a kooky place

Film The Trouble With Harry is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s late experiments. If you’re looking for modern films with which it shares some kinship, it’s Fargo or Mumford or on television Northern Exposure or Eureka, comedy dramas which portray small town America as a kooky place filled to the brim with eccentrics enjoying a slightly relax somewhat askew approach to life. The difference in Hitchock’s film, is that there’s no Joel Fleishman, no one to offer the outsider's perspective on the story.

A disparate set of townspeople all think that they’ve killed titular corpse, found at the opening of the film, and spend most of the duration playing the blame game. Droll rather than laugh out loud funny, as is often the case with Hitch, the best scenes are surprisingly those having nothing to do with the main plot, in particular between potential couple, solid John Forsythe and a luminous Shirley MacLaine making her screen debut, as they negotiate the terms of their relationship.

Hitch told Trauffaut (during their lifelong interview) that he thought the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much was his favourite – the earlier version the work of a talented amateur (so modest), the latter of a professional. I think he's being unusually harsh on his younger self; the earlier film is thick with a musty atmosphere lost in the technicolor of the later model, but the remake's longer duration allows for more complex storytelling.

The latter also offers the surprising appearance of Doris Day in one of her few early dramatic roles. I love Doris Day. Always adorable, and watchable even in the most middling of films, a bit like a 1950s Zooey Deschanel or if we're being honest Julia Roberts. Trust Hitch to not only have her sing (well why would you cast someone like her and not give her at least one song) but make that integral to the climax.

As I also said in my comments about the original film, none of the antagonists have quite the same charisma as Peter Lorre though to a degree their bland normality probably increases their menace. Of all the films in Hitch’s canon, it’s quite surprising that this hasn’t been served with a remake – it would seem the perfect vehicle for Tom Hanks – though I suppose that’s true of all Jimmy Stewart’s films as we found out with You’ve Got Mail. On second thoughts …

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