Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Saboteur

SaboteurCinema Monolith: 6/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!
IMDb: 7.2/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: *** out of 4

Released on April 24, 1942
Not rated
109 minutes

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, and Dorothy Parker

Cast: Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane, Norman Lloyd, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter, Clem Bevans, Alma Kruger, Ian Wolfe, Billy Curtis, Hans Conried, Murray Alper, Tony Randall, and Alfred Hitchcock as ‘Man in Front of NY Drugstore’

As much as I wanted to love Saboteur, for me it was nothing more than a fair-to-middling Hitchcock wartime effort, an offbeat espionage thriller with hints of lighthearted humor and romance, that unfortunately suffered from a wayward plot and a general lack of suspense. Add to that a rushed production start, an unrefined script, and secondary actors who weren’t the director’s first choices (topping his original hoped-for list were Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck), and what you have is a Hitchcock offering that, from a stature standpoint alone, was more Stage Fright than Psycho.

Robert Cummings plays Barry Kane, a defense plant worker falsely accused of sabotage, who takes it on the run to find the man responsible for setting fire to an aircraft hangar at the factory where he works…a man nobody believes exists. Evading the police, Kane follows a trail of abstract clues that lead him to a handful of odd and mysterious characters, and along the way he forms an unlikely bond with a billboard model played by Priscilla Lane, who at first is ready to hand him over to the authorities, but soon believes he’s innocent, and becomes his ally.

Hitchcock’s direction was solid, if not ‘iconic Hitchcock’, though for a spy story such as this there wasn’t much call for his unique style. There were some nice touches sprinkled here and there, and there was use of light and shadow in a number of shots, both indoor and out, that gave the proceedings an unexpected but welcome noir look. And though his screen time was limited, Hitchcock favorite Norman Lloyd made for an unassuming—but still sinister—bad guy, the saboteur of the title who Cummings is hoping to catch.

However, some good set pieces and intentions were marred by a bland and miscast lead actor in Cummings (and to some extent, Lane), and a plot that should’ve stuck closer to its espionage framework, instead of following a strange, serpentine path paved with blind men, circus freaks, socialites, and ghost towns. As far as story structure and narrative went, it was reminiscent of a pair of superior, earlier works by Hitchcock, Young and Innocent and The 39 Steps, but where those films were exciting and fun, this one was sadly not so much.

That is, until the film’s conclusion, when a return to normalcy saw a tension-filled chase through the streets of New York, culminating with a spectacular—if somewhat abrupt—finale atop the Statue of Liberty, a classic slice of Hitchcockian filmmaking that had been lacking in the film up to that point. In the end, I’d say Saboteur is a must-see for devotees of the director, but others might be better off sticking with his tried-and-true classics.  (6/10)

Saboteur - photo 1a crop

 

8 comments on “Saboteur

  1. Eric Binford
    2/19/19

    I have to re-watch it myself, but yes, I thought it was minor Hitch. That being said, it does have a few interesting vignettes and the ending is great.

    • Todd B
      2/19/19

      Yes, I agree…it’s definitely worth watching for those vignettes and the ending, and a few tasty tidbits here and there for Hitchcock fans. I just wonder what kinda film it would’ve been with Fonda and Stanwyck in the leads.

  2. Good movie if I recall. Haven’t seen it in many years. Love the fact that Norman Lloyd is still alive and kicking. Saw him at the TCM fest when I attended screening of He Ran All the Way.

    • Todd B
      2/20/19

      After the movie I had to check IMDb to see if Lloyd was still around…and yes he was, 104 years old! And I’d forgotten you’d seen him at TCM; who knows, he might show up in Mars as well!

  3. I watched this one in July last year. I didn’t do a review but gave it a 7/10
    I did love the whole premise of the two caught up in all the drama of these fascist supporting saboteurs. Also enjoyed the superb creepy Otto Kruger. Like you say, I too thought some of the acting was a little off and didn’t have that classic Hitchcock feel. The two leads didn’t quite have it. Still I did enjoy watching it as I ticked another Hitch off the list. And odd as it was I quite liked the strange off topic plots like the circus!? I do wonder if I might revisit it again one day. Tip top review Todd. You back on a roll of posts. Great stuff buddy

    • Todd B
      2/25/19

      Thanks, Wolfey…I’ve got some free time these days, so I’m able to get more reviews and such out than I normally do. In fact, I’m going to try and finish one up for posting tonight. And yeah, I agree: I also liked the idea of a man on the run, teaming up with a woman to stop a bunch of fascists…I just wish the story would’ve locked on that subject matter and stayed there. Kinda like The House on 92nd Street did…a cool one if you’ve never seen it (just went to your site, and found out you have!).

      • Haha yes your right The House on 92nd Street was amazing. I’d watched it last year and had been desperate to do a post on it. But as always time or other films sneak in. So like that and The Narrow Margin you told me about, they’ve both sat there in limboland and not made it on my “watched” list yet! Yeah of course what I just said doesn’t make sense lol. Hehe 92nd Street‘s twist was superb. Looking forward to more Todd reviews. 🙂

      • Todd B
        3/1/19

        Mikey, I think we’ve both been hitting too much of the liquid wolfsbane, because I got lost during your comment as well (The House on 92nd Street is still on your ‘to watch’ list, though you watched it last year…ha!). Whether you have seen both, or have not, or dreamt you’ve seen both…they’re both excellent film noir movies worthy of a look. And yeah, that twist in 92nd Street caught me by surprise as well!

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Movies Reviewed: 219

From the Monolith: 123

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