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The Man Who Knew Too Much

Friday, March 30th, 2012

The Man Who Knew Too Much [Blu-ray]

Tagline – A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing!

Starring – James Stewart (Dr. Benjamin McKenna), Doris Day (Josephine Conway McKenna), Brenda De Banzie (Lucy Drayton), Bernard Miles (Edward Drayton), Ralph Truman (Inspector Buchanan).

Released – June, 1956

Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock

Produced By – Paramount Pictures, Filwite Productions

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Dr. Benjamin McKenna, his wife Jo, and their son Hank are on vacation in Morocco. While traveling from Casablanca to Marrakesh, by bus, they meet Frenchman Louis Bernard.

Bernard seems quite friendly, but Jo is a little uncomfortable with his many questions about them and his reluctance to answer questions about himself. She feels that he is hiding something. Bernard invites the family to dinner, but cancels after seeing a mysterious man who may be following him.

Later that evening, at dinner, the McKenna’s meet the Drayton’s who are from England. As they are speaking, they notice Bernard enter the restaurant, sit at another table, and ignore them. This behavior adds to Jo’s suspicions about him.

The next day the McKenna’s and the Drayton’s are shopping in a Marrakesh marketplace when they see a man in Arab clothing being chased. The man is stabbed in the back and staggers toward Dr. McKenna. It is Bernard in a disguise and, just before dying, he whispers to Ben that a foreign statesman will soon be murdered in London and the authorities must be told about “Ambrose Chappell.”

While being questioned by the authorities about the incident, Ben learns that Bernard was a French Intelligence Agent. At the police station during the interrogation Ben receives a phone call. Who would even know he was there and what could they possibly want?

The family’s dream vacation is about to turn into a nightmare.

The caller tells Ben that the McKenna’s son Hank has been taken and will not be harmed if they do not tell the police of Bernard’s last words. The McKenna’s travel to London and report all that they know, except Bernard’s last words, to Scotland Yard.

Inspector Buchanan tells them that Bernard was a spy and on an assignment to uncover an assassination plot. He instructs them to contact him as soon as they hear from the kidnappers.

The McKenna’s sense of urgency causes them to try and take matters into their own hands. They start with the only clue they have… Ambrose Chappell.

NOTABLE: The Man Who Knew Too Much won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song (Que Sera, Sera).

This is a remake of Hitchcock’s 1934 film of the same name filmed in VistaVision and Technicolor. Generally considered superior to the original, Hitchcock himself preferred the 1934 version.

The Man Who Knew Too Much was unavailable for decades as director Alfred Hitchcock left the rights to the film, as part of his legacy, to his daughter. This picture along with Rear Window, Rope, The Trouble With Harry, and Vertigo were also part of the legacy and known as the “Five Lost Hitchcock’s.” They were re-released around 1984.

Initially, Doris Day had no interest in recording the song “Que, Sera, Sera” feeling that it was no more than “a forgettable children’s song.” Not only did the song win an Academy Award, but it also became her signature song and the biggest hit of her singing career.

Doris Day was a life-long advocate against animal abuse. It was during the filming of this picture, where she observed gross mistreatment of goats, camels, and other animals, that fueled her desire to help animals.

While in London to film her location scenes, Doris Day (who was extremely popular in England) was asked to leave her hotel because of the number of fans who gathered there in the hope of catching a glimpse of the star.


To Catch A Thief

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

To Catch A Thief (1955) (BD) [Blu-ray]

Tagline –  For a moment he forgets he’s a thief–and she forgets she’s a lady!

Starring – Cary Grant (John Robie), Grace Kelly (Frances Stevens), Jessie Royce Landis (Jessie Stevens), John Williams (H. H. Hughson), Charles Vanel (Bertani), Brigitte Auber (Danielle Foussard).

Released – August, 1955

Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock

Produced By – Paramount Pictures

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – John Robie is an American ex-patriot living the good life on the French Riviera. He is also a notorious, but retired, jewel thief known as “The Cat.”

A recent series of robberies, that closely resemble his style, have taken place and the police believe John to have ended his retirement. He is able to escape their attempt to arrest him and takes refuge with some old partners in crime.

With the help of Danielle Foussard, an old flame, John again slips through the fingers of the authorities and now realizes his only vindication will come from his capturing the “copy-cat burglar” in action.

Insurance man H. H. Hughson provides John with a list of the most valuable jewelry on the Riviera and a list of owners. Prominent on the list are widowed Jessie Stevens and her daughter Frances. John arranges a meeting and tells them he is an American industrialist.

Daughter Francis sees through John’ cover, but still finds him irresistible. Unexpectedly, she flirts with him and expresses the desire to possibly assist him with his “capers.”

The next morning Jessie Stevens finds that her jewels have been stolen and Francis believes that John has taken advantage of her in order to commit the crime. The police are called and once again John is on the run.

While staking out another possible location for a jewel theft, John must struggle with an unidentified attacker on a rooftop. The attacker loses his footing, falls, and is killed. It is Foussard, Danielle’s father.

The police are satisfied that Foussard must have been the burglar all along, but John knows that this could not be possible because Foussard had a prosthetic leg and would never have been able to carry out the crimes.

After the funeral a masquerade ball is to be held with everyone in attendance, including the real cat burglar who plans on stealing a fortune of priceless jewelry all in one evening.

NOTABLE: To Catch a Thief won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color, and received nominations for Best Costume Design, Color, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color.

To Catch a Thief was the first of five Alfred Hitchcock films to be filmed in VistaVision.

This was Grace Kelly’s last film for Alfred Hitchcock as she would become Princess Grace of Monaco in 1956.

Tragically, in September of 1992, Grace Kelly would die in an automobile accident in Monaco on the very same road used for the chase scene in the film. She was 52 years old and reportedly suffered a stroke causing her to lose control of the car.

The films initial release was delayed as it was feared that the audience would not believe Grant’s and Kelly’s characters falling in love due to the difference in their age. Ironically, when the film was released, it became one of the biggest hits of the decade.

French actor Charles Vanel, who play Bertani, did not speak English. All of his lines were dubbed.

Rear Window

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Rear Window [Blu-ray]

Tagline – It only takes one witness to spoil the perfect crime.

Starring – James Stewart (L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries), Grace Kelly (Lisa Carol Fremont), Wendell Corey (Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle), Thelma Ritter (Stella), Raymond Burr (Lars Thorwald).

Released – August, 1954

Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock

Produced By – Paramount Pictures

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Through his rear window, and the eye of his powerful camera, he watched a great city tell on itself, expose its cheating ways… and Murder!

Professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, in an attempt to get a dangerous shot during an auto race, has an accident that results in a broken leg. His recovery has him confined to a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment.

To help pass the time he has started looking out his rear apartment window which overlooks a small courtyard and has a view of several other apartments. The heat of the summer has many of his neighbors leaving their windows open in an effort to cool off.

The open windows also provide Jeffries with a close look at the neighbors who include a dancer, a songwriter, several married couples, a lonely woman, and salesman Lars Thorwald who lives with his bedridden wife.

During his observations, Jeffries has noted Thorwald making repeated late-night trips from his apartment carrying a large case. He has also noticed that Thorwald’s wife seems to be missing and he has seen Thorwald cleaning a large knife and a handsaw.

Jeffries believes that Thornwald may have murdered his wife. He discusses his suspicion with his girlfriend Lisa, his home-care nurse Stella, and his friend Detective Lt. Tom Doyle. After briefly looking into the possibility, Doyle discovers nothing particularly suspicious.

Another neighbor’s dog is soon found dead of a broken neck. The discovery was made by a woman who reacted by screaming. Her screams brought all the neighbors to their windows to see what was the cause… all but one… Thorwald.

Jeffries, still believing Thorwald to be a murderer, now believes that Thorwald is also responsible for the dogs death in order to keep the dog from digging in the courtyard and possibly uncovering something that Thorwald has buried there.

Jeffries has his girlfriend Lisa slip a note accusing Thorwald of the crime under Thorwald’s apartment door and watches from his window to see his reaction. He then phones Thorwald to arrange a meeting at a bar in order to get him out of his apartment.

Lisa now slips into the apartment to search around, but is caught by the returning Thorwald. Jeffries sees this and calls the police who arrive in time to save Lisa, but bring her to the police station to question her as to why she was in the apartment.

Before being brought to the station, Lisa has signaled something to the watching Jeffries – this signal has not escaped the notice of Thorwald.

Jeffries is now alone in his apartment in his wheelchair… and Thorwald is coming over.

NOTABLE: Rear Window received Oscar nominations for Best Director (Alfred Hitchcock), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Color, and Best Sound, Recording.

In 1997, Rear Window was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Rear Window is ranked #42 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies List, and #3 on their list of Greatest Films in the Mystery genre.

Although the film shows various scenes taking place in numerous apartments, director Hitchcock worked only from Jeffries apartment. The actors in the other locations wore flesh-colored earpieces from which they could take direction from Hitchcock.


Dial M for Murder

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Dial M for Murder [Blu-ray 3D]

Tagline – Is this the man she was waiting for… or the man that was waiting for her?

Starring – Ray Milland (Tony Wendice), Grace Kelly (Margot Mary Wendice), Robert Cummings (Mark Halliday).

Released – May, 1954

Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock

Produced By – Warner Brothers

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Margot Wendice’s husband Tony was a professional tennis player who was always away. Their marriage suffered from the almost constant separation. Margot’s loneliness eventually led her to have a brief affair with American writer Mark Halliday.

Tony, now retired from tennis, vows to get a regular job and spend all of his time with Margot. Upon hearing this, Margot decides to give her marriage another chance.

Over the years, Margot and Mark had remained in touch through a number of letters that Margot has destroyed. All except one which she can not account for and believes to have been stolen.

Mark is now coming to London from America and wants to visit with the couple. Margot introduces Mark to Tony as a casual acquaintance and the two men seem to hit it off. So much so that Tony suggests that Margot and Mark go out without him as he has something to tend to.

Indeed he does, Tony is meeting with a man he is blackmailing in order to force him to murder his wife. With Margot dead, Tony will not only have his revenge over the affair, but also inherit her fortune.

The plan is set into motion and seems as though it can’t fail. However, the murder attempt goes badly and in self-defense Margot stabs the man to death with a pair of scissors. The police investigation leads to the belief that the dead man was blackmailing Margot over the incriminating stolen letter and she murdered him when he came to collect.

Margot is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for murder. With only one day before the scheduled execution there may not be time to save Margot and tie Tony to the murderous plan.

NOTABLE: Actor Cary Grant badly wanted the role of Tony Wendice, however, the studio did not believe the public would accept Grant as a plotting killer having loved him for his much lighter previous roles.

In 2008, the American Film Institute ranked Dial M for Murder #9 on their Top Ten Mystery Genre Films.

Although shot in 3D, Dial M for Murder played most theaters flat due to the reduction in the public interest for 3D.

Director Hitchcock deliberately had Grace Kelly dress in bright colors at the beginning of the film and gradually darkened her look as the film progressed.

Personal Note: A slick and entertaining Hitchcock film. A nice touch to the murder plan when Plan A fails and Plan B kicks in.


Five Fingers

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Five Fingers

Tagline – Five Fingers… Behind Them The Fabulous True Exploits Of The Highest Paid Spy In History!

Starring – James Mason (Ulysses Diello), Danielle Darrieux (Countess Anna Staviska), Michael Rennie (Colin Travers), Walter Hampden (Sir Frederic Taylor).

Released – February, 1952

Directed By – Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Produced By –  Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – This is the true story of one of World War II’s most famous spies, Elyesa Bazna. The films character, Ulysses Diello, is based on Bazna.

While employed as a valet to the British ambassador to Turkey during World War II, Ulysses Diello is working for the Nazi’s. Under the code name ‘Cicero, ‘ Diello would take photographs of his British employers many secret documents and turn them over, with the help of Countess Staviska, to a former German chancellor.

It is the intention of Diello to make enough money by providing these documents to the Nazi’s that he may retire to South America and marry the Countess. His seemingly all too easy ability to photograph and deliver these documents has made the Germans suspicious. They believe he may, in fact, be a double agent.

NOTABLE: Five Fingers was nominated for two Academy Awards – Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), and Best Screenplay.

In his book, “I Was Cicero,” Elyesa Bazna noted his accomplice’s as his niece and a chambermaid.

Personal Note: Though some parts may seem a little far-fetched, the truth can sometimes be harder to believe than fiction. A very good, well-written, intelligent, spy thriller with a good deal of genuine suspense. James Mason is calm, cool, and collected as the Albanian born spy.