I just watched The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and oh it was so so brilliant. I will have to do some more thinking, for sure, but this is definately close to being my favourite Hitchcock film.
The film is suspenseful from the very beginning. It feels as though is real and surreal, the very obvious rear projection in scenes in Marrakesh lifting it out of reality but the characters keeping it in. He has done similarly in other films, teasing us for being drawn into the film even though we are conscious of its constructed world- teased for being enamoured.
He does this too with red herrings like the taxidermist studio, and this scene is absolutely classic Hitchcock despite its lack of narrative relevance. The animals in the scene are a forerunner to his hypersituated framing of birds in Psycho and The Birds. Jimmy Stewart gets bitten by a tiger, slowly decapitated by a swordfish, and we have to watch in pain- Hitchcock relieves us from the suspense of the main narrative yet we are made to suffer in this other little way instead.
And to top it all off, a bizarre and far too light ending that just made me laugh – with, amongst other things, a whole lot of relief.