hitchcock is probably the most consistent and prolific of the pantheon directors. this is the first time i’ve seen this film, but i think i can say that this is the earliest (1942) film of his that i really like. blackmail (1929) is good and important, 39 steps (1935) is fun, and rebecca (1940) is overrated. it’s a very hitchcockean film – the (stunning) final scene takes place on the statue of liberty and is reminiscent of north by northwest (mount rushmore) and vertigo (with the spiraling steps). saboteur is also similar to many of hitchcock’s wrong man type pictures – wrong man (duh), 39 steps, spellbound, etc. a lot of those films are about a man trying to free himself from being wrongfully accused. in spellbound it’s about a man trying to discover his own innocence – black angel (not a hitchcock film) does the opposite to stunning effect.
at any rate, saboteur is pure hitch and that’s a good thing. there are a few holes, or leaps of faith, inherent in the plot, but they really are forgivable because he makes you want to forgive them. films like this rope, lifeboat and dial m for murder (the claustrophobia trilogy, as i call them) make me wonder why north by northwest, birds, and rebecca are so highly regarded. sure, those are very good films, but they’re overrated and the claustrophobia trilogy is underrated.
priscilla lane and robert cummings are very good as the leads and otto kruger is great as the head villain. i love that hitchcock makes the saboteurs such mainstream americans. one is a rich socialite, another a well-to-do rancher with a granddaughter whom he loves. hitchcock doesn’t draw the villains simply, he gives them a little more character and it makes them all the more sinister. this one is ripe for a remake, especially in today’s socio-political climate. that said, i hope it doesn’t happen.
this was hitchcock’s first film with universal, it’s part of the masterpiece collection – $120 for 14 films. you should buy it.