Saboteur (1942)

An underrated delight by Hitchcock in what is another early ‘wrong man’ picture.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
1942 | USA | Thriller | 109 mins | 1.37:1 | English
PG (passed clean)

Cast: Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Otto Kruger
Plot: Aircraft factory worker Barry Kane goes on the run across the United States when he is wrongly accused of starting a fire that killed his best friend.
Awards: –
Distributor: Universal

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: DVD
First Published: 18 Feb 2008
Spoilers: Mild

Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur is a delight to watch.  It was one of his first few ‘wrong man’ pictures, in which the protagonist is accused of a crime he did not commit, and seeks personal vindication and justice.  

Saboteur neither reaches the standards of Rear WindowPsycho, or Vertigo, nor is it made when Hitchcock was at the prime of his career, but it gives a glimpse of his talent in storytelling and the building of suspense.

As with most Hitchcock features, there are unforgettable images and signature set pieces that could have only been designed by him.  

In Psycho, there was the shocking shower scene.  In North By Northwest, there was the thrilling crop-dusting scene.  In Saboteur, the most striking image is that of the antagonist dangling in the air atop of the Statue of Liberty. 

“You have all the makings of an outstanding boor.”

Filmed in black-and-white, Saboteur is not necessarily an example of great cinematography.  However, the colour stock used is easy on the eye, and does not appear to affect the film’s ability to engage viewers.  

The performances of the cast are decent, but there’s no real starring act here. If there’s one thing I loved most about Saboteur, it would be the pacing of the film. 

Hitchcock establishes the story with little urgency, and while the film does not really shift into high gears even in suspense mode, the pacing of each scene is slow but steady, yet remarkably arresting at the same time.

Saboteur may not be a Hitchcock masterpiece, but as with The Lady Vanishes (1938) it’s certainly one of his most underrated.

Grade: B+


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