A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
Mr. Verloc is part of a gang of foreign saboteurs operating out of London. He manages a small cinema with his wife and her teenage brother as a cover, but they know nothing of his secret. Scotland Yard assign an undercover detective to work at the shop next to the cinema in order to observe the gang. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
Some erroneous modern sources identify Sara Allgood as the uncredited actress playing the bird shop customer, but she does not appear in this film. The identity of the actress in question is presently unknown. See more »
The London Underground and tram lines had their own power supplies, both separate from the public system. A single power station failure could not affect all three. See more »
Man in power plant:
2nd Man in power plant:
3rd Man in power plant:
4th Man in power plant:
2nd Man in power plant:
What's at the back of it?
3rd Man in power plant:
Who did it?
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Opening credits are shown with a background of a dictionary page open to the definition of "Sabotage". See more »
Sabotage holds up much better than some of Hitchcock's later films
What an opening. The power goes off all over London as the camera gives the viewer a sweeping panorama of the situation, light, shadow, blackness, panning throughout the city with emphasis on historical sites. Then one word utterances from several different persons in charge of keeping the power up and running. This beginning grabs the audience's attention better than any other film this side of "The Letter" and Hitchcock's own "Rebecca." But unlike "The Letter" where the opening is the high point of the entire film, "Sabotage" keeps getting better and better. The opening is truly just the beginning of a cinema masterpiece. Hitchcock uses old film techniques such as cross cutting in novel ways. One of the best scenes takes place in a zoo aquarium where water creatures are compared with the human creature. Listen to the dialog between the two saboteurs as the camera zooms in on the sea turtles. Later the bomber thinks of the fish swimming in the tank and then sees motor cars filled with passengers speeding along the streets. An explosion. Suddenly the fish in the tank again flash through the bomber's head. To savor this splendid moment of cinematic brilliance, the viewer may need to zip back and watch and listen as the scene is repeated.
What a wonderful acting job Sylvia Sidney does. Hitchcock used all his influence and bargaining power to have Sidney play the part. Unfortunately Hitchcock and Sidney did not jell. Their personalities clashed. So the gifted actress refused to have anything else to do with the masterful director. Such a great loss for each.
The way Hitchcock handles the delicate situation involving the cute boy, Mrs. Verloc's (Sylvia Sidney)little brother, riding the bus with a time bomb in a package under one arm while petting a fluffy puppy with his free hand is necessary for what happens at the end of the film. For once, however, Hitchcock misread his movie patrons who were outraged. Never again would he make a similar mistake.
An interesting feature of this Hitchcock outing is a cinema owned by the bomber (Oskar Homolka) and his wife (Sidney) where clandestine meetings among the saboteurs occur. Several features are shown in the background from time to time during the film but one stands out, "Who Killed Cock Robin," a Disney short from 1935 featuring a parody of Mae West among others. Hitchcock skillfully blends the clip from "Cock Robin" into his story of "Sabotage." Mrs. Verloc deeply depressed and confused following her brother's death hears the laughter coming from the audience. She sits down and joins in with the gaiety. When the arrow is loosed and strikes poor Cock Robin, the laughter on her face changes to an expression of agony and terror. Reality replaces fantasy and make believe. Now she fully realizes what a monster her husband truly is, not the noble sensitive caring man of her dreams. One is reminded how a later director/writer Preston Sturges would use a similar technique with a Mickey Mouse cartoon in his classic "Sullivan's Travels."
There is also a clear message by Hitchcock on sabotage, today terrorism; those so-called martyrs for a cause are in reality misguided devils who end up killing the innocent and helpless instead of the ones their feeble minds believe to be the deceivers and exploiters of the human race.
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