After the disappointing The Trouble With Harry, I’d think Hitchcock’s remake of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) was a sign he was losing his touch — but with Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest ahead, I know that’s not the case.
This remake has the same basic set-up as the original: a vacationing couple (Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day) encounter a spy, get a cryptic dying warning and have their son kidnapped to keep them silent. This considerably longer version is padded with travel footage and Doris Day feels miscast; even the climactic concert for which the killing is scheduled feels less like mounting suspense and more like Hitchcock showing off Bernard Herrman’s score.
Hitchcock believed that whatever the movie was nominally about (terrorist attack, secret document, diamonds) was just a “McGuffin” to build the story about and therefore unimportant. Trouble is, when the story’s this week, an unimportant McGuffin doesn’t work. The original film established the victim’s importance with “before June 1914, had you ever heard of Sarajevo?” (i.e., he was that important to world peace) — here it’s just a generic power grab in some nation’s politics. And unlike many Hitchcock movie relationships, there’s almost no tension between the stars other than having their son kidnapped, further draining the drama. “Americans don’t like having their children kidnapped.”
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: Rogue Nation (2015) also has an assassination scene at an opera though it’s just one B plot in the story of IMF taking on “the Syndicate” (I assume that was an Easter egg — the original TV series used that term to refer to organized crime, Italian Americans resenting the use of “Mafia”). The Syndicate, in this case, is the anti-IMF, a team of specialists doing the same sort of things but for evil; can Ethan Hunt’s team stop them despite new CIA director Alec Baldwin officially disbanding them. Enjoyable, but this is the fourth time someone’s used the “Your mission” tape as a trap for the IMF — it’s getting ridiculous they still work that way (it’s why the original show always shot down pitches using that as the hook). “Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny.”
COME TRUE (2020) starts off promisingly as a young woman rendered insomniac by nightmares volunteers in a sleep study only to discover they’re not only spying on her dreams, everyone else in the research sees the same sinister landscape and strange figures … which turns out to be because she’s in a coma and the entire movie was just in her mind, which is one of my very least favorite twists. So thumb way down.
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