The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
A little knowledge can be a deadly thing!
Everybody knows Hitchcock. If you haven't ever heard the name, then chances are you are probably super young or something - as most people I've run into have at least heard of at least one of his works - such as Psycho. The man had a way with twists, although it would certainly appear that some seem to have less twists than others - but beyond that he knew how to make a movie for the time. In this take, we have a little less supernatural or epidemics, and instead focus on a small group with a big problem. Will the movie end up feeling like it tries too much, or will you know this man knew what he's doing?
We start our tale up in Germany in some mountains, where a bit of sports are taking place. A skier on his last chance ends up crashing on the way down to avoid running over a girl who runs onto the slope after her dog - but he remains pretty lighthearted about it, and invites the father and his wife out to dinner. The father and daughter then go to join his wife for her trap shooting match. After some noise-making drama, the mother misses her shot and loses the match, but the family still remains in relatively high spirits. During dinner, the father ends up playing a prank on his wife's dance partner, but things quickly turn dark when her dance partner suddenly finds himself shot. As he's dying, he passes on a secret to her for her to do in his stead.
The father sends the daughter up to their room (because of all the commotion), and the wife ends up passing on the secret to him before having to talk to the local police (apparently). The father goes up to the room and investigates, finding a note in a brush, and before a man standing outside can press him for it, the manager and more local police take the father aside to go talk to head policeman instead of his requests of speaking directly to the British Consulate. It is during his wait there that the father is given a note explaining that if him or his wife say anything about the contents of the note to anyone, their daughter will be killed.
Back home, the family is very worried for their daughter. Afraid that police involvement will get their daughter killed, the father decides he needs to find her before the police catch on to things too much and causes disaster. Things play out a bit like a detective flick at this point, with the father and an uncle chasing down clues, slowly leading them to his daughter's location. When he unknowingly stumbles into the den of his daughters captors, he manages to buy time for the uncles escape to warn his wife. Will the wife risk the life of her daughter to save a political figure from a place they have never heard off? Will the father and daughter be rescued?
So let's get this out of the way first - this movie is from 1936. It's old. I won't argue against that, because it would be silly for me to do so. The audio cracks, some of the sound effects sound like they were recorded directly on top of the microphone, some of the dialogue is hard to hear, and the musical score is pretty classical (as in the genre) when it does pop up. Lines are delivered in a very stage-like performance, as a lot of older movies do. By todays standards, this can probably be a horrible experience for some (what with the release of all these remastered and high-tech modern releases) who have been spoiled by modern advances.
Likewise, it's very much black and white. A "remake" version (done by Hitchcock himself again) happened again later and was in color, but from what I've gathered of it is also markedly different in the families rolls and how the ending plays out. That said, the copy I watched was this '34 version, and even the costumes reflect a bit of that old trench-coat detective and fur-collar concert dress that one thinks of from 'back in the day'. The actors are pretty decently animated when it comes to facial expressions, and everyone smokes if they got them - it's markedly old in appearance. It should be noted though, that even with it being rather dated, the actors still do a very good job of acting, and most of the reactions characters have are rather believable.
For a Hitchcock movie, I admittedly expected a much larger twist than what appears in this movie. There was never really that "whaaaaaat?" moment that I've experienced elsewhere. Despite the lack of a super heavy twist, it manages to pull an incredible amount of suspense and tension in any of the key scenes where it's needed - such as the concert scene, where you can practically feel the pain involved with her choice of one life over another. The movie also carries with it plenty enough foreshadowing to future events that you never really expect to be something important or relevant until it actually comes up later on. It's very well shot and put together, even for a movie of it's age.
This certainly might not be as dramatic and well handled as Psycho, but admittedly the complete lack of supernatural in this movie only helps it's suspense and mystery. It's worth a watch if you ask me and are into older movies (as in, you aren't losing enjoyment from dated presentations), but people wanting that modern polish are probably going to have a bit of a bad time. The story is solid, and the thoughtful thinkers may find plenty of things to mull over and digest, and the actors do a pretty decent job. It may not be the best Hitchcock, but it's still a pretty good one if you ask me.