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His American "39 Steps"
JAMessick19 September 2004
Hitchcock made at least 11 films about the ordinary man, wrongly accused, on the run (sometimes really running, sometimes not) to prove his innocence in a situation beyond his control, the first one being "The 39 Steps", which really made him popular in Great Britain. It really is his signature theme.

Others include "Young and Innocent", "Saboteur", "Spellbound", "Stage Fright", "Strangers on a Train", "I Confess", "To Catch a Thief", "The Wrong Man", "North by Northwest", and finally "Frenzy". "Saboteur" starts Robert Cummings as Barry Kane, a wartime aircraft plant worker during wartime accused of murdering his co-worker and best friend during an act of sabotage on the plant. He meets up with model Patricia Martin, played by actress Priscilla Lane, during his run from the law, and later, of course, the various Nazi/Fascist sympathizers along the way.

"Saboteur" is mainly like "The 39 Steps", even including similar plot devices such as handcuffs, the blonde who doesn't trust the main character in the beginning, a race across the country (in one case London to Scotland, and in the other California to New York), and meeting the "colorful" locals along the way. And so, just like "The Man Who Knew Too Much", I believe this is an American remake of one of Hitchcock's earlier works.

I think Robert Cummings was chosen because he comes across as a very ordinary American, sort of an "everyman" with whom the audience can identify. I like Priscilla Lane because her character is a more involved in the action than Madeline Carroll in "The 39 Steps" and Ruth Roman in "Strangers on a Train". As mentioned elsewhere, though, Otto Kruger steals the show as the villain. I also liked Vaughan Glaser's performance as the blind uncle; his lines are great. There are some funny touches all along the way for some comic relief, such as road signs featuring Priscilla Lane's character on them, and circus sideshow performers, and the truck driver, Murray Alper. Contrary to other opinions here, there aren't too many characters who believe Barry Kane's innocence immediately.

There are some slow parts, mainly when the action first moves to New York, but it picks up quickly when the last planned act of the fifth columnists gets underway.

It's one of my favorite films from Hitchcock (I put it in my top 5), especially in these days of the new war on terrorism. I think it hits home.

It makes you think, "Could my coworker be involved in something evil?" In fact, one of the movie posters for "Saboteur" proclaimed "Watch Out for the Man behind your back!" Imagine how that played in the mind of adults during the Second World War.
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A Caravan Full of Freaks - One of the master's forgotten Gems
CWessonSpeaks23 May 2002

After Hitchcock's successful first American film, Rebecca based upon Daphne DuMarier's lush novel of gothic romance and intrigue, he returned to some of the more familiar themes of his early British period - mistaken identity and espionage. As the U.S. settled into World War II and the large scale 'war effort' of civilians building planes, weaponry and other necessary militia, the booming film entertainment business began turning out paranoid and often jingoistic thrillers with war time themes. These thrillers often involved networks of deceptive and skilled operators at work in the shadows among the good, law abiding citizens. Knowing the director was at home in this espionage genre, producer Jack Skirball approached Hitchcock about directing a property he owned that dealt with corruption, war-time sabotage and a helpless hero thrust into a vortex of coincidence and mistaken identity. The darker elements of the narrative and the sharp wit of literary maven Dorothy Parker (during her brief stint in Hollywood before returning to her bohemian roots in NYC) who co-authored the script were a perfect match for Hitchcock's sensibilities.

This often neglected film tells the story of the unfortunate 25 year old Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) who, while at work at a Los Angeles Airplane Factory, meets new employee Frank Frye (Norman Lloydd) and moments later is framed for committing sabotage. Fleeing the authorities who don't believe his far-fetched story he meets several characters on his way to Soda City Utah and finally New York City. These memorable characters include a circus caravan with a car full of helpful 'freaks' and a popular billboard model Patricia Martin (Priscilla Lane) who, during the worst crisis of his life as well as national security, he falls madly in love with! Of course in the land of Hitchcock, Patricia, kidnapped by the supposed saboteur Barry, falls for her captor thus adding romantic tension to the mix.

In good form for this outing, Hitchcock brews a national network of demure old ladies, average Joes, and respectable businessmen who double as secret agent terrorists that harbor criminals, pull guns and detonate bombs to keep things moving. It's a terrific plot that takes its time moving forward and once ignited, culminates in one of Hitchcock's more memorable finales. Look for incredibly life like NYC tourist attractions (all of which were recreated by art directors in Hollywood due to the war-time 'shooting ban' on public attractions). While Saboteur may not be one of Hitchcock's most well known films, it's a popular b-movie that is certainly solid and engaging with plenty of clever plot twists and as usual - terrific Hitchcock villains. Remember to look for Hitchcock's cameo appearance outside a drug store in the second half of the film. Hitchcock's original cameo idea that was shot (him fighting in sign language with his 'deaf' wife) was axed by the Bureau of Standards and Practices who were afraid of offending the deaf!
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On the Road
telegonus19 November 2001
Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur is not one of his best-regarded films; made between two vastly more popular and critically praised pictures, Suspicion and Shadow Of a Doubt, it's generally regarded as a lesser effort. I agree that the later film is groundbreaking, drawing Hitchcock wholly into the American mainstream for the first time, but Saboteur is in its way at least as lively as Suspicion; its chief flaw being its less than charismatic star players, Bob Cummings and Priscilla Lane.

In Saboteur we find Hitchcock feeling his way around America, literally, as its lead character travels from California to New York in search of an arsonist for whose crime he was accused. Cummings is very youthful here, and quite engaging. His boyishness (but not immaturity) perfectly suits the character he is portraying, and seems appropriate, as the director, though middle-aged, was in the process of reinventing himself, and an older, more established star might have thrown things off. Priscilla Lane's spunky heroine, which not a typical type for the director, was very much a common type in American films at the time; and she and Cummings provide an openness and a youth the director needed both in his life and work at this time. I cannot imagine older, more solid types,--Cooper and Stanwyck for instance--doing any better, as they would have, between them, carried, well, too much baggage.

As is the norm in Hitchcock's films, nothing is as it appears. Where Saboteur differs from his better known films is that the audience is let in on the game early. Though Cummings is an accused arsonist, we know that he is innocent. The villains become apparent fairly soon; and the movie hinges more on its plot than its ironies. What pleasures there are are incidental, and here the Master does not disappoint. There is an interesting, Tod Browningish interlude with some circus freaks, who help Cummings elude capture. In another scene, reminiscent of James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein, Cummings spends some time in the cottage of a blind man, who, as it turns out, is Lane's uncle. Was the director perhaps studying key American films of the previous decade? Whatever the case, these and other offbeat and discursive aspects of the movie give it a playfulness and variety, which, when one adds the factor of quite youthful leads, makes the picture seem like the work of a younger man, still learning his craft.

The film's later scenes, in New York, are more suspenseful and typical of the director, as the picture gradually becomes more Hitchockian as it moves along. In the end I find it a satisfying work; and as neither Cummings nor Lane has a dark side as an actor, neither does the movie have one. It is deliberately lightweight, and I suspect semi-experimental; an attempt by Hitchcock to see if he could pull off, in an American setting, the sort of story he had done so well in England. He succeeded admirably. The next logical step: Shadow Of a Doubt, a film in which the main character travels east to west, and with a wholly different set of values and plans.
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It may not be top shelf Hitchcock but 'Saboteur' is still a very entertaining thriller.
Infofreak17 August 2003
'Saboteur' isn't one of Hitchcock's best known movies but it shouldn't be completely dismissed for that reason. It's a very entertaining "innocent man on the run" thriller, a theme he had previously used to great success in 'The 39 Steps', and would later recycle in one of his most popular movies 'North By Northwest' (and one which still gets used time and time again by Hollywood - see 'The Fugitive', 'Enemy Of The State', 'Minority Report' and countless others). Some people slam Robert Cummings (who later appeared in Hitchcock's 'Dial M For Murder') as being a bit lightweight, but I think he's actually pretty good as a leading man, and Priscilla Lane ('Arsenic And Old Lace') is also not bad, and the two do show some on screen chemistry. Of course with more charismatic leads 'Saboteur' would have been greatly improved, but as it is it's good enough. One actor in the cast I think is really terrific is Otto Kruger ('Murder, My Sweet') who plays Tobin, one of Hitchcock's best ever villains. 'Saboteur' is action packed and keeps things interesting. There's a good sequence with a traveling circus, memorable bit parts from a truck driver and a blind man, and the climax is great stuff and vintage Hitch. If you are new to Hitchcock I could name at least a dozen of his movies to watch before this one, but if you've seen his "greatest hits" try 'Saboteur', it's lots of fun.
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Streamlined, ergonomic
Robert J. Maxwell29 May 2004
The story is spelled out elsewhere -- Cummings being mistaken for a saboteur and getting mixed up with a real gang -- so I'll pretty much skip it and just add a few comments.

First, it's identifiably Hitchcock, but is an example of his lighthearted thrillers not his more ambitious dramas. Think of it as being in the same class as, say, "The Lady Vanishes" or "North by Northwest." Aside from a speech Robert Cummings makes to the Nazis at the mansion -- about "you and your kind" -- none of this is meant to be taken very seriously.

This is also the first use Hitchcock makes of an American landmark or even an identifiable American landscape in his films. It isn't his first use of landmarks as setting for a chase, since he earlier used the British Museum. He does better here with his mockup of the Statue of Liberty, which also carries a (rather heavy) symbolic weight.

The score is kind of sweet and musically a little tricky, but there is no music at all while Cummings is holding the villain Norman Loyd by the sleeve at the top of the statue. The scene cries out for explosive dramatic suspenseful collossal stupendous orchestration -- and Hitchcock keeps it silent except for a few whispered words from Loyd.

The plot has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese but it doesn't matter much. "The FBI arrived at my ranch," says the suave Otto Krueger. "Luckily I was just leaving." The mother of the victim at the beginning seems to believe that Cummings, the victim's best friend, may have deliberately murdered him. A hole has been drilled in the wall of a deserted shack so that Cummings can find a telescope and look through the hole and see what appears to be Boulder Dam and cotton to what's going on. Oh, well.

The makeup department should have been penalized (or drafted). In some scenes Cummings is so plastered with makeup that he resembles a silent screen hero like Valentino. And sometimes the delectably cream-fed Priscilla Lane looks almost ordinary.

The best performances are from Otto Krueger, who switched from music to acting, fortunately, and from Alan Baxter as the soft spoken and not entirely unsympathetic heavy. We first see Baxter as he enters the abandoned shack at Soda City with Clem Bevins, brushing the dust fussily from the sleeve of his dark jacket. And he has a truly amazing conversation with Cummings in the back seat of a car while they are being driven to New York. It's a complete non sequitur dealing with Baxter's two young sons. He describes them lovingly and then talks about how much he wanted a girl. He asks Cummings if it would be acceptable to raise a boy nowadays with long hair, adding that when he himself was a child he had beautiful long golden curls. "You might do the kid a favor if you got him a haircut," advises Cummings! It's sometimes easy to make fun of Hitchcock and call him nothing more than a successful commercial hack, but it's almost impossible to imagine scenes like these appearing in another director's work, not with such consistency.

As far as that goes, few other directors would have the imagination to roll the credits against a blank wall and, afterwards, have an ominous black shadow of smoke unfurl itself against that background. But that's only visual flair. Not that it should be dismissed, but that conversation between Cummings and Baxter I think tells us much more about what exercised Hitchcock's interest aside from patterns on a silver screen.
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WWII Hitchcock sheds light on master's tendencies
Steve Tarter12 February 2004
You can't help but marvel at Hitchcock's early work. "Saboteur," for example, is so slick and quick that it's hard to believe he made this film over 60 years ago. There's some propaganda elements but they're woven into the mystery so well that the thing plays beautifully years later. You also get some previews of stuff that Hitchcock would do later--like using a national landmark as a backdrop. This time it's the Statue of Liberty. In "North by Northwest," of course, it's Mt. Rushmore. You'll also recognize things that pop up later in "Rear Window" and "Vertigo" in "Saboteur" but let's not give away the show. Robert Cummings is excellent as is the oh-so-charming Otto Kruger. Look for Hitchcock's mini-western in this one. It happens quickly so don't blink.
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Tons Of Holes, But Entertaining
ccthemovieman-125 January 2010
Overall, this is entertaining and odd film. Don't try to make sense of it. There are more holes in the story than a computer could keep up with, but Robert Cummings and a cast of minor characters are mostly fun to watch in this "Fugitive"-like story.

Unlike the popular TV show and then 1993 movie, this fugitive isn't looking for a one-armed man, but a two-armed Nazi saboteur by the the name of "Frank Fry." Cummings ("Barry Kane") gets blamed when a defense plant blows up in Los Angeles and goes on the lam looking for the man who did it (Fry) to clear his name.

The first 40 minutes or so are very tense and interesting. Then Priscilla Lane ("Pat Martin") enters the story, and it starts to bog down a bit with some sappy dialog. Director Alfred Hitchcock often did that with his female characters, to the point I wonder if he had a clue how woman talked. Lane's character here was a little lame.

Actually, the villains played by Otto Kruger ("Charles Tobin") and Norman Lloyd ("Frank Fry") were the best, in my opinion......just fascinating. Kruger's acting and dialog was especially good.

If you haven't seen this film but saw Hitchcock's well-known "North By Northwest," you'll chuckle at the ending and really enjoy it. Instead of a climactic scene at Mount Rushmore, here we have a memorable last 10 minutes at the State Of Liberty. As usual, Hitchcock camera angles are great and fun to view.
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Strange but very good Hitchcock movie
preppy-325 November 2004
Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is wrongfully accused on sabotaging a hanger making aircrafts for the war. He goes on the run, meets Patricia Martin (Priscilla Lane) along the way, and she joins him to find and bring the real criminals to justice.

There are a lot of things wrong with this film. Robert Cummings was a good actor but he's totally miscast in this role; Priscilla Lane is pretty but was never a good actress; the story doesn't make a whole lot of sense (and rambles on longer than needed); it wears its patriotism a bit much (but this WAS made while WWII was in full swing) and there's no ending. It shouldn't work but it does.

It's full of bizarre lines and characters that certainly hold your interest.

For example: Lane says to Cummings (while they're falling in love), "I wish I could have met you a hundred years ago" (????!!!!); Lane PAYS a villain for getting her lunch and Cummings and Lane join a circus troupe briefly while on the run. Also Hitchcock's direction was (as always) just great--he throws in some truly amazing shots and sequences--especially the Statue of Liberty climax.

This is not one of Hitchcock's classic movie but is still very good and worth catching.
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North by Dumb West
amosduncan_200023 June 2011
Hitch made worse films than Saboteur, but never one more annoying. As the master once joked about another of his lesser films, "we must never let plausibility rear it's ugly head." The basic set up seems hard to swallow...would NOBODY else at the plant notice the real bad guy?

I think Robert Cummings would have been acceptable in the role but he simply has to play a lot of second or third rate material. Other performances are more questionable, the studio sets are very obvious; but the real problem is that the film's constant stabs at wit (sorry Miss Parker) consistently play as pure Corn.

The film seems both a bad rehash of things Hitch had done better and an unsure preview of stuff he would do better. Often a Hitchcock film is compelling in the moment the uneasy levity ends and the story becomes deadly serious. The wan humor here gives the film no place to go.

Finally, there seems to be a repeated them that the virtuous will also be able to identify each other and therefore win out in the end. Such a corny notion would have no place in the great films of Hitchcock, and that's part of what makes him an artist.
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Pure Hitch
schappe119 November 2003
This is one of the classic Hitchcock films. It's not really a great film but its classic Hitchcock all the same. It's got the cross- country chase, the interesting characters and situation along the way, the innocent hero and the blonde, the oily villain and his crazed henchman, the big ending, (North by Northeast?).

I think it's a little weak that every nice person- save for the girl, instinctively knows Bob Cummings is innocent the moment they meet him. If you ran into a guy who is accused of torching a defense plant and his best friend with it, who you immediately decide that he's not so bad? Also the horrendous nature of the accusation would make the `It Happened One Night' type scenes that draw the hero and heroine together rather unlikely. The wartime patriotic speech at the end can certainly be forgiven. What movies in 1942 didn't have a speech like that?

The big thing, of course is the ending. Sweet old Norman Lloyd in his younger days finds, as Ben Hecht said, that `he needs a new tailor.' It's a model for many similar scenes later. One wonders why there was no denouement. Lloyd tells Cummings that he will clear him and then dies. Is Cummings on his way to jail at the end? An earlier scene suggests that the police already on his side. Wouldn't it be better to make that unclear and then have a scene afterwards where we find out he's off the hook?
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Swiss-cheese Hitchcock
jayson-431 March 2001
For all its gloss and signature moments, this is surely among the dopiest of Hitchcock's American films. The fault lies not with the production design (slick, often striking) or the actors (the usually marzipan Robert Cummings is surprisingly credible), but with a script so preachy and unmoored that it sounds like it was written by the Minister of Propaganda during a helium overdose.

Even the editing-usually one of the glories of a Hitchcock film-is surprisingly sloppy. Example: The Cummings character is locked in a pantry of a Manhattan mansion. He cleverly melts a sprinkler head (his captors apparently having thought nothing of leaving him with matches and other mischief-making devices) and sets off the house's alarm system. There follows much scurrying among the servants, and the next thing we know, Cummings is out on the street in the crowd observing the `fire'. We can guess how he got there, but it's still as if he were teleported, and it's a cheat.

Some of the setpieces (the meeting with the handsome, refined `model citizen' who turns out to be Corruption itself, for example) are themes Hitchcock explored again and again, usually to better effect. And one encounter-with a kindly, effusive blind man in a remote cabin-is straight out of Bride of Frankenstein. Now that is one strange antecedent.

Still, there are rewards, chief among them the black-comedy shootout in Radio City Music Hall and, of course, the dazzling confrontation at the Statue of Liberty. And then there's Norman Lloyd's saboteur, surely one of the grandest creeps Hitchcock ever conjured.
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Almost there, but not quite.
Shawn Watson20 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
While certainly not one of Hitchcock's better films, Saboteur is an energetic and interesting ride nonetheless. Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is an average Joe working at an aviation plant. A fire breaks out and his best friend is killed in the blaze. Incompetent Cops finger him as the main suspect and he sets off across the desert wilderness on a mission to clear his name.

Along the way he meets an assortment of eccentric characters including Patricia (Priscilla Lane) a blonde paperweight who initially slows him down but eventually believes he's innocent and decides to help. The story takes some interesting turns and develops a good deal of mystery. But there are some weird moments and plot holes that create confusion.

What is the deal with the telescope in Soda City that points to a dam? Why the fire in the aviation plant in the first place? Why the plot against the launching of the Navy ship? Why is a cinema audience laughing at a serious film with no funny bits happening? Why does Patricia pay her captors for the milk shake they got her? In regards to the first 3 points, these may be conspiracy plots that are part of a much bigger plan that is never really mentioned. But why not? I do hate exposition in movies but even a couple of suggestions here and there about the full story would have made a more satisfying film.

It is one of Hitchcock's many man on the lam/mistaking identity/wrong guy films and works rather well in that regard. But some parts just seems rushed and as a result the films seems a bit incomplete.
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A factory worker wrongfully accused of sabotaging is pursued by police and a criminal organization
ma-cortes7 September 2011
This is a thrilling Hitch movie about a high-class rebellious group plotting to blow up major factories , installations , dams and ships . A factory worker ( Robert Cummings ) wrongfully framed of sabotage at a munitions plant set off on pursuit the traitor ( Norman Lloyd still today acting ) who accused him . He is forced to take on the lam and attempts to elude police while tries to find the real culprit . Our hero flees from the web of circumstance evidence threatening to entrap him . At the beginning a gorgeous model ( Priscilla Lane ) suspects Cummings might be the terrorist planting bombs around factories , but later on , being helped by the personable heroine until a groundbreaking climax finale .

Top-notch and top form Hitchcock movie about a WWII worker turned fugitive who tries to unmask the true saboteur . This exciting story is briskly paced and has a brooding , doom-laden atmosphere , including habitual crop of memorable sequences . Hitch uses impressive locations as Boulder Dam , Radio City Music Hall and the Statue of Liberty to intensify the suspense . Some overwhelming set pieces and breathtaking ending on the Statue of Liberty with incredible special effects by the craftsman John P Fulton who has a long career as FX designer . It contains usual Hitch touches constantly boost the action . Interesting screenplay by Joan Harrison -Hitchcock's usual- , Dorothy Parker and Peter Viertel , Deborah Kerr's husband . Atmospheric cinematography in white and black by Joseph Valentine and suspenseful musical score by the classic Frank Skinner . The picture bears certain remembrance to ¨Sabotage(1936)¨ with Silvia Sidney and Oscar Homolka who Hitchcock directed during his first British period . The story deals with ordinary Hitchcock theme as ¨ Wrong guilty¨ such as ¨ Thirty nine steps¨ , ¨Foreign correspondent¨ , ¨Wrong man¨ , ¨North by Northwest¨ and ¨To catch a thief¨ . Rating : Above average for its numerous quirky touches of the Master of suspense and beginning and finishing memorably . Worthwhile watching and indispensable and essential seeing for Hitchcock fans .
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"I'm willing to back my taste with the necessary force"
Steffi_P21 February 2009
Saboteur is the second of three wartime propaganda thrillers that Hitchcock directed. Espionage adventures like this had made up the bulk of his mid-to-late 30s work in Britain, and Saboteur provides some good examples of the very precise method he had by now developed.

Important to these thrillers was the idea that this could happen to anyone, and it was not enough simply to create an honest John Doe character - he had to show the hero's ordinariness, that he was a random victim. This was before Hitch began using the device of panning over a city before homing in on one window, but he achieves a similar effect here with protagonist Robert Cummings emerging as a face in the crowd of factory workers. For different reasons, it was also important to establish the villain as an apparently non-threatening family man - the last person anyone would suspect. Hence we first see Otto Kruger playing with his granddaughter.

Once he has established that his hero is an average Joe, Hitchcock's aim is to keep us with the character and draw us into his experiences. We of course have plenty of point-of-view shots so we see what he sees, and these are not only used to show us information, but also to reveal his paranoid state - for example with those ironic billboard slogans. A subtler but equally effective trick is to cut to a close reaction shot while another character is talking. This is done for example in the scene where he gets a lift from a truck driver. As the driver prattles away, we see them both framed together, but whenever he says something worth listening to, we cut to a closeup of Cummings. This not only draws your attention to crucial information, it also really focuses you on the character's thoughts.

Finally, to keep us watching Hitchcock needed to keep the action balanced and varied. Each of Cummings' escapes is played for a different effect. When he gives little Suzi a piggy-back to prevent his getting shot at, we are impressed by his cunning. The scene in the river is pure nail-biting action, whereas cutting through the handcuffs is an exercise in race-against-time tension. The episode with the blind man is a neat little reference to Bride of Frankenstein, drawing the parallel between the outcast monster and the innocent fugitive. This sequence also contains some of the picture's few decent gags, and is marred only by the appalling acting of Vaughan Glaser.

Speaking of acting, this is unfortunately one of the blandest casts Hitchcock ever worked with, Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane being ironically very average leads. None of the supporting players really stands out, with one exception: Otto Kruger, who brilliantly manages to capture that blend of decency and villainy. Add to this dull cast a lifeless screenplay, full of patriotic rhetoric - understandable in the circumstances, but still rather clunky and clichéd - and short on wit and sparkle. The score is by Frank Skinner, one in a long line of composers who failed to get Hitchcock's style.

For all the meticulous construction of Hitchcock's Hollywood pictures, he had already made his best espionage adventures in England in the 30s. I think films like The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes were more effective simply because they were successful at merging comedy and action, with a lively cast that made them fun and breezy. Saboteur has plenty of strong set pieces, but is otherwise fairly flat. Conversely though, Hitch's mastery of his method was beginning to pay dividends in his domestic crime thrillers, as can be seen in his next feature, Shadow of Doubt.
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Very Highly Overrated
Will Adams (robelanator)23 February 2005
As I post this comment, IMDb currently rates Alfred Hitchcock's subpar Saboteur a 7.3/10. Personally, I rated it less than half that. Honestly, I can't tell how a movie this bad could've come from what is probably the most consistently good director I know of. I've seen about 10 other Hitch movies from the 30's-60's. Vertigo is thus far my hands down favorite while Saboteur is easily the worst. It's hard to believe that 7 years earlier Hitch used the very same formula in The 39 Steps far more competently. My recommendation would be to see that instead and avoid this like the plague. It's the only Hitchcock movie that I turned off before before the end and have no desire to go back and see the rest. If you must watch it, then rent or borrow. Don't make the mistake I did and buy the DVD on good faith earned through Notorious, Rebecca, Vertigo, Rear Window, etc. Even a master screws up sometimes, I guess.

EDIT: Maybe I was a bit harder on this film than I should've been. It's certainly nowhere near Ed Wood or Manos or anything like that, but there's three reasons I feel I must rate it so low:

1) The name "Hitchcock" brings with it certain expectations of quality. This film delivers on a few of them, but they're way overshadowed by the darn near non-sensical plotting.

2) I want to compensate a bit for all the 8+ ratings this film is getting. Hitchcock is like the John Coltrane of directors. True fans will find reasons to consider anything by him a work of art, but the high rating on IMDb gives more casual movie enthusiasts like myself the impression that this movie is far better than it actually is.

3) I spent $18 on this. Maybe if it'd cost me $5 or even $10 I'd probably be a bit less bitter. ;)
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Lightweight Hitch
wrcong12 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This film is bogged down by some mediocre acting (Robert Cummings in the lead, Priscilla Lane as the love interest) and some below-average writing. Hitchcock does play with some camera work that will pop up later in better pictures -- most notably people dangling perilously from national landmarks and a man pictured falling from a great height. Unfortunately, the story gets downright silly in places, with people inexplicably popping up in and out of captivity. Curiously, we are told at one point that Frank Fry's hiding place in Soda City is "up north" (i.e., Northern California), but when we and Cummings find Soda City, it's situated with a fine view of Hoover Dam, on the Arizona-Nevada border. The police allow a bit too much activity by Cummings and Lane in the climactic scenes of the film, when the authorities and presumably trying to round up the saboteurs, to be plausible. Still, there are enough deft Hitchcock touches to prevent the film from being a total disaster. This one may not even be in Hitchcock's top 50, but it's not a bad little diversion.
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At times laughably bad
C.K. Dexter Haven23 April 2005
This is one of those films I've always wanted to see but didn't get around to it for years. After buying the DVD on sale and sitting through it, I was hugely disappointed. It's just not good, Hitch fans, when it's not outright bizarre and terrible. Plot holes and absurdities and on the nose dialogue abound. Sure, the Statue of Liberty sequence shows a bit of the director's early genius, as well as a few other signature touches, but for the most part this film is a badly acted, badly structured, and badly written mess.

Nothing in this story unfolds with any believability or credibility, it almost plays like a bad Twilight Zone episode where the hapless protagonist keeps making impossible escapes via doors held open for him by some invisible guardian angel. It's outrageous to watch Robert Cummings get let off the hook time and again on simple faith that he's a noble American defense worker innocent beyond question of sabotage. A real piece of WW2 propagandist pap.

The only other bright spots are a deliciously despicable turn by Otto Kruger as the main villain, and Norman Lloyd, who successfully looks and acts the part of a slimy agent of evil (though he's hardly involved in the plot long enough to be a 3 dimensional character).

As Barry Kane, our righteous hero on the run, Robert Cummings turns in one of the worst leading man performances in the history of Hollywood's golden age. He's even more shrill and wooden than Lew Ayres and Robert Taylor in their worst moments. The only decent speech he delivers is when he confronts Kruger near the end, a speech which resonates particularly well in this era of George W. Bush (Kruger could be playing Dick Cheney). The rest of the time he's overbearingly skittish and meek when he's not chewing the scenery with histrionics.

The interplay between Cummings and Priscilla Lane is completely lifeless and devoid of any romance and humor. This film needed Howard Hawks to oversee that aspect of the film and Hitchcock to handle the suspense.

Not nearly one of Hitchcock's best. A ratings travesty at 7.3
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Who sabotaged this lackluster nap-fest?
gdahl412 February 2007
Rarely will anyone deny that Hitchcock remains one of the most creative, inventive and prolific directors of all time, because he is arguably all of these things. It takes true genius to scare generations of film goers out of taking showers and wearing neck ties. Saboteur, however, is not creative or prolific at all. Rather, Hitchcock set out with the soul intention of creating a film to muster "American Pride," a certain call-to-arms, support-our-troops title which was a popular theme of the time. With that in mind, Hitchcock severely underplayed other important aspects of the film, including but not limited to a logical plot, characterization, believable dialog, and a fluent, running storyline.

Typically Hitchcock does great with espionage films, only a few years earlier achieving cinematic greatness with The Foreign Corespondant and The 39 Steps, but seemingly lost his stride in creating Saboteur and merely recycled the same once-thrilling story lines both his previous excursions readily provided. Without going into any great depth here is a list of a few of this films major problems:

1. Despite having his face plastered on every newspaper across America, the only person who recognizes Kane is blind.

2. At the dinner party, Kane and Patricia don't want to run for the door because the bad guys might grab them and tell the party they were "gate crashers." Logically, what prevents the spies from grabbing them and saying this at any point during the evening? Besides, does anyone need to be reminded Kane is a wanted terrorist?

3. Since when can a fan belt cut through handcuffs?

4. Nobody recognizes him...his face is on EVERY NEWSPAPER!!!

5. The spies catch up with Kane in the ghost town and assume he's the man Freeman sent to work with them...shouldn't't he have some sort of credentials? I know spies don't run around with name tags and photo IDs but a secret handshake maybe?

6. Cop picks up Kane escaping from Freeman's house, still seems no one recognizes this guy.

7. How exactly does the FBI come to believe Kane with no evidence? They don't even show Kane talking to the FBI, the scene simply fades in and we are forced to assume everything is now kosher.

8. When the cops search the Carnival Caravan how do they know Kane is now with a woman? The blind man believed Kane's story thus logically would not have reported his daughter missing, kidnapped, or even more importantly running with Kane. Why does this movie not employ logic?

This is a running list. The movie is not exciting, the plot makes no sense, and the world is full of people who willingly take wanted terrorists into their homes and cars everyday because its no big thing. Hitchcock fails miserably on this one.
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The 39 Steps
tieman6424 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Better than its reputation, but not one of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces, "Saboteur" is a light-hearted romp in the vein of the master's earlier picture, "The 39 Steps".

The plot? Robert Cummings plays Barry Kane, a man who finds himself trapped in another of Hitchcock's "wrong man" plots. Wrongly accused of being both a spy and a murderer, Kane must run from the authorities whilst also pursuing the film's real villain. Sounds familiar? Maybe, but Hitchcock practically invented the "running man" genre, and this film, along with earlier Hitchcock pictures like it, continue to influence modern thrillers to this day.

As a chase movie, "Saboteur" works well. The film jumps from sequence to sequence, until it concludes with a typically grand, Hitchcockian climax. Critics accuse the film of being trite - the plot exists only to lay the foundation for thrills - but Hitch knows this. He cater's lovingly to an audience whose needs are both base and very human; sex, violence, romance, thrills and a little comedy.

Released in 1942, "Saboteur" was one in a long line of subtle propaganda pictures by Hitchcock. Here our hero - typically Hitchcockian, the poor guy is a bundle of paranoia and anxiety - uncovers a Nazi spy ring which he eventually defeats on the Statue of Liberty. This is silly - the Nazi's started off (and were fanned by) as a tool of wealthy westerners against communism and anti-monarchist movements - but the plot leads well to the film's ironic final act. Here Kane must literally become a saboteur to defend his country, lending Hitchcock's title a double meaning; a suspected saboteur and a real one.

8/10 - Worth two viewings.
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Run-of-the-mill Hitchcock
vostf1 January 2006
Saboteur was one of the few Hitchcocks I had yet to discover and I was less than half-overwhelmed. The French title "La Cinquième colonne" (i.e. The Fifth Column, a very evocative phrase for underground spying and sabotage organizations) set my expectations quite high as did the images of the finale on top of the Statue of Liberty.

Basically Saboteur is as much light-hearted as were The 39 steps (note this is another evocative phrase, even McGuffin as a title) but it lacks most of the humor (so the characters are rather down to earth) and it's definitely not as fast paced. As a chase movie across the USA from LA to NY Saboteur drags its feet from sequence to sequence. The sequence at the villain's lovely ranch? Lovely ranch, lovely villain but pretty tame on the whole, it doesn't really add up to nothing. The meeting with the blind man, the mixing with Circus people, the Soda City sequence, the NY ball sequence? They fall flat, bringing in more characters with very little added suspense value.

One big problem I can point out is the relationship between the leads Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane which is not building up as with Robert Donat and Madeleine Caroll in The 39 steps. Hence the whole narrative structure is floating, depending on the addition of new scenes. And new scenes only bring us nearer the end since it's not clear if the hook is the hero's escape from the police, from the villains or his action to stop the plotted sabotages. In The 39 steps it was clearly scripted as 1/escaping from the police (so you know the hero can't just go to the police) then 2/running for his life and after the villains to prove his innocence.

If you want a better Hitchcock from the 40s wartime propaganda I would advise you to chose Foreign Correspondant over Saboteur. They are both chase movies with a catchy finale, well really a gripping one and not just sightseeing in Foreign Correspondant as well as beautifully efficient scenes (the umbrella crowd, the tulip fields, the strange mills...).
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Going over old ground
Martin Bradley8 February 2006
The plot of this sub-standard Hitchcock movie is strongly influenced by "The 39 Steps" but it's not in the same class. Robert Cummings was too light weight for the part of the young hero who goes on the run to prove his innocence after the aircraft factory in which he was working is sabotaged and his best friend killed. The heroine is spunky Priscilla Lane, (a better actress than she was ever given credit for), who is a mite too quick to overcome her reluctance to believe in his innocence, and the plot traverses the country from Los Angeles to New York, (the justly famous climax takes place on top of the Statue of Liberty). In terms of set pieces this is as good as it gets, although there is an excellent sequence at a society gathering that just about redeems the film. Otherwise it is all very jingoistic, made at the height of the war effort and directed, on this occasion, on auto pilot.
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Somebody Sabotaged This Film's Screenplay
evanston_dad9 February 2009
I don't hear "Saboteur" talked about much in conversations about Hitchcock's films, and I can see why. It feels more like a product of a second-tier director filming in the style of Alfred Hitchcock than a movie directed by the master himself.

Robert Cummings is the wronged man in this story, accused of sabotaging a war munitions plant. He takes off to find the real culprits, running into Priscilla Lane along the way and reenacting some scenes that felt stolen directly from Hitchcock's own "The 39 Steps." The only thing resembling a Hitchcockian set piece is the film's climax that finds our hero and his nemesis dangling from the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

What relegates this film to the Hitchcock bargain bin and renders it forgettable is its ridiculously implausible screenplay. It feels sloppy and frequently makes no sense whatsoever. And the film ends so abruptly that you're not even sure what happens to the main character, but in a way that doesn't feel intentional.

I've yet to see a Hitchcock film that isn't at least entertaining, and this one is that, but it's certainly not among his classics.

Grade: B-
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Hitchcock's running men
petra_ste6 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Saboteur belongs to the group I call "middle Hitch" - neither among his timeless masterpieces (Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo...) nor among his very good movies (To Catch a Thief, Suspicion...), but still better than his rare weak efforts (Jamaica Inn, Frenzy...).

The "middle Hitch" includes breezy, fun genre movies (The Lady Vanishes, Young and Innocent...), with flashes of genius here and there. Saboteur follows the "innocent man on the run" template which the director had been tackling since The 39 Steps and which will peak decades later with North by Northwest.

Leads Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane are lightweight but likable; the story of a young man wrongly accused of sabotage who must escape the police and find the real culprit is entertaining, although Hitchcock's own assessment (in one of his insightful interviews with Truffaut) that the script lacks discipline and is cluttered with too many ideas seems accurate.

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You'll fry for this!
kapelusznik188 September 2014
***SPOILERS*** Given the "Masters", director Alf Hitchcock, touch the movie is a lot better then it could have been without O'l Alfie directing it. It's about a man Barry Kane, Robert Commings, on the lamb for a crime that he didn't commit: Treason against the USA. It was in fact Barry's co-worker, who was not even employed there, at the aircraft plant Frank Fry, Norman Lloyd, who after a fire broke out at the plant handed Barry a fire extinguisher that was filled with gasoline that ended up burning the place down and killing Barry's friend and person he handed it to Ken Mason, Virgil Summers. Now on the run and wanting to prove his innocence Barry tries to track down Fry and have his brought to justice, in the electric chair, before he dose any more damage as well as clear his name.

It's pretty model Pat Martin, Priscilla Lane, who after being kidnapped by him hooks up with Barry, Pat is obviously suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome, in finding Fry and his cohorts who are planning to do bigger and worser things to the USA! That in bombing the both the Hoover Dam and sinking at it's launching at the Brooklyn Navy Yark the latest US battleship the USS Alaska. As it turns out Fry belongs to this group of saboteurs who want to knock the USA out of the war, against Germany & Japan, before it even starts going full blast.

***SPOILLERS****The exciting final takes place at of all places the Statue of liberty where the fleeing Fry is totally isolated, surrounded by Manhattan Bay, with no where to go but up with Barry and a squad of New York City policemen and FBI agents chasing him. Fry could have easily escaped on the mainland with the help of his fellow senators but choose to go to Liberty Island for no other reason, as far as I could tell,but to see the sights! Wearing a cheap suit that he bought in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, off a pushcart peddler, and dangling on the statue's Torch of liberty Fry gets cooked by, with Barry losing his grip on him, falling some 130 feet to his death below.

What's so unusual about this film is that were never given the name of the country that Fry and his fellow saboteurs working for even though it was obvious to anyone watching it was Hitler's Germany! It may have been that the movie was made before the attack on Pearl Harbor and before Germany's,four days later, deceleration of war on the USA. That in it's distributors not trying to increase the tensions with the German Government, which were high already, that the USA was still at peace with. P.S Look for Actor Robert Mitchum in a walk-on role as an aircraft worker, which he in fact was, earlier in the film going with both Barry & Ken to the plant mess-hall before the deadly fire broke out.
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Flawed yet enjoyable thriller
Gondemaria27 August 2008
Saboteur gets off to a cracking start as an explosion in a factory leads to worker Barry Kane being falsely accused of sabotage. He then proceeds to evade his captors and search for the rear criminals behind the plot, in order to clear his name.

The first half of the film is great entertainment with some fantastic set-pieces. (The scene with the blind man is a highlight.) Saboteur benefits from a strong and appealing lead performance from Robert Cummings and a charismatic villain in the form of Otto Kreuger.

The film suffers from an uninteresting love interest, a considerably duller second half and an occasionally sketchy plot. However the pace is picked up again in the last 20 minutes, with a tense and gripping finale.

A solid offering from Hitchcock.
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