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Don’t you realize Americans dislike having their children stolen?

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] More Jimmy Stewart for us now… This time jumping back almost 15 years to Hitchcock’s remake of his own 1934 movie THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, 1956’s film of the same name co-starring the gorgeous Doris Day. Let me start out by saying Hitchcock and Technicolor were meant to go together. Jimmy Stewart’s blue-green eyes and Doris Day’s perfect complexion radiate off the screen even in standard def.

Hitchcock’s reputation of being the master of suspense is on full display here in a trademark Hitchcock formula of an ordinary man thrown into a horrible circumstance. You have a young family on vacation in Marrakesh who stumble upon a political assassination attempt and are drawn in kicking and screaming ultimately caught in a horrible position as their child is kidnapped and held as collateral for their silence. Doris Day really shines here, playing a range that her reputation doesn’t support. I challenge you to watch her subtle work here and think of her as the light, one-dimensional puff she’s known as. Or maybe it was just the impression I had and I just haven’t seen enough Day films to know what I’m talking about. Of course Stewart is a great leading man, as to be expected. There’s a reason he’s a screen legend. There’s something about him that immediately invests you in his character, something that connects with every member of the audience. It’s a movie star quality, a true magnetism. He doesn’t disappoint here.

But speaking of Hitch’s suspense, the assassination attempt scene (the one gunshot to be hidden by the clashing of cymbals during a climactic part of the orchestral number) is incredible. Hitch chooses to play the scene with the score only (also notice that Bernard Hermann is the conductor… as himself!) and no dialogue, the suspense building and building as the number gets closer and closer to the point of the cymbals clashing and Day looking on horrified, but too scared to stop it for fear that her son will be killed. It’s scenes like that that earned Hitchcock his place as a legend of cinema. Also of note is the origin of the incredibly well known and catchy song Que Sera, Sera. It was created for this film at the request of Paramount wanting a song to have a moment. It won the Oscar that year and Hitch uses it to great effect, making it feel organic to the movie and not tacked on by the studio. I haven’t seen the original, which I need to since I have an unhealthy fascination with Peter Lorre, but from what I understand this is the better version of the story. In fact Hitchcock reportedly said this to Francios Truffaut: “The first film was done by an amateur and the remake by a professional.” On display is also Hitch’s famous sense of humor, most notable in two scenes. One is a hilarious dinner scene where Stewart is trying to eat in a traditional Arab manner, using only three fingers of his right hand to pick at his finger food. The other is a great fight at a taxidermist office. I’d be remiss if I didn’t fawn over the work of Brenda De Banzie as one of the kidnappers. Often in films they try to set up the one bad guy that’s not completely on the dark side and ends up helping the heroes. Banzie’s character in this fits into that mold, but she sells it so perfectly that it doesn’t feel forced, or like a plot device.

Hitchcock cameo alert: He’s in the market place watching the acrobats before the big Moroccan murder. Final Thoughts: Great work of suspense from Hitchcock, with some truly outstanding performances. All the characters are likable and the pace is quick. This is Hitchcock at the top of his game working with one of his best leading men. The cinematography is great, Hermann’s score is fantastic and the writing is smart, smart, smart.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Friday, August 1st: THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (1957) Saturday, August 2nd: VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (1965) Sunday, August 3rd: CAN-CAN (1960) Monday, August 4th: DESPERATE CHARACTERS (1971) Tuesday, August 5th: THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (1972) Wednesday, August 6th: QUACKSER FORTUNE HAS A COUSIN IN THE BRONX (1970) Thursday, August 7th: START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME (1970) Tomorrow we jump ahead one year, following Jimmy Stewart to 1957s THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS. See you then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club

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