The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
I’m a big Leslie Banks fan from Cottage to Let and I liked Peter Lorre in Secret Agent before this one. This is a testament to his awesomeness: Peter Lorre was unable to speak English at the time of filming (he had only recently fled from Nazi Germany) and learned his lines phonetically. I’ll be honest though, I really didn’t like Edna Best’s character Jill. I’m not a big fan of her interactions with Louis Bernard and she’s not much of a wife or mother. The homage to the Sidney Street Siege played out rather well and was my 2nd favorite part of the movie. The first would of course be the epic “Chair Fight!”.
I’m not sure if the 1956 remake is better as I haven’t seen it yet but I do like this one. It’s not a great movie and the spy element isn’t very important but C’est la vie. I get how Hitchcock was in his British years, that this was pieces of a Lindbergh baby movie that never happened and that a lot was going on to make the plot weak. Who were the assassins working for? What did Leslie Banks hope to achieve by going it alone with the butler? I know the butler was arrested but supposedly the police were on every corner looking for suspicious stuff and the butler of the guy at the epicenter causes a ruckus but it takes an attempted assassination for the cops to show up? Why did Louis the intelligence agent tell normal people of the secret plot when his employers just as quickly found the empty hairbrush handle. Speaking of which, how did he know to look there? Why didn’t the Home Office have the husband and wife followed at all times? Why are all the bad guys in Switzerland? Etc. etc. etc. All of that considered, it wasn’t horrible.
I think one of the reason Peter Lorre is so interesting is that he’s a character actor in an acting world full of people who get roles because they are the character in real life and can speak lines, or are attractive, or can sing, or can dance. He actually tries to act as someone else and portray that person on-screen and even though they are usually strange or villainous – at least he’s trying.