When Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is framed for sabotage, he sets out to prove his innocence.
If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that I set a movie goal for 2021. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, well, now you know that I set a movie goal for 2021 (but also you should go follow me on Twitter *wink wink*). That goal is to watch twelve Alfred Hitchcock films throughout the year; that’s roughly one a month for you math wizzes. The first in that endeavor is Hickcock’s 1942 film Saboteur.
When I hear the name “Hitchcock,” the first thought that comes to mind is “suspense.” And the kind of suspense I think about is the horror brand of suspense. Not being well-versed in Hitchcock’s films, that was much too narrow of thought. While I wouldn’t call Saboteur “suspenseful,” I would call it “exciting.” This film did a great job of not letting the audience know anymore than Barry (Robert Cummings) about what the larger picture was. Maybe I’m used to the quick cuts of today’s cinema but the way the characters and scenes were framed made things tense and dramatic. It wasn’t the type of suspense I was expecting from a Hitchcock film but it kept me on edge nonetheless.
Something that I didn’t expect were how big some of the smaller scenes felt. For example, there is a scene were Barry meets a man named Philip Martin, played by Caughan Glaser. For most of the scene, it’s just the two of them, before Philip’s niece Pat (Priscilla Lane) enters the scene. Even though scenes like this are quieter, there is still an element of suspense to them. But more than that, they had a larger context within the story, fleshing out characters and relationships.
Speaking of relationships, Cummings and Lane were such a great pair. The two of them had a natural chemistry that made their scenes enjoyable to watch. The relationship between Barry and Pat felt a bit forced at times but luckily Cummings and Lane made it feel less out of place.
Besides the two leads, another standout performance was Otto Kruger as the villainous Charles Tobin. Some of the most terrifying villains are the ones who do not look like villains on the surface and Kruger played into that role wonderfully. He was just the right mix of suave and charm with malice and menace. You never knew exactly what he was thinking or what he was planning until it was too late.
After I finished watching the movie, I watched some of the special features on the disk. In one of the featurettes, it described how some of the special effects for the film were achieved. I think special effects are something we take for granted these days, or at least I do, with everything being done on the computer these days. I tend to forget that back in the early days, directors and cinematographers had to get creative to accomplish effects that would be simple these days. And watching and learning how it was done in this film gave me a greater appreciation in how movies were created before CGI came along.
Throughout the film, “the organization” is constantly referenced. We even meet several of the leaders of the organization in Charles Tobin and Mrs. Sutton (Alma Kruger). Tobin also explains what their plan is that Barry stumbles onto. However, there is no explanation given as to why or what the organization’s overall goal is. Given the film’s early World War II setting, it could be inferred it has something to do with assisting the Axis powers but no real details are provided. It is left very vague. Although, maybe that was the point?
I thought Saboteur was GOOD 🙂 As my first dip into Hitchcock’s work (well, my second, I watched Birds years ago), it was exciting to open my eyes to the depth of Hitchcock’s abilities. While not the suspense I was expected, I was captivated nevertheless. Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane carry the film with fantastic performances, and Otto Kruger keeps pace as the villain across Cummings and Lane. While I would have liked to learn more about “the organization,” their anonymity and mystery give another layer of suspense to the film. All in all, not a bad start to my journey through Hitchcock’s filmography.
This was the first movie in which Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s name was billed above the title. (via IMDb)
Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
Peter Viertel – Screenplay
Joan Harrison – Screenplay
Dorothy Parker – Screenplay
Frank Skinner – Composer
Robert Cummings – Barry Kane
Priscilla Lane – Patricia (Pat) Martin
Otto Kruger – Charles Tobin
Alan Baxter – Freeman
Clem Bevans – Neilson
Norman Lloyd – Frank Fry
Alma Kruger – Mrs. Henrietta Sutton
Caughan Glaser – Philip Martin
Dorothy Peterson – Mrs. Mason
There is still a week left to join the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021. For all the details, check out the announcement post.