The Man Who Knew Too Much Review

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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) movie posterSynopsis
While Ben (James Stewart), his wife Jo (Doris Day) and son Hank (Christopher Olsen) are vacationing in Marrakesh, they get entangled in an international assassination plot.

Review
My journey so far through my Alfred Hitchcock collection has been full of excitement and surprises. I guess it was only a matter of time before I found one that wasn’t as exciting to me. The Man Who Knew Too Much is very Hitchcockian but there is just something about it that didn’t tickle my fancy. The two leads, James Stewart and Doris Day, are fantastic. Stewart, a staple of Hitchcock films at this point, captures the every man character so well. I was surprised by Doris Day. I recognize her primarily as a singer but her acting here was incredible. The mystery it built was intriguing and the climax was exciting, especially in the backdrop of the Royal Albert Hall and with the score having such a prominent presence. However, I didn’t find it as thrilling or suspenseful as Hitchcock’s previous films. The plot of the characters traveling from place to place, learning more about a secret plot at each stop reminded me of a similar format in Saboteur. Maybe it was because I wasn’t absorbed by this film but it felt like it ran too long. Several of the stops made by Ben (James Stewart) and Jo (Doris Day) could have been taken out and it probably wouldn’t have affected the plot too much.

I thought The Man Who Knew Too Much was OK 😐 This has all the hallmark staples of a film by Alfred Hitchcock but there is just something about it that didn’t capture my attention. I never found myself on the edge of my seat like other Hitchcock films. I know this sounds like blasphemy but I don’t see myself revisiting this particular Hitchcock film any time soon, not when there are several other movies of his that do the plot better.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
John Michael Hayes – Screenplay
Bernard Herrmann – Composer

James Stewart – Dr. Benjamin McKenna
Doris Day – Josephine Conway McKenna
Christopher Olsen – Hank McKenna
Brenda de Banzie – Lucy Drayton
Bernard Miles – Edward Drayton
Ralph Truman – Inspector Buchanan
Daniel Gelin – Louis Bernard
Reggie Nalder – French Marksman

Rear Window Review

Rear Window movie posterSynopsis
Wheelchair-bound photographer LB β€œJeff” Jefferies (James Stewart) watches his neighbors through the rear window of his apartment. One night, he believes he witnesses one of his neighbors commit a murder.

Review
As soon as the opening credits started with an upbeat and jazzy score, I knew Rear Window was going to have a different vibe than the other Hitchcock films I have watched up until this point. This film has a brighter feel than films like Shadow of a Doubt or Rope. While a suspicion of murder is at the core of the story, the movie tells the story in a much more pleasant way, if that makes sense. Because of this overall difference in tone, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat with suspense like some of Hitchcock’s other films. However, I still felt drawn in to the mystery and suspense of trying solve it along with Jefferies (James Stewart).

Hitchcock’s films have contained great casts and this one is no exception. Stewart brought the multiple facets of his character to life, from Jefferies’ strong belief in what he thought he witnessed, to his internal conflict about settling down and getting married. Grace Kelly is one of Hollywood’s most stunning actresses and she shows she has the talent to go with her looks, too! My unexpected favorite was Thelma Ritter as Jefferies’ nurse Stella. Ritter’s comedic timing and sass had me laughing every time she was on the screen.

As great as the cast was, what really sets this film apart is what Alfred Hitchcock was able to do with everything around the actors and actresses. First, there is the magnificent set design. All the buildings surrounding the central courtyard were each as unique as the residents within them, adding to their stories. Second, Hitchcock was able to tell multiple different stories of the residents in those other apartments without them even saying a word. Rear Window never leaves Jefferies’ apartment, so everything we know and see is through Jefferies’ point-of-view. Yet the audience is able to learn so much about Jefferies’ neighbors just by what Hichcock decides to show us.

Which leads me to my last point: this movie is a masterclass in visual storytelling and audience manipulation. From the get-go, we have an understanding of what happened to Jefferies that caused him to be in a wheelchair. And not a single word is spoken about it. Then, as stated above, Hitchcock only revealed what he wanted us (and Jefferies) to see about Jefferies’ neighbors, especially around Mr. Thorwold (Raymand Burr). This manipulation lets us learn about the characters by observation only but this also allows Hitchcock to throw in some twists about them towards the end of the film, revealing that there is more to those around us than meets the eye. Hitchcock also does a fantastic job of both reinforcing and contradicting Jefferies’ belief in Mr. Thorwold involvement in his wife’s disappearance. A true spectacle about what can be accomplished with a well-written script.

I thought Rear Window was GREAT πŸ˜€ At first I wasn’t sure where it landed on my ranking of Hitchcock’s films but after some thought and consideration, it lands pretty high for me. While not as dark of a suspense film as the previous films, the film’s mystery kept me engaged from start to finish. Hichcock has proven himself a master of suspense but with Rear Window, he also demonstrated himself to be a master of manipulation.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
John Michael Hayes – Screenplay

James Stewart – LB β€œJeff” Jefferies
Grace Kelly – Lisa Carol Fremont
Wendell Corey – Det. Lt. Thomas J Doyle
Thelma Ritter – Stella
Raymond Burr – Lars Thorwald
Irene Winston – Mrs. Emma Thorwald
Judith Evelyn – Miss Lonelyhearts
Ross Bagdasarian – Songwriter
Georgine Darcy – Miss Torso
Sara Berner – Woman on Fire Escape
Frank Cady – Man on Fire Escape
Rand Harper – Newlywed
Havis Davenport – Newlywed

Rope Review

Rope movie poster

Synopsis
Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) host a dinner party after murdering a classmate.

Review
As I make my way through my Alfred Hitchock collection, I’m starting to get a feel for his directorial style and why he came to be known as the β€œMaster of Suspense.” Rope is the next stop on my journey and while it doesn’t overtake the previous film, Shadow of a Doubt, as my favorite, it does have merit to come close.

Hitchcock shows the audience immediately the murder committed by Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) as well as the pair hiding the body in a chest in their apartment. Because this act is literally the first scene of the film, there is no doubt about the character of Brandon and Phillip and what they are capable of. We also get a sense of their personalities and relationship from this early scene. So as the film goes on, the suspense continuously builds as their guests seemingly come closer and closer to discovering the hidden body. The tension kicks into high gear once Rupert (James Steward) becomes suspicious of the two boys. Once again, this film is suspenseful but in a different way than Hitchcock’s previous films I have seen so far, truly demonstrating his mastery over the genre.

What really adds to the suspense is the acting from Dall, Granger, and Stewart. All three of these actors did superbly in their parts. You get the sense that the dynamic between the two murderers is more than simple friendship and Dall and Granger sold that relationship. Dall brings a sense of superiority over everyone around him to his character. This brings him to verbally spar with his mentor, Stewart’s character. Stewart brings a calm demeanor that dovetails well with the snideness of Dall and the nervousness of Granger. When these three were together, particularly towards the end of the film, is when Rope excelled.

One of my favorite things Hitchcock did in this film was make it appear to be one continuous shot. Rope was adapted from the play by the same name and it feels like watching a play when watching this movie. The one-continuous-shot style has rarely been used over the decades but Rope was the first to make use of the technique, making Hitchcock a pioneer yet again. He was limited to 10 minute shots due to limitations of 35mm film at the time and it is easy to see where several of the transitions occurred but it doesn’t take away from the experience too much.

I don’t know how much of the dialogue was adopted from the original play but I found the dialogue of Rope to be very witty. Multiple innuendos were sprinkled throughout the film. It’s a small touch but it added a little bit of humor to an otherwise dark and serious film.

I thought Rope was GREAT πŸ˜€ As I watch more and more of Hitchcock’s films, I am learning that β€œsuspense” can be implemented in multiple ways. The suspense of Rope is different than the suspense in the previous Hitchcock films I have watched, which also have different types of suspense from each other. The trio of John Dall, Farley Granger, and James Stewart were fantastic, bringing the snappy dialogue to life. The quality from Hitchcock has been astounding and I cannot wait to see what happens next in my on my journey through my Hitchcock collection.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Hume Cronyn – Writer
Arthur Laurents – Screenplay
David Buttolph – Composer

John Dall – Brandon
Farley Granger – Phillip
Edith Evanson – Mrs. Wilson
Douglas Dick – Kenneth
Joan Chandler – Janet
Cedric Hardwicke – Mr. Kentley
Constance Collier – Mrs. Atwater
James Stewart – Rupert Cadell
Dick Hogan – David Kentley