Que Sera, Sera
A story involving international politics and assassination, it doesn’t appear Hitchcock knew or cared about the details of that plot. What matters is a man will be killed, and The Man Who Knew Too Much – Jimmy Stewart – is apt on the details, unwilling a participant as he may be.
Taking place in both Marrakesh and London, Man Who Knew Too Much details an American trapped abroad, a suspect, and a victim when his son is held in exchange for silence. It’s a circumstantial location; Man Who Knew Too Much doesn’t depict Northern Africa as riddled with social disarray, and in fact takes time to explain the culture seen on the family’s trip.
Man Who Knew Too Much is wonderfully chaotic
Man Who Knew Too Much is wonderfully chaotic
With both World War II and the Korean war concluded, Man Who Knew Too Much shows an idyllic lifestyle for an American doctor and his operatic wife (Doris Day). Combat behind them, adventuring, relaxation, and tourism provided peace. That’s the perfect timeline for Man Who Knew Too Much, where innocent encounters abroad provide something to fear.
While initially different for Hitchcock, with Stewart listening to his wife, even accepting her suggestions, soon he’s drugging her to keep her calm and rarely letting her take any risks without a man around. It’s stubbornness in sticking to gender roles, if also inherent to 1950s American society, to which Man Who Knew Too Much presents unaltered. Also deserving of full credit is Day, who while helplessly watching on as a man nears a violent death, can only passively standby less her missing child be hurt. It’s a performance beyond Day’s usually chipper, simple musical romances, upstaging even Stewart as if fighting back against a regressive feminine depiction through her work.
Man Who Knew Too Much is wonderfully chaotic, even with a more blissful, calm pace compared to modern thrillers. It’s more organic, with people speaking multiple languages around the protagonists, and an uncertainty as to the cultures. That adds to the uneasiness when the drama begins, Stewart and Day lost without options and without open communication. The setting(s) is a masterful choice, and with occasional levity, as in a taxidermy shop.
Hitchcock’s blatant and obvious foreshadowing ensures the viewer knows what will transpire, less a method of not trusting an audience but rather a means to ensure they become enveloped by the tension. The inevitability of a shooting during an orchestral performance (led by composer Bernard Herrmann) turns the music into a death march, whose crescendo means murder. It’s a masterfully employed technique.
Masterful work by Universal’s restoration team, Man Who Knew Too Much looks phenomenal. Beautiful, thin, natural grain resolves flawlessly. Resolution draws out fidelity unseen short of the best true 35mm presentations. Location cinematography glistens, pure and defined as is possible short of an 8K scan. Facial definition appears in mid-range and close-ups. Other than rear projection or composites, nothing inhibits the overall fidelity in this VistaVision print.
Restoration also removes any damage, whether speck of dust or scratch – it’s all gone, leaving Man Who Knew Too Much faultless. Splendid color takes advantage of the HDR pass, honing in on flesh tone accuracy while giving the sandy warm tones of North African scenery gorgeous density. In London, cooler hues fall into place, and it’s equally pristine.
Appropriately reserved contrast doesn’t exaggerate highlights, merely elevating them to an enhanced level. Renewed black levels drop shadows to their deepest levels, pure black a constant that doesn’t miss.
A 2.0 mono track is fun, but Universal includes the original 3.0 Perspecta soundtrack in its entirety. Barely detectable aging resolves the dialog cleanly, as if flawlessly preserved since the first day prints were struck. Bernard Herrmann’s score flows organically through each available speaker, the highs stable, and the lows convincingly bold. Man Who Knew Too Much doesn’t look or sound its age.
A 34-minute making-of is older but great, except for the lazy, blinding HDR Universal added to it. Next is a look at the restoration. That runs five minutes too, and again, has a blinding HDR layer added that ruins the before/after comparisons. Stills and a trailer remain.
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Thrilling and invigorating, The Man Who Knew Too Much works as a tense travelogue flush with paranoia.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 48 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: