Review of Sabotage

Sabotage (1936)
One of Hitch's most Daring
25 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It's Hitchcock at his grimmest. Just count the number of smiles. Also, the only happy person is unceremoniously killed half-way through! This is not a movie the director could have made in Hollywood—the Hayes office would never have allowed it. What with the killing of a central character, an innocent kid, plus an unpunished murder by another central character, there's no way the film could have originated stateside. Nonetheless, it's one of Hitch's most interesting since it raises a number of complex moral issues attaching to both guilt and innocence. Most saliently, should Mrs. Verloc (Sydney) be allowed to walk away from killing her husband unpunished, and if so, why?

Also, there's the issue of terrorism, not dealt with by many films of the time, but which seems very topical in our own day. Apparently, the terrorist killing of the boy (Tester) has been a controversial part of the film over the years, since it's so wrenching and goes against unwritten movie-making norms. Nonetheless, I think it's an important part of the story since it calls attention to the death of innocents caused by terrorist acts, whether the bombs are planted or come from the sky. I'm glad Hitch had the gumption to include it.

Anyway, it's not a movie to see if you're depressed. The lighting is dark, the mood somber, with a doleful Sydney, a sour-faced Homolka, and a conflicted Loder. Still, it's good to see so many Londoners going to the movies in those days, even if they do want their money back. In my view, it's one of Hitch's most daring movies, British or American.
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