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The Man Who Knew Too Much (Criterion, 1934) D: Alfred Hitchcock, w/ Peter Lorre, Leslie Banks. Rating: NNNN
The Man Who Knew Too Much doesn't have quite the polish of Alfred Hitchcock's later British films, notably The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps, but it's fun and famous as the first full-blown display of his themes and techniques: the average guy in over his head, the likeable villain, touches of dark humour, tight visual storytelling, grand set pieces and mounting suspense. (He remade the picture two decades later.)
Peter Lorre steals the show as Abbott, the spymaster who kidnaps Bob and Jill Lawrence's (Leslie Banks and Edna Best) daughter when they stumble onto his assassination plot. Even at his most gentle, sophisticated and amused, Lorre has a discernible air of silky menace, and becomes a heartless killer with no apparent transition.
Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro contributes a detailed appreciation of the film, and Hitchcock himself speaks insightfully about his thinking in a two-part, 50-minute TV interview from 1972 that also includes a bonus for aspiring journalists: notice the different questioning styles of the two interviewers and watch Hitchcock's reactions.
EXTRAS Commentary, two TV interviews, audio interview, del Toro appreciation, essay booklet. B&W. English audio.