James Stewart returns for another film with the Master of Suspense, except in this one he plays a doctor—Dr. Ben McKenna. His wife (“Jo” McKenna) is played by Doris Day, who works as a singer. They’re traveling through Morocco on vacation with their young son, Hank—so young, you have to wonder why the couple didn’t leave him home with a sitter or relative. A fateful decision as it turns out.
When I saw Doris Day was in this flick, I wondered if she’d wandered in from a nearby musical set. Although Jo ostensibly is expected to retire from her career to devote herself to being Hank’s mother, apparently there’s nothing like a trip to Morocco to give a singer the opportunity to practice her version of “Que Sera, Sera” several times.
But if you think Doris Day plays the innocent girl-next-door in this film, think again. You haven’t lived until you see the scene where Day breaks down completely after a call from the kidnappers who have taken her son hostage.
Stewart also gives a haunting performance as the father. And after a dying man whispers to him that a foreign ambassador will be assassinated in London and that he needs to tell law enforcement about “Ambrose Chappell”, little does he know that this will all lead back to the kidnappers.
As the story proceeds, the tension in this thriller ratchets up incredibly high. The suspense is deftly balanced with humor, especially during the part where, in searching for a man named Ambrose Chappell, Ben finds a taxidermist who has no idea what he’s talking about. The scene where Ben flails through the stuffed bodies of wild animals is hilarious.
This is just another example of Hitchcock’s dry wit, which he sprinkles liberally, but not to excess in suspenseful moments.
The ending builds to a crescendo (literally) that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.
The film is a remake of Hitchcock’s own 1934 version. I’ve never seen the original, but wouldn’t mind doing so for the sake of comparison.
This film well deserves two thumbs up!