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You're right - it's not clear. I've edited the first post to help rectify that. Cheers.
(04-10-2018, 08:23 AM)The Scribbling Man Wrote: [ -> ]I'm sure watching [the original The Man Who Knew Too Much] will reveal his reasoning for remaking it years later.

The reason is simple. The first version sucks hard, but it was a great concept. Second attempt was thumbs up.
Week 16: 'The Man who knew too much' [1934]
Source: Amazon Video, Criterion edition [streaming]

After a string of disappointing Hitchcock films, I was looking forward to this one. Finally, a proper Hitchcockian chase film, with intrigue and dastardly plots. A film that, at least on some level, Hitchcock must have had some interest in, having decided to go back and remake it years later. Unfortunately, I was disappointed once again.

Hitchcock himself famously said that this original version was the work of a "talented amateur", and it would be difficult to disagree. The story is fun but preposterous - a couple on holiday in Switzerland are not just witnesses to a murder, but are the sole recipients of his cryptic final words. In an effort to get them to reveal what they know, their daughter is kidnapped, and the couple must try to thwart the bad guys, prevent another murder and rescue their child without involving the police. 

The set-up is great, and I can understand why Hitch would want to use it again. However, it doesn't quite work here. The pace is off-kilter - languid in too many places, and seeming rushed the next. The acting is unbelievable and occasionally unintentionally funny, especially during the 'fight' scene in the chapel. The only actor who stands out is Peter Lorre, who plays the villain (naturally) with an air of condescension and glee. 

There wasn't much in the way of cinematic flourishes that caught my eye, though the climax in the Albert Hall as the heroine tries to figure out the killer and potential victim is as suspenseful as you would expect from the later Master. There are also some nice set-ups early on that pay off later - the brooch the daughter is given as a gift, the mother's proficiency at clay-pigeon shooting and, most notable of all, the pocket watch Lorre keeps with him. 

I have yet to see the remake, but having now seen the original. my interest in the later film is increased. I streamed this film on Amazon and it was the Criterion restoration. As expected, it looked great, although there was some background hiss in quiet scenes (of which there were many - I didn't notice any musical score, which this film could well have used.)
Nice review, Garp. Interestingly, although neither of us were a fan, we seem to differ on a few things. Here's my review:

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

"I haven't actually come across anyone with anything positive to say about this, but that's just the sort of thing that normally provokes me to check something out, especially when it's a film that the director himself has chosen to remake. 

It's very clear why this early incarnation doesn't get a whole lot of attention, and also why Hitchcock chose to remake it - it's not very good. 
Sure, there is visual flair that shows the makings of a great director in the works, but visual flair can't make up for incompetent storytelling, which is exactly what The Man Who Knew Too Much suffers from.
Despite it's potential, the set up is rushed, with characters and plot introduced in a sloppy, disorientating manner. It doesn't really feel like we are given any reason to care about anything going on, especially in regards to the man who is in danger of being assassinated - the whole narrative is just generally very muddy.

Visually, it almost felt as if Hitchcock was trying too hard to be iconic. The bizarre fight involving people chucking chairs at each other in the middle of the Church of Sun worshipers, being a key example, along with the encounter at the dentist, in which we have a striking shot that to me felt reminiscent of Vertigo:

[Image: 7d383d3e165ace3644460318d28c4403.jpg]

The film is littered with interesting transitions and visual elements (such as the sudden cutaway to the model rail track), but they don't really serve the narrative in any useful way. Hitchcock must have recognised his errors though, since he quickly moved on the following year to create the much more cohesive, though far from perfect, 39 Steps. A film that succeeds in balancing humour and tension, and makes very good use of visual cues. 

Looking at Hitchcock's filmography, it's clear that he went from strength to strength, eventually deciding to remake The Man Who Knew Too Much with James Stewart in the lead role, of which I very much look forward to seeing."

On the performances, Garp, I didn't think they were too bad, although I agree there were some bizarrely comic moments (such as when the actor being hypnotised decides to lay his hat upon the "bible"). Peter Lorre was definitely the standout though, and generally made the scenes he occupied relatively engaging. 

Since I seem to have misplaced my copy of the film, I too ended up streaming the Criterion version. There was definitely some scoring during the film, though it was minimal. This didn't feel to me to be an area that was noticeably lacking though.
(04-20-2018, 05:24 PM)The Scribbling Man Wrote: [ -> ]There was definitely some scoring during the film, though it was minimal. This didn't feel to me to be an area that was noticeably lacking though.

I feel I should add a disclaimer that I rarely notice the soundtrack when watching a film. It seems to be a blindspot for me, or whatever the aural equivalent would be. When reading reviews on films, I'm often amazed at the level of detail some people can pick out from a score, when I've seen the exact same film and have no knowledge or memory of what music was playing during a particular scene. Unless it's iconic (James Bond, or most of John Williams' oeuvre) the chances are it'll pass me by.

That said, there were some scenes during 'TMWKTM' that seemed silent - or, at least, without music - when I would have expected some to be there. Now I'm almost tempted to rewatch it and pay special attention to the score...
There wasn't much. Obviously there is the scene where the orchestra is playing, which I don't count, but there is also an organ playing during the church fight, which I would count as part of the score because there's no one there to play the organ - or at least if there was, why would they be playing the organ while everyone is throwing chairs at each other? 

I do remember there being a scene towards the end where I noticed the score though, chiefly because it was oddly mixed. The music was dramatic, but very quiet compared to the rest of the audio.

Edit: I can't find the scene I'm looking for, but here is an example of scoring:



There is the opening theme, obviously, but then also a piece starts playing in the background around 1:50, just as we have the incident with the skiers.
Week 17: 'The 39 Steps' [1935]
Source: Amazon Video, Criterion edition [streaming]

From 'A Year of Hitchcock: 52 weeks with the Master of Suspense' by Jim McDevitt & Eric San Juan: "For both Alfred Hitchcock and a journey through his career, arriving at this point is a landmark moment... It is fair to argue that 'The 39 Steps' represents the first true Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece, a masterpiece created with skills honed over the course of more than a dozen previous motion pictures. They were all worthy in their own right, but here everything comes together as never before."

This is a great film. Great acting, great story, great entertainment. Like its predecessor, 'The Man who knew too much', the plot is ridiculous if you stare at it too hard, but why would you want to? Hitchcock ensures that you will be too busy just having fun.

Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), a Canadian in London (or a Londoner who has recently returned from Canada - I'm not sure which), becomes embroiled in a spy caper when a woman he meets at  a music hall is killed in his flat. In 1930s derring-do fashion, he decides to evade the police and travel to Scotland to somehow prevent state secrets from leaving the country. Will he succeed? Was Hitchcock fat?

The mix of thrills, comedy, action and even pathos is perfect here. There are a number of scenes that stand out. Hannay is mistaken for the scheduled speaker at a political rally and riles up the crowd in an attempt to try and evade his captors. (Hitchcock uses a similar ruse later in 'North by Northwest'.) In Scotland, he spends the night at a lonely farmhouse, in which the farmer's wife is as alone as her surroundings. This scene could have been heavy-handed and out of place, but instead is perfectly handled, giving the audience a place to breathe. And, as Hannay is later handcuffed to the unwitting Pamela, Hitchcock again slackens off the pace to show the couple drying off in a B&B, played for both comedy and romance.

There are some great flourishes here too - the maid's scream on discovering the dead body that cuts to a train whistle is the most effective, and the final hand-holding is a perfect ending. Overall, a great way to spend an hour and a half.

I watched the Criterion version on Amazon, and was impressed. There was still the issue of some background hiss during quieter moments, but nothing overly distracting. The visuals, as expected from Criterion, were excellent.
Bonus: ' The Thirty-nine Steps' [1959]
Source: DVD

Nearly two and a half decades later, Hitchcock's masterpiece was updated with every British grandmother's favourite, Kenneth More, in the lead. This colour version follows the original fairly closely, even with some of the same lines, but changes a few key sequences and not always successfully.

The main change comes right at the beginning, with Hannay first meeting 'The Nanny' via a non-fatal hit-and-run. This scene establishes her life-in-jeopardy status more effectively and was the only addition I liked. Following that, the other changes were missteps. Gone is the poignant scene in the farmhouse, to be replaced with a flirty and fraudulent clairvoyant, for no good reason. The political rally is substituted with a speech to a girl's school about spleenwort (local flora). And, in an unnecessary coda, the new couple are seen together in the same park that the action first began. It's a nice bookend, I suppose, but I preferred the original's simplicity.

Kenneth More plays Hannay as an over-excited schoolboy, with a wink to the audience not to take anything they see too seriously. It works - just - depending perhaps on whether, like me, you were brought up on the likes of 'Reach for the Sky' and notably 'Genevieve' on British TV on Sunday afternoons. Taina Elg is beautiful in this, and her strange accent (she's Finnish) is never commented upon. The film also boasts a number of well-known British character actors, Sid James and Joan Hickson probably being the most famous.

This version rarely does anything better than the original, but is just as entertaining in its own right. I watched a UK DVD and it was fine - the colours popped pretty well and it looked as good as you would expect.
Do you intend on reviewing the 70's film and the 90's TV adaptation?

Worth bearing in mind that Hitchcocks "The 39 Steps" was based on a book by John Buchan, and so later renditions may have been based on that and not necessarily on Hitchcocks take, which I believe differs from the book a fair amount.
All this talk about Hitch's "Man Who Knew Too Much" made me remember I made a list about Directors Who Remade Their Own Films. It was fascinating to research, check it out.
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