October 30, 2012 is when Universal is releasing the 'Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection' containing fifteen of the director's seminal works. In an effort to bring you the most in-depth coverage on this set we are going through each included movie to give you the most thorough review we can. Feel free to visit the 'Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection' hub page. There you will find links to the other movies in this set and everything you'd want to know about the set's technical specifics and its packaging.
Hitchcock found enormous success in retooling his favorite go-to storytelling idea, which was a man wrongfully accused. A seemingly normal man, thrown into a world of intrigue, espionage, and above all, danger, simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This formula worked so well because it was so easy to relate to the protagonist. Just like him, we knew next to nothing about the underlying mystery. Hitchcock made it easy to feel the dread that the main character was feeling, because it was so easy to put ourselves in that situation. Continuing with this theme, 'The Man Who Knew Too Much,' a remake of his 1934 film, plays with the idea of what an ordinary man would do when faced with extraordinary circumstances.
Besides the fact that the movie spawned one of the funniest spoofs ever (we desperately need a 'The Man Who Knew Too Little' Blu-ray release), 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' remains one of Hitchcock's seminal films. Mainly due to James Stewart's great performance as Dr. Ben MacKenna. Doris Day plays his wife Jo, but she doesn't have near as much impact as Stewart has on this movie.
While vacationing in Morocco the MacKenna family is thrust into a game of political intrigue that they aren't ready to handle. They soon befriend a nice Frenchman named Loius Bernard (Daniel Gelin) who appears a little suspicious, but is still welcomed by Ben with open arms. The MacKenna's also meet the Draytons, another vacationing couple. Although, Jo soon points out that she feels like these happenstance meetings don't feel like coincidences.
The next day, while the MacKennas explore a nearby market, they witness a murder. The murdered man is their friend Louis. Before he dies he whispers the details of an assassination plot to Ben. In that very moment Ben has gone from an innocent bystander to a man who knows far too much, as the title suggests.
Their son is kidnapped to keep Ben quiet about what he's learned. Lacking the specific set of skills that Liam Neeson has, Ben must thwart the plans of the assassins using his brains instead of his fists. What follows is an exciting spy caper that is decidedly Hitchcock.
It does feel a tad overlong. Hitchcock's original movie was a brisk 75 minutes, this version clocks in at just under two hours. There are scenes that feel like filler, adding nothing to the overall suspense of the movie.
While there may be more revered movies in Hitchcock's catalogue that take on this theme, 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' proves to be a very capable thriller, starring a believable Jimmy Stewart.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Check the main hub page for the complete detail of the packaging of this set. Everything about it can be found there. For fun we've posted a picture of the section in the set created for 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' so you can see what it looks like.
This is one of the set's more troublesome transfers. Its 1080p presentation wavers from decent to downright atrocious. There are some glaring technical problems that will be addressed here, but I'm sure most fans will be extremely disappointed with the way this one turned out.
First we can talk about the good. There are spots in the movie where close-ups showcase quite a bit of detail that would've gone unseen in previous releases of the film. These close-ups show some of Doris Day's freckles along with Stewart's graying hairs. They also reveal some nice textures on suit coats, plaid pajamas, and floral print dresses.
Okay, that's the good. Now with the not-so-good. This entire disc has extreme troubles with color pulsing. The same scene will subtly switch from a green tint to a blue tint and then back to green over and over. It's a tremendously bothersome activity that persists throughout the movie. Speaking of color, much of it in the movie is dull and appears scrubbed. Poor Doris Day looks gaunt and anemic. Her skin takes on an unsightly shade of gray for much of the movie.
The color flickering gets really bad around the hour mark, along with all sorts of film damage – scratches, pockmarks, and grime – popping up all too frequently. Shadows never gain true inkiness. They waver somewhere around a bluish shade of black, which in turn creates the ghastly appearance of Doris Day's face. This is a pretty substandard transfer of a great film.
Barring a few sync problems that crop up on the bus portion of the movie, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix performs rather well. Much better than its anemic video counterpart.
Here we're treated to a very well-rounded mono track that is prioritized very nicely. Dialogue is easy to understand throughout the movie. The one part that's hard to hear is when Louis whispers his dying words to Ben, although that part is supposed to be pretty hushed anyway. The rest of the movie has great clarity with the spoken word.
Bernard Herrmann's memorable score has quite a bit of heft attached to it as you'll notice in the opening scenes. Low-end actually reverberates quite nicely as the soundtrack is played, especially as far as the blaring horns are concerned.
The mono track treats crowded scenes well, by providing enough prioritized ambient sound to make the scene almost sound as if there were a few more channels at play. Overall, this is a very satisfying audio mix, but it doesn't make up for the video debacle.
'The Man Who Knew Too Much' is another solid example of the way Hitchcock crafted his suspense thrillers. He was a master at upping the tension in scene after scene until it came to its inevitable conclusion. Yes, the movie may feel a tad too long, but Stewart's performance, coupled with Hitchcock's masterful direction, makes this another memorable movie in the director's illustrious catalogue. It's just too bad the video is so troubled.