James Stewart plays an American doctor – on holiday in Morocco with his family – who accidentally learns of a political assassination to take place in the near future.
A friendly English couple are in fact spies, and they kidnap Stewart’s son to ensure his silence. So he must prevent the killing without putting his son in harm’s way.
As in most Hitchcock films, the international intrigue is less important than the odyssey of the hero.
Stewart indeed “knows too much”, not valuing the capabilities of his wife (Doris Day). As the plot unfolds, however, her assistance proves essential, despite his fears of her emotional collapse (he even drugs her before telling her of the kidnapping).
The film climaxes in the Royal Albert Hall, one of Hitchcock’s best-ever set pieces.
The Man Who Knew Too Much features excellent performances by Stewart and Day, and by Bernard Miles and Brenda De Banzie as the British agents. The score by Bernard Herrmann – who appears in the film conducting the orchestra – is one of his best.
Hitchcock’s only remake of one of his own films raises the issue of the superiority of his American work to his British productions. Though the original 1934 version is witty, the remake is more lavish, with some of Hitchcock’s most powerful scenes.
Dr Ben McKenna
Brenda De Banzie