring kidnapps their daughter and the couple track her back to London.

Whilst not one of his best efforts, there is still much to admire from Hitchcock here. The shock of the secret agent's assassination, whilst Bob Lawrence performs a trick to him, is superbly played, especially as up to that point the Lawrence's holiday has been a distincly light-hearted affair. It's also perhaps a template for the action-adventure movies that would become Hitch's trademark, pitching the mix of comedy, romance and suspense almost perfectly.

The star of the show is Peter Lorre, in his first English-speaking role. Having learned English phonetically for the part, Lorre excels as the charming but deadly Abbot and it perhaps he, more than anything else, that secures this films superiority over the remake.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Network:special edition., 8 Aug 2009
By 
This review is from: The Man Who Knew Too Much [DVD] (DVD)
Just to let you know about the extras on this new edition.An introduction to the movie by film historian charles barr(3:45),Aquarius:Alfred the great-hitchcock interview from 1972(35:33)and a still gallery(0:46).Hope this helps in deciding which edition to buy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent., 1 Jun 2000
By A Customer
If Carlton's DVD release (which I haven't seen) of this Hichcock classic (which I HAVE seen) is anything like the print they used for this VHS tape (which I own), it must be beautiful. For such an old film this print is in surprisingly good condition, and absolutely stunning to look at. Every scene is sharp and crisp, and I'm sure it's the best it'll ever look or indeed ever has. Everybody always rave about Lorre in this movie, but I personally think it's Banks who carry it. He may ultimately not have been the best choice for this role, but the more I watch it the better he gets. (He certainly had a very expressive face.) He's become a favourite actor of mine, and it's pretty sad he died so relatively early (1952.) The US-remake had some good scenes and was generally an o.k. version, but I think the original is the best of the two. (-Even though it's hilarious to watch Banks keep his cigarette in his mouth, during most of the awesome chair-fight in the chapel !.) As good as the later colour films Hitch made in Hollywood are, his best movies remain his British output. (In my humble opinion, anyway.) -They already contained all the genius trademarks that later made him an even bigger star.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hitch's Albert Hall Spectacular, 4 Jan 2013
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Man Who Knew Too Much [DVD] (DVD)
This 1934 Hitchcock film was the first of a string of classic crime/espionage thrillers made by the master director and whilst it does not (for me) quite rank with the likes of The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes or Sabotage (which followed in short order after TMWKTM), it is nevertheless an absorbing tale which has rightly gained notoriety for its superb climactic sequence in London's Albert Hall, and is a film version which stands up well against Hitch's later Hollywood remake.

As in The Lady Vanishes, The Man Who Knew Too Much kicks off its action in continental Europe, this time in St Moritz, Switzerland, where Pierre Fresnay's (he of La Grande Illusion fame) Louis is spectacularly ski-jumping and trying to avoid young Betty Lawrence's (Nova Pilbeam) wandering dog. Unbeknown to Betty's parents Bob (Leslie Banks) and Jill (Edna Best), Louis is actually a secret agent, whose rather casual assassination (accompanied by Best in the slowest fainting sequence in motion picture history) leads to the discovery by Bob of a hidden message warning of a potential assassination of a prominent politician, a discovery which prompts the kidnapping of Betty by the said foreign agents (thereby creating the audience tension of personal family interests vs. wider political significance).

Being an early British Hitchcock, the film is littered with nicely upstanding Englishmen (none more so than Lawrence, who later refuses to 'make a scene' on an emotional reunion with Betty) and (on returning to London) chirpy cockney characters (many of them here policemen), together with their native banter. On the acting front both Banks and Best are solidly reliable, but, for me, the honours go to Peter Lorre (not for the first time) as the 'chief baddie', Abbott, whose mercurial temperament includes bouts of sinister, maniacal laughter, mixed with the odd amusing quip, and in whose close-ups, with scarred face, cigarette drooping and a haircut worthy of Hitler, Hitchcock excels magnificently. Similarly effective is Abbott's chief henchman Ramon played by Frank Vosper effectively as Lorre, but without the laughs.

For a Hitchcock film, TMWKTM is relatively low on trademark (i.e. brilliant) set-pieces. In addition to the opening ski-jumping scene, there is a nice double-header as Bob and friend Clive track the gang of saboteurs to Wapping, and Bob first has to don a dentist's coat to avoid detection and then the two pursuers engage in some hilarious exchanging of surreptitious messages (in the guise of hymn singing) in the church posing as the gang's lair. But it is of course the (near) final assassination attempt scene in the Albert Hall that is the film's highlight, as Hitch slowly builds the audience tension until the (already heard) passage in the music approaches and with it a Luger is slowly revealed from behind a theatre box curtain. Actually, for me, one of the film's weaknesses is that Hitch did not put this scene nearer the end - the subsequent Wapping siege and shoot-out, whilst making for some nice cockney police banter, is I feel rather too long.

Nevertheless, given its many elements of merit, plus its place at the start of an outstanding series of Hitchcock thrillers, this British version of TMWKTM is an essential part of Hitch's oeuvre.

As a DVD Extra, there is a very interesting interview with Hitchcock on 1972's arts programme Aquarius (at the time of the making of Frenzy), during which he expounds in detail on his approach to film-making.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film., 11 April 2014
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This review is from: The Man Who Knew Too Much [DVD] (DVD)
First of the 2 Hitchcock films on this theme. A starker film than the later one, very good screenplay. Not a word wasted, and generally understated. Sometimes nowadays modern movies tell everything, and leave nothing to the imagination. This film is not guilty of that.
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