The first of six thrillers that Hitchcock would direct for Gaumont-British and his first international success, the original Man Who Knew Too Much rushes headlong to its street battle finale inspired by the Siege of Sidney Street. A carefree family vacation comes unwound when a debonair friend is shot on the ballroom floor. The dying man entrusts Leslie Banks’ husband with the details of an assassination plot, but before Banks can unburden himself of the time-sensitive information he learns that his daughter’s life depends on his silence. The action swings deliriously from a Swiss chateau to the famous climax at Royal Albert Hall, a marvelously assured orchestration of moral dilemmas and perceptual jolts. In his first role after fleeing Nazi Germany, Peter Lorre fleshes out the continental Hitchcock villain with volatile charisma and a punkish shock of white hair.
As with John Galsworthy’s original play, The Skin Game pits the genteel Hillcrists against the industrialist upstart Hornblower in a bitter land feud. Hitchcock’s simultaneously dispassionate and incisive dramatization lays bare the self-consuming nature of the class rivalry, with a central auction sequence placing the audience in the midst of the two families’ furious jockeying for power. Long derided as a merely serviceable adaptation hampered by the limitations of early sound, Hitchcock’s Skin Game nevertheless evinces interest for shifting the focus of the play from class warfare to character assassination – an intimate crime that would take many different forms across the director's entire oeuvre.