SABOTEUR

(1942)
With Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane, Norman Lloyd, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

Saboteur     A somewhat neglected gem from Hitchcock's early American period, SABOTEUR is one of the director's most suspenseful and deadly serious variations on his familiar man-on-the-run storyline.  Though it has several humorous moments, a wartime film about Nazi spies operating in America was not a context for breezy wit in the manner of NORTH BY NORTHWEST.  The film opens in an airplane manufacturing plant that is soon engulfed in flames, the result of a Nazi saboteur's plot.  As everyone pitches in to fight the blaze, plant worker Robert Cummings tosses a fire extinguisher to a coworker, unaware that it has been loaded with gasoline by the saboteur.  When the worker is killed in the resulting explosion, Cummings is the number one suspect in the sabotage plot.  He spends the rest of the film on the run and uncovers an intricate web of spies operating among the high society of New York.  The climactic scene atop the Statue of Liberty is perhaps more famous than SABOTEUR itself.  Hitchcock was not especially satisfied with Cummings's performance, stating in later years that the actor had the sort of face better suited to comedy than drama.  Actually, Cummings is not bad at all, although certain highly emotional scenes were clearly beyond his range.  In such a riveting and suspenseful film, such considerations are but minor flaws.  ½ - JL


     Bob Cummings and Priscilla Lane often get a bad rap for their work in SABOTEUR, but I find them both immensely appealing.  Cummings may lack the star power that a Cary Grant or Gary Cooper would have provided, but that lack of star power only hurts the film in one way - there is nobody with enough screen power to gloss over the plot holes, long-winded speeches and convenient coincidences.  If ever there was a typical Hitchcock film, it is SABOTEUR.  Man on the run for a crime he didn't commit, trying to track down the real villain.  Cool blonde who at first loathes the hero and then loves him. Hero trapped at a public event and doing something nutty to achieve escape.  Battle at a national monument.  It's all here in SABOTEUR, a fun and exciting film that has always been overlooked because of a film that came before it (REBECCA) and the film that followed immediately after it (SHADOW OF A DOUBT).  It's othing more than the Master running through his usual bag of tricks, but it's still the Master. 4

Alfred Hitchcock     The Stuff You Gotta Watch

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