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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Saturday, January 12, 2013
6:30 p.m. The Man Who Knew Too Much
Alfred Hitchcock (U.K., 1934)

A British couple on holiday in St. Moritz become unwitting pawns in international espionage when they are handed a message from a dying Secret Service agent. Information about a terrorist plot to assassinate a visiting diplomat, and presumably create another war, is now known only by the unlucky duo whose daughter is kidnapped and taken to London to keep them quiet. The desire to know is always “too much” in Hitchcock, from The 39 Steps to North by Northwest, but those who would be insular, like the vacationing nuclear family in both this and the 1956 Technicolor remake (screening March 24) with Doris Day and James Stewart, are punished with knowledge. Hitchcock makes brilliant use of the Albert Hall; Nova Pilbeam, precocious pet amongst the anarchists; and Peter Lorre, the smiling villain latterly remembered from M. Shorter, tauter, more nightmarish in black and white (more black than white) than the remake, this version provides its shocks on a need-to-know basis.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by A. R. Rawlinson, Charles Bennett, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis, Edwin Greenwood, from an original theme by Bennett, Wyndham-Lewis. Photographed by Curt Courant. With Leslie Banks, Edna Best, Peter Lorre, Frank Vosper. (75 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Library of Congress, permission Park Circus)