Saboteur Film Details
Overview: A young man accused of sabotage goes on the lam to prove his innocence.
Tagline: Unmasking The Man Behind Your Back!
Review: Saboteur is the second of three wartime propaganda thrillers that Hitchcock directed. Espionage adventures like this had made up the bulk of his mid-to-late 30s work in Britain, and Saboteur provides some good examples of the very precise method he had by now developed. Important to these thrillers was the idea that this could happen to anyone, and it was not enough simply to create an honest John Doe character – he had to show the hero’s ordinariness, that he was a random victim. This was before Hitch began using the device of panning over a city before homing in on one window, but he achieves a similar effect here with protagonist Robert Cummings emerging as a face in the crowd of factory workers. For different reasons, it was also important to establish the villain as an apparently non-threatening family man – the last person anyone would suspect. Hence we first see Otto Kruger playing with his granddaughter. Once he has established that his hero is an average Joe, Hitchcock’s aim is to keep us with the character and draw us into his experiences. We of course have plenty of point-of-view shots so we see what he sees, and these are not only used to show us information, but also to reveal his paranoid state – for example with those ironic billboard slogans. A subtler but equally effective trick is to cut to a close reaction shot while another character is talking. This is done for example in the scene where he gets a lift from a truck driver. As the driver prattles away, we see them both framed together, but whenever he says something worth listening to, we cut to a closeup of Cummings. This not only draws your attention to crucial information, it also really focuses you on the character’s thoughts. Finally, to keep us watching Hitchcock needed to keep the action balanced and varied. Each of Cummings’ escapes is played for a different effect. When he gives little Suzi a piggy-back to prevent his getting shot at, we are impressed by his cunning. The scene in the river is pure nail-biting action, whereas cutting through the handcuffs is an exercise in race-against-time tension. The episode with the blind man is a neat little reference to Bride of Frankenstein, drawing the parallel between the outcast monster and the innocent fugitive. This sequence also contains some of the picture’s few decent gags, and is marred only by the appalling acting of Vaughan Glaser. Speaking of acting, this is unfortunately one of the blandest casts Hitchcock ever worked with, Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane being ironically very average leads. None of the supporting players really stands out, with one exception: Otto Kruger, who brilliantly manages to capture that blend of decency and villainy. Add to this dull cast a lifeless screenplay, full of patriotic rhetoric – understandable in the circumstances, but still rather clunky and clichéd – and short on wit and sparkle. The score is by Frank Skinner, one in a long line of composers who failed to get Hitchcock’s style. For all the meticulous construction of Hitchcock’s Hollywood pictures, he had already made his best espionage adventures in England in the 30s. I think films like The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes were more effective simply because they were successful at merging comedy and action, with a lively cast that made them fun and breezy. Saboteur has plenty of strong set pieces, but is otherwise fairly flat. Conversely though, Hitch’s mastery of his method was beginning to pay dividends in his domestic crime thrillers, as can be seen in his next feature, Shadow of Doubt.
Country: United States
Duration: 109 min
Genre: Thriller, War
Also known as: Saboteur,Sabotör,Saboteador,Cinquième colonne,Диверсант,Sabotagem,Saboteure,Mennesker bag din ryg,Sabotatori,Sabotaż,Viidennen kolonnan mies,Die van de 5de kolom,Saboter,Ceux de la 5e colonne,Szabotőr,逃走迷路,Sabotaje,Sabotér,Σαμποτέρ,Sabotador,Sabotør,Саботьор,Oi saboteur