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Variety (1942) - Film review: Saboteur


  • book review: Film review: Saboteur
  • author(s): Hobe
  • journal: Variety (29/Apr/1942)
  • issue: volume 146, issue 8, page 8
  • journal ISSN: 0042-2738
  • publisher: Penske Business Media
  • keywords: Saboteur (1942)




All the typical Alfred Hitchcock cinematic wrinkles are present in his newest picture, 'Saboteur,' which he has made on a Selznick loan out for Universal release. It is violently typical Hitchcock. It has the same basic elements of chase melodrama, the romantic couple beset by sinister forces they only partly see and dimly understand, the complicated plot, fantastic situations, colorful minor characters, sardonic comedy touches and sudden, wild climax. It's expert and enormously effective. It'll get rave reviews, play holdover engagements and clean up at the box-office.

As Hitchcock continues to turn out pictures his methods become increasingly familiar and recognizable. For he is a vivid stylist whose stamp is unmistakably on every film he makes. It doesn't matter at what studio or with whom he works. If Hitchcock directs it, it's a Hitchcock picture.

In a way, that's a supreme compliment, for nearly every film he's made in recent years, whether in England or Hollywood, has been an outstanding critical and box office success. Nevertheless, it indicates a lack of versatility, since all his pictures tend to be similar, not only in type of story, but in the technical tricks by which he gets his effects, in the unvarying expression of his creative personality.

'Saboteur' is a little too self-consciously Hitchcock. Its succession of incredible climaxes, its mounting tautness and suspense, its mood of terror and impending doom could have been achieved by no one else. That is a great tribute to a brilliant director. But it would be a greater tribute to a finer director if he didn't let the spectator see the wheels go 'round, didn't let him spot the tricks — and thus shatter the illusion, however momentarily.

Like all Hitchcock films, 'Saboteur' is excellently acted. Norman Lloyd, of the Broadway stage but new to Hollywood, is genuinely plausible as the ferret-like culprit who sets the fatal airplane factory fire. Robert Cummings lacks variation in his performance of the thick-headed, unjustly accused worker who crosses the continent to expose the plotters and clear himself; but his directness and vigor partly redeem that shortcoming. Priscilla Lane is somewhat pallid in her early scenes, but improves as the yarn's pace accelerates.

Otto Kruger is remarkably effective as the suave, smiling villain who directs the saboteurs, while Vaughan Glaser gives an expressive portrayal of a kindly blind man, Murray Alper stands out in a brightly-written truck-driver part, and Alma Kruger is believable as a socialite conspirator.

There is the customary Hitchcock gallery of lurid minor characters, including a group of circus freaks, a saboteur whose young son has the macabre habit of breaking his toys, a gun-toting maid at a western ranch, and a monstrous buller with a sadistic fondness for a blackjack. There are several graphic sequences in familiar New York settings, including frantic pursuits through Rockefeller Centre, a gun battle in Radio City Music Hall, a grim dynamiting at a Brooklyn Navy Yard launching, and a frenzied melee around and in the Statue of Liberty. In the latter sequences, incidentally, one of the sightseer-extras is a Negro, a genuinely realistic touch.

Number of patriotic speeches are scattered through the film, notably Miss Lane's fervent reading of the eloquent dedication inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Film is well photographed and expertly edited.