The Man Who Knew Too Much


A Middle Aged Movie Blog. Being the periodic journal of a film loving middle aged independent science fiction writing father of two and his ongoing adventures in cinema and home video

Friday night viewing of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) with Leslie Banks as Bob Lawrence and Edna Best as his wife Jill Lawrence. Peter Lorre is on hand in impressively unsettling mode as creeping villain Abbott, to spice up events.

Hitch reportedly got on well with Lorre as they shared a similar sense of humour. Lorre would work with Hitch again on Secret Agent (1936) to positive effect, but it’s The Man Who Knew Too Much that remains his finest English language hour. His way with a cigarette is as riveting as his idiosyncratic performance which would endure alongside Fritz Lang’s M as a defining depiction of onscreen villainy.

The film, Hitch’s first for British Gaumont, was a roaring success and effectively set him on the road to Hollywood in 1939. Commencing with a murder at a ski resort, husband and wife combo of Bob and Jill acquire a clue regarding a pending assassination, only for their daughter to be kidnapped to keep them both quiet.

As with all classic Hitch films The Man Who Knew Too much is a witty and extraordinarily well constructed thriller. The performances are snappy and smart and the direction as technically precise as any of Hitch’s subsequent output. Stand out moments include a fight in a church involving every stick of furniture in the room and the climactic scene in the Royal Albert Hall, which is an exquisitely rendered exercise in tension building and technical savvy whose influence can be seen most tellingly in Francis Coppola’s much maligned Godfather Part 3 released in 1991.

Watched Bumblebee (2018) at the cinema and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Having lost interest in the Transformers movies after snoozing through the second at a cinema in Cornwall, it was reassuring to discover again that it is possible to craft a decent picture out of a plot involving robots in disguise whose raison d’être seems to be to continuously smash each other up.

Gone are the PTSD inducing visuals and leery shots of ‘hot babes’ in tight pants favoured by Marmite director Michael Bay. Instead, the movie is crafted as a whimsical homage to 80’s teen flicks and Amblin classics with a big heart and plenty of cool action.

A reasonable runtime + less destruction of property + human characters with genuine personalities = Well worth a look. Directed by Travis Knight. Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon.

Watched my second Doug Liman movie of the week, breezy drug smuggling espionage caper American Made (2017), the ‘true’ story of CIA stooge and TWA spy plane pilot Barry Seal. Tom Cruise plays it loose and smug as the pilot, who, through a series of poor life choices winds up getting involved with the CIA, The Contras, Oliver North, The FBI, The DEA and the Medellin Cartel.

The film whips along at a smart pace with some quality editing and camerawork. It is sound-tracked to within an inch of its life, and shot with a real eye for late seventies, early 80’s Americana. It is funny, entertaining and meticulously assembled. Good to see the Cruiser acting again, in a role that allows him to go off the rails a bit, something we don’t see much anymore due to his recent penchant for midlife action movies in which he dangles off stuff, flies stuff, jumps out of stuff, and punches stuff. Enjoyably throwaway. Well worth a watch.

Watched Bright (2017) on Netflix, after months of avoidance, mostly due to the wretched reviews it received and because I still hadn’t really gotten over David Ayer’s DCU effort, Suicide Squad (2016), which was an editorial car crash that made a mockery of its source material.

Bright posits a world in which magical creatures exist alongside humans in a grim, gangster ridden slum hole of LA urbanity where Orcs are treated like scum and Elves are in charge. Cops are corrupt. Gangsters are bad people. Carnage is a prerequisite. Plotting is a secondary concern. It’s hard not to think of 1988’s Alien Nation when watching it since it mirrors the film’s concept, albeit with less interesting results.

To fulfil a diversification quota of some description, Will Smith’s Daryl Ward is partnered with Joel Edgerton’s Orc outcast and social pariah Nick Jakoby. The pair struggle to bond. Bad stuff starts to happen. The duo get in over their heads. Action sequences and sweary dialogue abound.

Bright’s problems are apparent early. The plotting is rubbish. Some guff about a Bright and a magic wand and corrupt cops and evil elves. The action sequences are messy. The editing is choppy. The tone of the film is jarring. The performances are phoned in. The constant rain and gloomy visuals are oppressive. It’s riddled with fantasy cliches that are never fully explained against the backdrop of a buddy cop action movie world that is woefully underdeveloped.

On the plus side, there’s a lot of shootouts in the movie, and though it gets a bit frantic and shouty on occasion it is at least partially entertaining for periods of its runtime. Ultimately though, this isn’t enough to save it. The film doesn’t cohere and plays out like a bunch of stuff borrowed from superior films that’s been sellotaped together for the purpose of cashing out.

File under missed opportunity.

The Man Who Knew Too Much
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