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23 November 2011

Saboteur (1942)

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Country: USA
Runtime: 115 Minutes
In Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier career, he still made many great films. Saboteur is without a doubt one of them. It is sharp, intelligent, clever and most of all, filled with great Hitchcock suspense. The performances from Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane were delightfully Hitchcockian and the film’s plot is simply smart. Once more, an innocent man is running from society in a Hitchcock film and this motif of Hitchcock’s auteur still goes nicely. With some moments of heart and eccentricity, “Saboteur” is another great Mystery & suspense film.  

Aircraft plant worker Barry (Robert Cummings) is accused of sabotaging his factory and causing the death of a co-worker. Actually, Cummings is the fall guy for a clever ring of Nazi spies, headed by above-suspicion American philanthropist Fry (Otto Kruger). Our hero goes on a cross-country chase after genuine saboteur Norman Lloyd, all the while pursued himself by the police. Along the way, he acquires a reluctant "travelling companion" in the form of Priscilla Lane, who at first despises Cummings and intends to turn him over to the authorities at the first opportunity, but who gradually comes to realize that the boy is innocent.

One of my favourite scenes from the film is Barry’s encounter with the circus people, who are eccentric, lovable and memorable. There is something heart-warming and sincere about them. How they welcome Barry as the outcasts themselves and see him as an innocent. Hitchcock cleverly inserted this to the film and it creates a beautiful feeling. The circus people are considered abnormal and ‘freakish’, but their hearts are big as a whale. Barry meets many people on his journey and all these character support the film so well.

Along with some moments of sincerity, the suspense is still there. We know that Barry could be caught at any moment on his venture to find Fry and it leaves the audience thinking will he get caught and when. Our privileged positioning, as the audience know what the other characters do not know; the Barry is innocent. It has been done in many of Hitchcock’s films and this formula still engaging in his films. It still does not feel repetitive or worn out. 

Hitchcock’s direction is smart and very well structured. In one scene, a boat is sunk by a bomb, but we do not see the action exactly. Later, when Fry is in a taxi, he glances out, and we see a ship tipped on its side. The fascinating part is, this was an improvisation as a ship recently sunk during this time.  It is an example of Hitchcock’s many intelligent shots. 

Another great scene worth mentioning is the amazing finale that has a cliffhanger, taking place on the statue of liberty. Fry falls over the barrier of the statue and is now in danger of falling. Barry grabs him by the sleeves, barely supporting him. Now we are on edge wondering if he will make it. The scene was cleverly shot and very well put together. Now you have to watch it to see if he makes it or not. Though far form his best early work, overall, the film is well rounded in character, plot and suspense, making it another fine classic movie experience well worth the time.

My Rating: 8/10

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