Jump to: navigation, search

New York Times (23/Mar/1935) - The Man Who Knew Too Much



The Man Who Knew Too Much

The British cinema, never notable for its command of filmic pace, goes in for a blistering style of story-telling in "The Man Who Knew Too Much," the new photoplay at the Mayfair Theatre. Directed with a fascinating staccato violence by Alfred Hitchcock, it is the swiftest screen melodrama this column can recall, with the possible exception of "Fog Over Frisco." Normally the work would be important chiefly because it offers Peter Lorre in his first part since his remarkable performance as the insane killer in "M." But "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is distinctly Mr. Hitchcock's picture. Although the photography and lighting are inferior according to Hollywood standards, the film is an interesting example of technical ingenuity as well as an absorbing melodrama.

It is the story of an Englishman and his wife and child who, by the sheerest of accidents, became involved in an anarchist plot to assassinate a foreign diplomatist in London. They are at a resort in St. Moritz when an invisible gunman shoots one of their chance acquaintances. The dying man asks Mr. Lawrence to find a hidden code message in his rooms and relay it at once to the British Foreign Office. Lawrence locates the message, but before he can turn it over to the British authorities his child is kidnapped and he is warned that the girl will be safe only so long as he maintains his silence. Upon their return to London the Lawrences are besieged by the secret service for the momentous code message, but decide they are more interested in saving their little girl's life than in preventing a possible war. Mr. Lawrence and a friend engage in a bit of private sleuthing, are captured by the anarchists, and in the grand climax find themselves trapped with the assassins in a hideout which the police are bombarding.

Mr. Hitchcock tells the story in a succession of brief and tantalizing scenes which merge so breathlessly that you are always rapt and tense. The method, of course, subordinates the actors to the technique, but Mr. Lorre, as the anarchist leader, is able to crowd his rôle with dark and terrifying emotions without disturbing his placid moon face. Then there are Edna Best as the wife, Leslie Banks as the husband, Hugh Wakefield as the amateur sleuth, and Nova Pilbeam as the kidnapped child. Pierre Fresnay becomes a corpse so hurriedly that you scarcely have time to know he is in the cast.