Alphabetical Movie – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the directors film fans must watch. His worst movies are still crafted well and his best movies are – well – as good as anyone’s best movies. Ever.
I’m a film fan, not a film student. I can recognize why certain movies are shot well and why other movies are shot poorly. If you want me to explain why Hitchcock’s films are film school standards, I’m not going to do a great job. I just know that there is something to like in nearly all of his films.
As I’m going through all of the movies in my collection (oh so slowly at the moment), I’ve gone through many of Hitchock’s early films that are part of a set I own encompassing all of his British work.
Some of the movies in that group are not particularly good. Others, like this one, are considered part of his lasting legacy.
All of them are possibly the shittiest quality film transfers you can ever hope to see.
Here’s the thing – you get what you pay for.
If you pay $40 for a Criterion edition of The Seven Samurai, you are going to expect a really top quality transfer of the film in addition to thoughtful and well produced extras.
If you pay $40 for 30 Hitchcock films, you are aren’t going to get anything that even approaches that level of quality.
Instead, you are going to get grainy, dark prints of the films with sound so poor, you have to crank it all the way up just to hear anything. Even if you can hear the dialogue, it isn’t all that likely you’ll be able to understand it.
Fortunately, a lot of them are silent films so you only have to listen to a badly produced music track that fails to make any emotional connection with the film. That’s almost worse because the soundtrack is actively working against the film.
Now when I purchased this set of Hitchcock films, I knew I was not paying for an amazing version of any of these films. Fact is, I don’t need an amazing version of most of them as many are no better than curiosities. They come from an early era when Hitchcock had not yet defined his style and when others were making far more creative decisions about what movies he shot and who wrote the scripts.
A bad copy of Juno and the Paycock doesn’t bother me because I’ll never need to see that film again.
It becomes more about filling in the box on my film fan dance card. I can say I’ve seen these films by Hitchcock. It doesn’t matter that I’ve barely been able to see or understand them. I’ve seen them.
It’s only too bad when I’m watching something like The Lady Vanishes or The Man Who Knew Too Much. Then the flaw in my plan becomes evident because I don’t just have bad copies of the bad movies, I have bad copies of the good ones, too.
It’s a small price to pay, I guess, to fill in my knowledge of Hitchcock.
Which is exactly the point. It was a small price to pay for all that Hitchcock.