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The Man Who Knew Too Much(1934)
A British family gets mixed up with spies and an assassination plot while vacationing in Switzerland.
For more about The Man Who Knew Too Much and the The Man Who Knew Too Much Blu-ray release, see the The Man Who Knew Too Much Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Leslie Banks, Peter Lorre, Edna Best, Frank Vosper, Hugh Wakefield, Nova Pilbeam
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
» See full cast & crew
The Man Who Knew Too Much Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 23, 2012
Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1934) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include a new video interview with acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro; archival video interviews with Alfred Hitchcock conducted by Pia Lindstrom and William K. Everson; excerpts from Francois Truffaut's legendary 1962 interview with the British director; restoration demonstration; and a new audio commentary by film historian Philip Kemp. The release also arrives with a an illustrated booklet featuring an essay bu critic Farran Smith Nehme. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The film opens up in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where Bob (Leslie Banks, Went The Day Well?, Henry V) and his wife Jill (Edna Best, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Intermezzo) witness the murder of a Frenchman (Pierre Fresnay) working for the British Foreign Office. Before he dies, the Frenchman asks Bob to retrieve a piece of paper with an important message which is hidden in his room. Bob discovers it moments before the police arrive. Later on, while discussing the murder with an official in the British Embassy, he is contacted by the assassin who informs him that he has kidnapped his daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam). The assassin also makes it clear that she will die if Bob gives the message to the British authorities.
Back in London Bob and Jill get in touch with Uncle Clive (Hugh Wakefield, The Improper Duchess, Blithe Spirit), the only man they unreservedly trust. With a little bit of luck, they track down the assassin and discover that he is a member of a gang getting ready to eliminate an important diplomat. The killing is to take place during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Bob and Clive also discover that Betty is held in a nearby chapel. While trying to free her, they clash with the leader of the gang, Abbott (Peter Lorre, M, The Raven), and a few of his best men. Bob is captured but Clive escapes and informs Jill about the gang's plan to kill the diplomat. Unsure what to do, Jill heads to the Royal Albert Hall.
What makes this film intriguing is the fact that it offers a glimpse of what is to come from the Master of Suspense. Its plot isn't terribly convincing but there are sections of the film where the classic Hitchcock touch is very easy to recognize. For example, after the big melee in the chapel the film becomes unusually dark yet there are a number of sequences that are infused with plenty of humor, some of which is served with a degree of seriousness that will become quite prominent in Hitchcock's later films. Also, not everything in the film is made painfully transparent. There is plenty left to the viewer's imagination, again just as is the case in many of Hitchcock's best known films.
The Man Who Knew Too Much was also Lorre's first English-language film. The brash gangster he plays does not have a lot to say but is one of the most memorable characters. He smokes a lot and repeatedly looks straight into the camera, as if to make it perfectly clear that he is well aware that he is being watched. It certainly feels that way. Hitchcock must have loved his attitude because it singlehandedly transforms the entire film.
For the most part the camerawork is very good. There are a couple of uneven transitions but overall the pacing is consistent. The highlight in the film is the final quite long and notably realistic shootout. The killings here are completely devoid of the energy and drama that are present in the overwhelming majority of similarly themed films from the same period.
The Man Who Knew Too Much was lensed by the great German cinematographer Curt Courant (Fritz Lang's Woman In the Moon, Claude Autant-Lara's Ciboulette, Jean Renoir's La Bête Humaine).
In 1956, Hitchcock directed the famous remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much with James Stewart, Doris Day, Bernard Miles, and Brenda de Banzie. The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival and won Oscar Award for Best Music, Original Song (Jay Livingston and Ray Evans).
The Man Who Knew Too Much Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new digital transfer was created at the BFI National Archive in London in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner equipped with a sprocketless transport from a 35mm nitrate fine-grain master positive held in the archive's vaults. The restoration was performed by the Prasad Group, India, and the Criterion Collection.
Transfer supervisors: Lee Kline; Ben Thompson/British Film Institute, London.
Scanning: Ben Thompson/British Film Institute, London.
Colorist: Lee Kline."
The new high-definition transfer, which was sourced from a 35mm nitrate fine-grain positive owned by the British Film Institute, looks marvelous. In fact, Criterion's presentation of The Man Who Knew Too Much looks far more impressive than some recent restorations of classic films whose negatives are reportedly in pretty good condition. (The original negative for The Man Who Knew Too Much was lost years ago, and the fine-grain positive mentioned above was the best element Criterion could secure for the restoration). Detail and clarity are consistently pleasing, with many close-ups also boasting very good depth. Contrast levels are also stable. What impresses the most, however, is the fine balance between the blacks, whites, and grays, giving the film a solid, very healthy look. There are no traces of excessive degraining. Post-production sharpening corrections have not been performed either. Edge flicker is also never an issue of concern. Unsurprisingly, when projected The Man Who Knew Too Much looks stable and surprisingly fresh. Finally, there are no damage marks, large cuts, debris, or large warps to report in this review. All in all, for a film whose negative no longer exists, The Man Who Knew Too Much looks astonishingly good on Blu-ray. Indeed, what we have here is yet another fantastic restoration which will more than likely remain the film's definition presentation for years to come. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Man Who Knew Too Much Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from an original 35mm optical track owned by film preservationist Bob Harris, which was given to him by producer David O. Selznick. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation. "
The range of nuanced dynamics is rather limited, but depth and clarity are very good. The gunshots, in particular, sound great. The dialog is crisp, clean, and most importantly stable. Also, there is no overwhelming background hiss. I also did not spot any distortions or audio dropouts to report in this review.
The Man Who Knew Too Much Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Man Who Knew Too Much Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Criterion's presentation of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much is guaranteed to please fans of the film. I think that the film actually looks far better than other recently restored films whose original negatives were available to work with. I also feel very comfortable speculating that this will likely be the definitive presentation of The Man Who Knew Too Much for years to come. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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