IMDB EntrySaboteur (1942)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by: Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, and Dorothy Parker
Starring Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane, Otto Kruger, Norman Lloyd, Alma Kruger

SaboteurAlfred Hitchcock is one of my favorite film directors. It's hard to say that any of his films are actually forgotten (other than Bon Voyage and Adventure Malgache, two short films that only recently became available), or even overlooked, but one particular gem that seems to take the back seat in Saboteur.

On reason for this is Hitchcock himself. He considered the final scene to be a mistake, which he rectified in North by Northwest. And, indeed, North by Northwest is very much the same movie.  Both have a similar plot:  a man on the run, involved with spies, who tries to clear his name.  Of course, Hitchcock like that sort of situation, so Saboteur gets lost in the shuffle, since North by Northwest is more accomplished.

But that doesn't mean the older film isn't a good one.  Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is a worker in an aircraft factory.  When a fire breaks out, someone hands him an extinguisher full of accelerant. Kane is blamed, escapes the police and goes to find the man who can clear his name (Norman Lloyd).  On the way, he meets up with Pat Martin (Priscilla Lane), who he takes along, first to keep her from going to the police, and later because she believes him (and, of course, falls in love).  The trail leads Kane to Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger), who, as is typical of Hitchcock, is a respectable man in society who has a dark side.

Robert Cummings & Norman Lloyd take in the sightsThe film has some great setpieces.  I especially liked the way Kane freed himself from handcuffs -- and the logical result of how he did it.  There was also a nice suspenseful scene at a party when Kane tries to tell the guests that Tobin is a spy.  There's Kane and Pat being picked up by a circus train. The saboteur's look when he passes the wreck of the Normanidie. And, of course, the final sequence at the Statue of Liberty (a dress rehearsal for the Mt. Rushmore scene in North by Northwest).

Robert Cummings is better known as a light comedian and early TV star.  He is pretty good in this more serious role.  And Otto Kruger is especially good as the suave villain. What's nice is that he gives some justification for his actions that isn't easy to refute.  And Norman Lloyd -- later to gain some fame as Daniel Auschlander in St. Elsewhere -- is very good as the title character.

If you like Hitchcock, or even if you don't, it's a small gem that's worth seeking out.

12/6/07

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