While Hitchcock's 1956 remake is far superior his original 1934 version has a charm all of its own. The plot of the married couple whose child is kidnapped by anarchists to prevent them spilling the beans about assassination being planned that will plunge Europe into war. Peter Lorre is excellent as the leader of the gang who are headquartered in "The Tabernacle of the Temple of the Sun" in Wapping. This was Lorre's first film for Hitchcock and he would later appear in SECRET AGENT - where I found his overplaying extremely irritating in a film where I found so much irritating that it is one of my least favoirite Hitchcock films. The final shootout, although reminiscent of the climax of Lang's THE TESTAMENT OF DR.MABUSE. was inspired by the historical siege of Sidney Street twenty-two years earlier.
|The Man Who Knew Too Much|
020 FARINELLI (1994) Directed by Gerard Corbiou **
Inspired by rather than based on the life of the castrato singer known as Farinelli who is believed to have been one of the greatest opera stars of all time. Sadly, the film, which is full of inaccuracies (Handel's opera house was in Haymarket not Covent Garden), puts a heavy psychological emphasis on the story and a heavy dose of sex is thrown into the mixture without really telling us much about the singer. The castrato voice is achieved here by combining a male and female singer on the soundtrack quite convincingly but the film never really captures the bizarre splendour of the baroque operas of the 18th century giving instead the false impression that Farinelli (well played by Stefano Dionisi) merely stood alone on the stage and sung while wearing outrageous costumes instead of being part of an opera production - we see very little of the theatrical world in which he lived and sang. The scene where the young singer vocally duels with a baroque trumpet was recreated on stage at the Barbican last November by Cecilia Bartoli and was much more exciting and entertaining than here. The story of the castrato singers, young boys castrated to preserve their voices, deserves to be told. The aforementioned Cecilia Bartoli's album and DVD SACRIFICIUM honours their memory far more than the gratuitous scene that opens this film.
Also viewed :
021 TERMINUS (1961) Directed by John Schlesinger ****
Watch the award winning documentary TERMINUS by clicking the image below,