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The Director Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock Remakes Himself

I found this essay to be a wealth of information. I have watched some of Hitchcock’s films but I am not very familiar with his background and early films and I thought Stuart McDougal’s essay did a wonderful job of condensing this information down into more understandable chunks. I also liked that he discussed in-depth both versions of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much because it allowed me to look at some of the elements I might have missed. For example, McDougal writes, “[t]he Albert Hall sequence feels like it should be the climax of the film, and the shoot-out that follows has stuck critics as something of an afterthought” (56).

This is not something the average viewer would know on their own, but it is important because when I watched the film, I felt like this was the climax of the story and now I am curious to know more about why it is not received that way by scholars. Also, McDougal writes, “Bob, through her participation, has moved from being an apathetic childlike spectator to an active adult—first by overcoming the sinister dentist in his chair and discovering the hideout of the assassins, and then by freeing his daughter and helping her escape” (57).

I find this to be a wonderful summary of how Bob’s character evolved over the course of the film. He began as a child-like figure, giving in to his daughter’s whims, but by the end of the film, he was a strong, supportive, father. As McDougal goes on to write, neither parent could have saved Betty alone, but together they were able to do it. This speaks to parenting as well, it is harder to do it alone, than to work together. For the remake, McDougal writes, “[i]n both versions the vacation locale aptly characterizes the protagonists: Bob Lawrence is cold and passionless while Ben McKenna is fiery tempered” (59).

I thought this was a very interesting comparison. It is not something I noticed, but now, Hitchcock created two sides of the same man it seems. Bob, cold who learns how to be warm, and Ben who learns a little bit about controlling his temper; perhaps this was another reason for the remake, so explore a different side of a character. I found the comparison about the externally motivated drama versus an internal quest for identity to be another thing I missed.

McDougal states, “[i]n the first version, the man from the Foreign Office appeals to the Lawrences’ patriotism by comparing the possibility of this assassination to another Sarajevo. In the remake, by contrast, the conflict remains within the family, as the ambassador of an unidentified company attempts to have his own prime minister assassinated” (59) I did not give much thought to this originally, but now I think it ties in to that notion of exploring two sides of the same character; the external and the internal, the emotional and the physical.

Hitchcock may have been “dissatisfied with the two climaxes in The Man Who Knew Everything,” but I found them to be a fitting part of the narration. I liked the way that the stories played out and I cannot imagine them being structured any different. I enjoyed both plots, but I think the original is my favorite, perhaps because it seems to me to be the more realistic of the two.

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