Jump to: navigation, search

American Cinematographer (1942) - Saboteur




  • Frank Lloyd Production for Universal
  • Director of Photography: Joseph Valentine, A.S.C.

From the opening title to the final fade-out this latest of Alfred Hitchcock's suspenseful melodramas pays tribute to the photographic ingenuity of director of photography Joseph Valentine, A.S.C. His imaginative effect-lightings and pictorial sense do a great deal to establish and maintain the mood of the picture. He has turned in some of the finest work — technically and pictorially — that he has done in many months. He does uncommonly well by the players — especially Robert Cummings, who has never appeared to such good advantage. He does well by Priscilla Lane, too, though the make-up department's ideas of how she should wear her hair certainly didn't give Valentine any help in glamorizing her.

But Valentine's real value to the picture is not so easily detected at first sight. Only when you sit through a second screening are you likely to begin to realize how his picture-minded ingenuity has contributed production value to almost every sequence. The opening title — simplicity itself, yet enormously effective in establishing the picture's mood — sprang, we understand, from his fertile imagination. In the opening sequence, his deft use of a backing to suggest a vast modern airplane-plant is noteworthy. Repeatedly throughout the picture he has used his knowledge of the camera's vast — and usually unutilized — powers of suggestion to obtain important production effects with a minimum of actual construction. The impressive climaxing scenes of the chase inside the Statue of Liberty, for instance, if you analyze them, were done with an incredible minimum of actual construction: the set scarcely extended an inch beyond the widest long-shot coverage of the camera. In other scenes, he has repeatedly gotten from almost nothing effects the average cinematographer and art director would obtain only with extensive construction. And he has done it convincingly.

In addition, "Saboteur" has some of the most remarkable examples of exteriors convincingly filmed on the stage that we have ever seen. The rain sequence outside the blind philosopher's cabin is one of them; another, still more spectacular, is the entire sequence centering around the ranch-house and its swimming pool. The waterfall sequence (with the exception of the long-shot in which the hero leaps into the river from a high bridge) is another done entirely on the stage. Much of the picture utilizes excellent process-work for which, so we understand, Valentine was also responsible. In all, we can recommend "Saboteur," not only as an excellent "cops-and-robbers" thriller in the Hitchcock manner, but as an outstanding example of the valuable contributions a clever cinematographer can make to a production — if he is given a chance to do more than just photograph.