Better Know Your Hitchcock: Saboteur
Dr. Girlfriend and I are on a major Alfred Hitchcock kick, and we thought we’d take you along for the ride. We’re going on a tour of some of his most famous films, a journey that’s sure to be filled with thrills, chills and other stuff that people thought would look good on a movie poster. I’m not going to bother scoring or all out reviewing Hitchcock’s movies because they’re all great, all classics – this is more of an awareness campaign reminding you to check ’em out.
1942’s Saboteur has to be the most unusual movie I’ve ever seen set against the backdrop of World War II. Like any Hitchcock movie you’ve ever seen, the Master of Suspense is doing his thing against a colorful backdrop (even in black and white), but it’s amazing how the specifics of this film still resonate today.
Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is accused of starting a fire at an airplane factory as the film starts, an incident that claims the life of his best friend. While Hitchcock gives you reasons to believe Kane is innocent right from the start, he doesn’t actually show you who committed the sabotage, so you can play your own guessing game if you want to. Soon, Kane is on the run – I won’t go into how he meets the film’s other star, Priscilla Lane, as it’ll take too long, but eventually, they’re on the road together, from California all they way to New York City. It’s easy for films from this period to stick a beautiful woman into the movie and have her be the ‘wilting flower,’ but Lane’s Patricia Martin actually has interesting things to say and do and is just as clever as her male counterpart – perhaps even more so.
Since it’s a Hitchcock movie, the visuals are way ahead of their time, from the angles to the effects, including the fall by Fry (played by Norman Lloyd) at the climax of the film – it looks better than the Joker’s fall at the climax of 1989’s Batman. Still, I couldn’t help but be reminded of North by Northwest (1959) while watching this movie, and I have to wonder what the point was of making that film. Sure, Cary Grant is a significant upgrade over Robert Cummings, and the music is spectacular (as opposed to Saboteur, which is often sparse on music and sound effects), but, in essence, they’re the same movie, and the climaxes are very similar. Still, they’re both worth a watch and they’re fun to compare – Saboteur is very serious but Northwest has a few thing to laugh at. I recommend you watch them both anyway.
Tune in again for our next installment (probably tomorrow), Shadow of a Doubt.