This weekend’s Redford Theatre feature, screening on Friday and Saturday at 8 pm with an additional showing at 2 pm on Saturday, was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Never one to pass up a Hitchcock screening, I also took the opportunity to continue converting my dad into a classic film fan. This is the third Hitchcock film we’ve seen on the big screen together — the others being Rope at the Senate Theater and Notorious at the Redford.
We interrupt our programming for a segment of “Dad Jokes” with TMP Sr.:
Upon arriving at the theater, my dad was puzzled: “They spelled ‘canoe’ wrong,” he said, looking at the marquee.
“Canoe?,” I thought to myself, now equally puzzled.
“See?,” he continued. “K-new.” He was expecting a completely different, non-existent film – The Man Who Canoed Too Much.
Famously, 1956’s The Man Who Knew Too Much is a remake of an earlier Hitchcock film of the same title, released in 1935. It is unusual for a filmmaker to remake their own work, but in Hitchcock’s own words, “Let’s say that the first version was the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional” (TCMDb).
The Man Who Knew Too Much tells the story of, as an opening title states, “A single crash of Cymbals and how it rocked the lives of an American family.” That is, of course, an oversimplification. The film actually tells the story of an American family traveling in Marrakesh, who accidentally become involved with a spy and an assassination plot.
The film was preceded by a short organ concert. No shorts or cartoons were played this time around, making it a no-frills screening, but still every bit as enjoyable as my previous trips to the Redford.
The print screened at the Redford was a quite beautiful 35mm print, restored in 2005. Appearing in near-pristine condition, it was a real treat to see the film on film, having only previously watched it on DVD. There is nothing quite like watching a classic Technicolor film in all of its vibrancy on the big screen!
As for the film’s content, I appreciate the story more having seen it play out on the big screen — a common thread among my experiences of visiting the Redford and other revival screenings. Though not as immediately gripping as some of Hitchcock’s other films, The Man Who Knew Too Much has a number of great scenes — the scene in the taxidermist’s shop, Jimmy Stewart climbing out of a bell tower, and the stellar dialogue-free concert (in which Bernard Herrmann conducts an orchestra on-screen).
I must admit, I still prefer the earlier version of the film, contradicting Hitchcock’s own comparison of the two works. However, the 1956 version still has a lot to offer the viewer, including a stellar performance (and lovely music) by the legendary Doris Day and a bit of humor mixed in with the suspense.