London Stars In Two Hitchcock Classics
To create a British mood, try these two classics filmed in London. One contains one of the most suspenseful scenes ever filmed.
As we bask in the afterglow of the Summer Olympics in London, and since it is no secret that London is my favorite travel destination AND Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite film director, I decided to merge the two.
I’ve already reviewed Frenzy, which is, in my opinion, Hitchcock’s best USE of London on film, but here are two more set-in-London Hitchcock classics.
Stage Fright has a perfect cast and a strong plot but somehow doesn’t get the due it deserves. Made at the end of what I would call one of Hitchcock’s “off” periods (his biggest stinker Under Capricorn comes right before this one in 1949, but in 1951, Hitchcock makes Strangers on a Train which saves his ailing career), this film features many of the trademarks Hitchcock aficionados have come to know and love in his later films…the “wronged” man, the love interest, fair amounts of humor for comic relief, and a thrilling ending.
So, why is it not up there with Rear Window and North by Northwest? Well, it’s not glitzy. Even though it’s about the theatre industry in London, it doesn’t shine like Hitchcock’s better-known works. I would say that has to do mostly with the acting. All of the performances here seem adequate but not stunning. Jane Wyman and Alastair Sim are spot-on when playing the father-daughter act, but aside from that, they all seem lost in the script. Regardless, it’s a must-see for all thriller fans!
The Man Who Knew Too Much is one of Hitchcock’s more underrated films, especially since its only notoriety comes from introducing the song Que Sera Sera to the general public.
A remake of the director’s own 1934 work from his early years working in his native England, this updated version is exactly what Hitchcock himself said it was…to paraphrase, he said that the 1934 movie was made by an amateur director and the 1956 version was made by a professional director.
Taking the story of the 1934 film and enhancing it with actual locations and minor character changes, the 1956 film is a terrific example of how a good film can become a great film. The movie stars Doris Day and James Stewart as an American couple visiting the French Morocco with their young son. After befriending a British couple, they soon find themselves embroiled in a series of terrifying events, including the kidnapping of their son.
The first part of the film is filmed on location in Marrakesh, Morocco, but after the kidnapping, Stewart and Day head to London, believing their son was taken there. London works well here, whether as a minor backdrop (like the streets where both Ambrose Chapel and the taxonomy shop were filmed) or a major, plot-based location, such as the climatic concert scene filmed in the Royal Albert Hall. That scene stands out as one of the most intense, nail-biting scenes of pure suspense ever filmed. It lasts over 10 minutes and there is no dialogue, only music, but the anxiety of Day’s performance along with the tension-mounting music and direction keeps the viewer glued to the screen. In my opinion, this remake is one of Hitchcock’s best movies.
Stage Fright: 1950, not rated, 110 minutes, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Marlene Dietrich, Jane Wyman, Richard Todd, Michael Wilding and Alastair Sim.
The Man Who Knew Too Much: 1956, not rated, 120 minutes, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda De Banzie, and Bernard Miles.
The Niles Public Library owns both of these titles on DVD.