BFI Monthly Film Bulletin (Jan/1935) - The Man Who Knew Too Much
(c) BFI Monthly Film Bulletin (Jan/1935 - Volume 1, Number 12)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
The adventures of an Englishman and his wife who become involved in the plottings of an international gang of political conspirators. To silence them, their young daughter is kidnapped; and the main body of the film is concerned with the pursuit and recovery of the little girl and the frustration of the criminals' plans.
The film is a high-water mark of British production. It is first-class cinema, and all its main virtues are essentially cinematic virtues. The construction and continuity are excellent. The action is a little slow in getting under way, but after the opening sequence it develops as quickly and excitingly as one could ask. Suspense values are strong and accumulate towards a thrilling climax with no tailing off; one of the best scenes is that in the Albert Hall, where the noise of an orchestra has been planned to cover the shot of an assassin. In general the melodrama has been heightened by not being overstressed.
One does feel, however, that here and there an opposite mistake has been made - certain of the scenes suffer rather noticeably from under-stress. Better, perhaps, this fault than the other. The acting is very good indeed all round and helps immeasurably in the creation of atmosphere; even the small parts stand out with extraordinary solidity. Nova Pilbeam, it may be mentioned, gives a most realistic performance as the kidnapped child. Well-handled, she promises to become much more than an infant prodigy: indeed, she is much more now.
Yet it is the unifying hand of the director which to the observant eye is chiefly in evidence. Fuller comprehension of the earlier scenes is obtained when the complete film has been seen, and a second viewing will probably increase one's appreciation. As a piece of screenwork, this film is very good.