Saboteur (1942) – Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock delivers a fantastically paced thriller, that stirs in some patriotism and humour as every man Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) finds himself caught up in a conspiracy on the eve of war.

Kane works in an airplane factory, and is doing his part for the blossoming war effort. But when he inadvertently helps a fellow worker, Frank Fry (Norman Lloyd), he soon finds himself framed for the destruction of the factory, and the death of one of his best friends.

With the barest scraps of information he tries to hunt down the leads that will lead him to the truth and clear his name, aided by the tired and poor of America (that’s a little foreshadowing of the location of the film’s climax) Kane is aided by Pat Martin (Priscilla Lane), who he slowly wins over to the truth, and the find out the conspiracy is deeper and more widespread than they thought.

The journey takes them across the country and they encounter a variety of characters and end up in chases, and a number of tense moments that Hitchcock crafts brilliantly. In fact the opening sequence with the smoke billowing across the front of the building is wonderfully foreboding and amps up the tension brilliantly.


Near the top of the villain chain is Charles (Otto Kruger) who is coldly charming, civil in an old world kind of way which makes him all the more menacing.

There’s a wonderful chemistry between Lane and Cummings and the story rockets along at a breakneck pace right up to the final moments of the film. Hitchcock orchestrates his shots and sequences brilliantly and lets his characters find the humour in the moments even as the tension gets ratcheted up another level.

Will Pat and Barry be able to stop the villains before their plan comes to fruition, or will they be trapped and treated as spies and saboteurs?

Hitchcock has always known how to create a story, and bring it to life with an edge and eye for detail, and Saboteur is no exception. And while I am a sucker for his work with Cary Grant, this one always climbs up the ranks of my favourites whenever I rewatch it.

From the blind man, to the travelling circus who personify all that is best with America, to the sly, polite villains, it’s a pot that is stir perfectly to boil, and Kane at the centre of it is wonderfully on point.

The dialogue snaps, and the performances shine, and while you can pick out the visual effects, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the the film, and your suspension is firmly ensconced in Hitch’s able film making hands.

I think I may have to binge some more Hitchcock very soon.


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