Thursday, August 1, 2019
Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942)
The basic premise - an innocent man on the run after being wrongly accused of a crime - is a theme Hitchcock returned to again and again. In this case we have an act of sabotage in an aircraft factory, and a young and rather naïve worker (Barry Kane, played by Robert Cummings) finds himself the chief suspect. He encounters the inevitable blonde (played by Priscilla Lane) and gets into a series of scrapes and narrow escapes from both the law and the real saboteurs.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie is the nature of the people that Kane accidentally encounters along the way. They’re all misfits or outsiders in some way. The characters who seem like the most upright and decent all-American solid citizens turn out out to be murderers and traitors, while the misfits and outsiders turn out to be the decent people who genuinely do the right thing. He comes across a kindly blind man whose mistrust of the officers of the law seems almost as extreme as Hitchcock’s own notorious dislike of the police, but the blind man’s insight into human nature is sound and leads him to do the correct thing even though it means lying to the police.
One can’t help feeling that the Production Code Administration must have been taken in by the movie’s apparent patriotic message and that they failed to notice that the movie is actually quite sceptical of patriotism when it’s combined with unthinking zeal and unreasoning suspicion.
Despite its undoubted flaws Saboteur has plenty of other skilfully rendered moments of suspense as well, and it’s undeniably entertaining. While it's not in the same league as the best of his 1940s movies such as Shadow of a Doubt and Notorious, even a Hitchcock movie of the second rank is still very much worth seeing.