MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, THE

From the Nov. 13, 1983, Deseret News

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH — James Stewart, Doris Day; produced & directed by Alfred Hitchcock; rated PG (violence).

The 1956 suspense drama "The Man Who Knew Too Much" was one of Alfred Hitchcock's most popular films, one of his biggest box-office successes. And it's easy to see why.

The Hitchcock stamp is strongly in evidence with touches of wry, occasionally wicked humor throughout the film and several very suspenseful scenes that are still extremely effective. Even so, there are some excesses that prevent this remake of his own 1934 film from rising quite to the rank of his many truly great classic works.

The story is elemental Hitchcock, the innocent man (or rather, a married couple in this case) who, through circumstances they cannot control, becomes enmeshed in political intrigue and murder.

James Stewart, a doctor, and Doris Day, a former musical stage star, are vacationing in French Morocco with their young son when they meet a mysterious Frenchman on a bus. The stranger befriends them and inadvertently involves them in an assassination plot aimed at a political official who is targeted to be killed in London. To be sure Stewart and Day keep quiet about what they know, the killers kidnap their son, leading the frantic parents to England, where they begin searching for the boy.

As is so often the case with Hitchcock films the plot is just an excuse to hang together a number of preplanned suspense scenes, and the best, one of his most famous, takes place in Albert Hall during a concert conducted by Bernard Herrmann (the real-life composer who scored this and several other Hitchcock movies). This sequence should have closed the film, since it is so spectacular that everything afterward seems anti-climactic. And yet the closing moments also offer some milder suspense and there is a terrific, funny closing line at the end of the film.

"The Man Who Knew Too Much" is problematic in other areas, as well – not the least of which is its length. "North by Northwest," for example, is nearly 2½ hours, yet it breezes along. "The Man Who Knew Too Much," which is just about two hours long, does not. There are extraneous, sluggish sequences that just slow it all down, a noticeable problem when pacing is essential.

Doris Day's rendition of "Que Sera, Sera" seems a bit strained here and there's an odd juxtaposition of local shooting and obvious process shots (a screen behind the actors with the background projected onto it).

Still, in the overall context, these complaints are merely carping. On the whole, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" holds up very well, with Stewart and Day a well-matched team, and the film should succeed in putting you on the edge of your seat throughout much of it.

Anyone who might have doubted Alfred Hitchcock's masterful understanding of the art of cinema need only sit through any of the first four films of this series to have their faith restored.