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The Man Who Knew Too Much

UK 1934
produced by
Michael Balcon for Gaumont British
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
starring Leslie Banks, Edna Best, Peter Lorre, Frank Vosper, Hugh Wakefield, Nova Pilbeam, Pierre Fresnay, Cicely Oates, D.A.Clarke-Smith, George Curzon, Clare Greet, Henry Oscar, S.J.Warmington, H.G.Stoker, James Vyvian, Frank Atkinson, Percy Walsh, Joan Harrison, James Knight, Charles Paton, Frederick Piper, Hal Walters
written by Charles Bennett, D.B. Wyndham-Lewis, Edwin Greenwood, A.R. Lawrence, additional dialogue by Emlyn Williams, music by Arthur Benjamin

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When in Switzerland, Lawrence (Leslie Banks) and Jill (Edna Best) witness a friend (Pierre Fresnay) of them being murdered - but not before finding out he has been a secret agent, and with his dying breath, he tells Lawrence a state secret that could save the life of an important diplomat, whose assassination could start another war. But before Lawrence can tell any of this to the proper authorities, he and Jill have to find out their daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam) has been kidnapped by enemy spies, and will be killed if Lawrence spills the beans ...

Back in Great Britain, the Foreign Office, wise to the fact that Lawrence is carrying the secret, tries everything to make him tell it, but to no avail ... but Lawrence manages to track down the kidnappers, led by a certain Albert (Peter Lorre) to a small village, manages to find out they plan to assassinate the diplomat during the crescendo of a concert in Royal Albert Hall, and manages to tell that to his wife before Albert and his men manage to capture him and lock him away with his daughter.

Betty visits Albert Hall at the evening of the planned assassination, and with a shriek of panic, she not only spoils the killing but also gets the police on the assassin's trail, who runs right back to Albert's hideout, which is soon put under siege, and one by one, the foreign agents are shot dead in a big shootout. Lawrence helps Betty to make a getaway over the roofs, but one of the villains goes after her and is only just shot dead by Betty's mother, a skilled skeet shooter (as established at the beginning of the film), and everything ends happily as can be.


The original Man who Knew Too Much might not hit high marks on depth or innovative plotline, but as a light-hearted thriller with extremely fine, inventive suspense setpieces, the film is simply a stunner: On one hand does the film feature witty dialogue, dry performances and welcome understatement typical for Hitchcok's British films, on the other portions of the film like the Albert Hall sequence and the final shootout are so tensely directed they have not lost a bit of their effect even almost 75 years after the film's release. Add to that a great villainous performance by Peter Lorre, Hitchcock's remarkably light hand in handling his characters and his ability to surprise the audience which he seems to have lost in later years, and you've got a quite simply brilliant thriller.


In 1956, Hitchcock decided to remake this film with James Stewart and Doris Day in the lead roles, but while that film features much more lavish production values and that certain glamour that comes with big budgets, it lacks the wit, originality and intentional edginess of this one - making one wonder why Hitchcock chose to remake exactly this one of all his films.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD