The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Early, strong Hitchcock

A bit too short, not as refined as later films

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Man Who Knew Too Much

Studio:  Gaumont British Picture Corporation

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  December 1934 (UK)/March 22, 1935 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Who know anything about this bullet hole? A man I’m guessing…

In Switzerland, a man named Louis Bernard (Pierre Fresnay) is assassinated, but not before he passes on vital information on an assassination attempt to Bob Lawrence (Leslie Banks) and his wife Jill (Edna Best) who are vacationing there with their daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam).  Betty is taken hostage by Abbott (Peter Lorre) and if Bob and Jill go to the police, Betty will be killed.  Traveling back to London, Bob and Jill find themselves having to work with the assassins and not interfere with their plan.  When the police secretly get involved, Jill and Bob worry time is running out for their daughter.


It’s Hitch!!!

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The Man Who Knew Too Much was Hitchcock’s follow-up to Waltzes from Vienna in 1934.  The movie takes its title (but not its plot) from the book of stories published in 1922 by G.K. Chesterton.  The movie is widely considered one of Hitchcock’s best early films and has been released on a nice Blu-Ray Criterion (Criterion #643).

The Man Who Knew Too Much is an interesting story.  The film went through a lot of changes on the way to the screen and showed Alfred Hitchcock’s strengths.  Combine both a strong story and some great visuals, and you have a good Hitchcock film.


Dude, you’re weird…

I do really enjoy the writing for this film and the movie has tons of Hitchcock-esque traits to it.  Hitchcock hadn’t really established these traits at this point in his career (though there are tons of hints in earlier films), but with the strong (blonde) female lead in Edna Best and the intricate (over-the-top) assassination plot which somehow still makes sense, Hitchcock demonstrates what made him famous over the years.  I just wish this film was a bit longer.

The cast is also great. Edna Best and Leslie Banks make a good couple, and they feel rounded and real.  Lorre is always a great villain.  Be it in M or The Maltese Falcon, his sniveling, creepy look just adds a sense of menace to every role he’s in.  The bizarre assassins/cult introduced about midway through the movie also is awesome, and I would have loved more scenes with them and their weird hierarchy within their group.


One of the more surreal visual moments of the film…

The oddest thing about The Man Who Knew Too Much is that in 1956, Alfred Hitchcock decided to remake the movie.  The remake (also fun) stars Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart as the couple, and changes many of the events which alters the ending.  There is a great debate as to which The Man Who Knew Too Much is better, but both are good.  I prefer the later version of the film, but I also understand why people would enjoy the more raw and unrefined version.  It is just interesting to see both films together to see how a director can reinterpret his work (without remaking every five years like George Lucas).

The Man Who Knew Too Much is a great film and a good example of early (talkie) Hitchcock.  The movie’s been cleaned up great and can be found in multipacks, but get the Criterion if possible.  Hitchcock followed up The Man Who Knew Too Much with another classic in The 39 Steps in 1935.

Related Links:

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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