Of the two versions of this film Alfred Hitchcock made, I rate the earlier one, a British-made movie from 1934, as the over-all best.
Although the color is stunning in this 1956 remake, and the lead actors very engaging, this version lacks a great villain like Peter Lorre in the cast and , also, the convention of having the lead female character as a singer leads to a rather flat finale, at least for those of us who aren't all that crazy about Doris Day's big hit featured in this film, the saccharine 'Que Sara Sara".
(In the earlier version, the mother of the kidnapped child is a champion rifle marks-person.To give more away would be telling too much, but suffice to say the finale in the earlier film is a real grabber! )
Still, this version with James Stewart and Doris Day has its high points, and this amazing nine-minute sequence has to be one of them.
Using "The Cantata for Clouds", Hitchcock creates an suspenseful sequence without using words--a masterful return to the silent film that the great director began with in the 1920's.
The movie follows a certain Doctor McKenna (Stewart) his wife (Doris Day, playing a former professional singer) and their son Hank as they go on holiday in Morocco. They meet a nice French fellow who turns out to be a secret agent trying to ferret out a murderous international spy ring. When the Frenchman is stabbed in a bizarre in Marrakesh, he whispers the details of an assassination plot to the American doctor. To prevent the couple from revealing what the agent told McKenna, they kidnap his son and tell the couple to not alert the police.
The McKennas remain silent, flying to London to try and ferret out the spy ring on their own. They discover that the murder of an important diplomat is to take place in the Albert Hall during a concert.
Which leads us to this point near the end of the film. Jo McKenna has gone to The Albert Hall. Her husband is close behind her, She knows that there is an assassin there, and she also knows her son is in danger. Stewarts character has already had a narrow escape from the desperate antagonists. It's up to them to catch the killer and hope he'll lead them to their son.
I'll let the film-maker take it from there.
PS--The composer on the podium in this scene is the great Bernard Hermann, who also wrote the original score for this and several other Hitchcock classics like "Vertigo", "Psycho" and "The Birds".
The full nine-minute version of "Cantata for Clouds" was composed by Australian composer Arthur Benjamin for the 1934 film. Hermann declined to write a new score for this scene, feeling that Benjamin's original couldn't be topped.