Retro Review: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

PCA reminds you that the world’s best movies are not in the new release section at Blockbuster.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day star in Alfred Hitchcock’s tale of intrigue, kidnapping and assassination!

Jimmy Stewart plays Dr. Benjamin McKenna and Doris Day his wife, former stage diva Jo Conway.  While traveling in Morocco, with their young son Hank, the couple meet a mysterious French man who asks far too many questions.  The next day, while shopping in a market, the couple are approached by the mysterious stranger again….but with a knife in his back.  Staggering to Jimmy Stewart, with his last dying breath he whispers a cryptic message about a London based assassination.  However, before Stewart and Day can process the information, their son is kidnapped by the conspirators in order to keep the couple from talking to the authorities.  Stewart and Day quickly go to London in an attempt to put together the puzzle, to find their missing son and to stop a political assassination.

The Man Who Knew Too Much was originally filmed by Hitchcock in 1934 and starred Peter Lore.  However, Hitchcock’s 1956 Hollywood remake of the film is the stronger of the two due to the talents of its stars.   Hitchcock also manages to outdo his original direction of the film by, once again showing his innovation as a filmmaker during the assassination sequence at the Royal Albert Hall.  The twelve minute sequence, filmed without any dialogue, is nothing more then a multi shot montage with Bernard Herrman’s orchestra playing in real time.  This heart pounding and white knuckle sequence is both artistically stunning and imaginatively filmed, as Jimmy Stewart attempts to stop the assassin before the crash of the cymbals while Doris Day horrifically looks on.

Daniel Gelin whispers his final words to Jimmy Stewart

Daniel Gelin whispers his final words to Jimmy Stewart

The Man Who Knew Too Much also featured the debut of Doris Day’s signature song, Que Sera Sera.  Although she initially did not want to release the song as a single due to the fact that she considered it to be a “forgettable children’s song,”  Que Sera Sera topped the Billboard charts shortly after the release of The Man Who Knew Too Much, and won the Oscar for Best Song.

The Man Who Knew Too Much is a solid entry in Alfred Hitchcock’s collection of films, and continues his tradition of intrigue and suspense.


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