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  • Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette - Saboteur: A Closer Look
  • Photo gallery
  • Storyboards


Universal/Universal . R4 . B&W . 104 mins . PG . PAL


Good eeeeeeeeeeeeeevening...

This week we enter the life of Californian World War II aircraft factory worker Barry Kane (Robert Cummings), a life that he has to fight for after being accused of sabotage in a fire that saw the death of his friend and co-worker. With only one clue to possibly lead him to the real culprit, Kane gives the police the slip and sets upon a journey across America in a quest to clear his name.

Encountering many helpful and not so helpful people along the way, Kane picks up an at first reluctant companion in billboard queen Patricia Martin (Priscilla Lane). Naturally she comes round eventually and helps him in his pursuit of proving his innocence, and in his endeavours to also protect the real saboteur's next target from attack.

One of Hitchcock's earliest American films, and made in 1942 at the height of the USA's fervently patriotic wartime paranoia and trust no one xenophobia, Saboteur treads what was to become a very familiar Hitchcockian path - that of the classic 'wrong man' travelling great distances in order to prove his innocence, as best evidenced in the great director's exemplary later classic North By Northwest. Whilst certainly not in that film's league by any means, Saboteur still manages to deliver some often engrossing and nail biting moments, all offset by touches of that fabulous, slightly twisted Hitchcock sense of humour - helped in no small part by a screenplay that featured renowned writer, wit and early feminist Dorothy Parker amongst its contributors.

Possibly the greatest letdown to the film is in the casting, as nobody really shines to any great degree, and the discovery that Hitch too was not particularly impressed with his two leads - Cummings, who he considered to have "too comic" a face, and Lane, who was foisted upon him by the studio firmly against his will - comes as no great surprise. Cummings is likeable enough, but doesn’t really convince us to any great degree the gravity of his situation, whilst Lane simply doesn’t fit that classic classy Hitchcock heroine mould at all. The supporting cast do a reasonable job, however the presence of a big name lead (such as Hitchcock's first choice, Gary Cooper) would most likely have given the audience more reason to really become engrossed in the protagonist's plight, rather than merely popping along for the ride.

There is still much to recommend the film, most notably some amazing sets (can’t find a suitable desert? Then build one in a studio!), and some quite fabulous effects for their day, including a rather spectacular dam jump many years before 007 tried it in Goldeneye, and a renowned finale upon the Statue of Liberty (the US landmark thing - another precursor to North By Northwest). This ending possibly would have worked better if handled a little differently, however in endeavouring to avoid spoilers it would be unwise to elaborate further - anybody who sees it should understand what is being hinted at.

Mercifully our version is uncut, as a brief scene featuring real life footage of the ship the USS Normandie capsized in harbour appears in tact. This was added to the film by Hitch almost on a whim, simply because it actually happened at the time of shooting and he seized the opportunity to add a humorous and slightly evil mini-twist to his latest creation, however it seriously annoyed the US Navy for fears it made them appear incompetent (for they would never let their guard down to allow any sabotage, now would they? Even though it was in fact due to such) and was actually removed from some releases of the film.


The oldest of this batch of Hitchcock releases, while Saboteur does show its age, the transfer we receive is certainly no travesty. It comes to our screens in a non-anamorphic 1.33:1 format, however being essentially the original cinematic ratio this can hardly be faulted.

For a film of some sixty years vintage, this black and white presentation still manages to come up with a reasonable amount of detail, although admittedly there are slight lapses at times. The fair amount of grain on hand tends to hamper things a little, as does the prevalence of minor speckles and occasionally worse intrusions. Overall the transfer is somewhat dark, leaving some of the more shadowy scenes rather indistinct. The layer change comes quite late in proceedings, and would be best described as "close, but…" - as it appears in a fade to black but is slightly mistimed.


Naturally enough this is another decidedly mono affair, which does tend to veer towards a little too much harshness at times, but generally proves to be clear enough, posing no incredible dramas as far as understanding dialogue. Synch is fine, and for a soundtrack of its age there isn't a lot in the way of crackles, pops, distortion or other such annoyances to distract from proceedings.

Our maestro for this film is Frank Skinner (needless to say not the British comedian who was prominent in the '80s), and he provides a score that while not particularly memorable, does punctuate Hitchcock's trademark use of long passages of silence to decent enough effect.


The menu for Saboteur follows the same pattern as its sister releases, with a still from the film accompanied by the familiar to most Funeral March of a Marionette ditty. Another reasonable collection of goodies waits within…

Making of - A Closer Look - The Making of Saboteur: As with most all of the featurettes on these releases, this 35 minute presentation is available with subtitles, and gives us film clips along with interviews with Hitchcock's daughter Pat and art director Robert Boyle. The most pleasing thing is the interview footage with he who played the baddie, Norman Lloyd, which makes up the bulk of the feature and gives a delightful and engaging insight into what it was like working with Hitch, and his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the film and the way it was all constructed is absolutely fascinating. Video quality is serviceable, with the only major issue being a little shimmering at times, and it's all presented in full frame.

Art gallery: Another unannotated collection, this time there are forty-five promotional, on-set and behind the scenes stills along with some of the movie's advertising.

Storyboards: Really of only cursory interest, these 22 rough sketches don’t really give much in the way of insight, especially when there is nothing included to explain anything at all about them.

Hitchcock sketches gallery: Only seven sketches of a certain scene, however possibly of some interest to fans simply as they came from the pen of the master himself.

Trailer: A sub-two minute, rather jingoistic and overwrought wartime affair displaying decidedly appalling sound and vision. Still, it does have a pleasing touch of that classic historical camp value.


Certainly not vital, but still an enjoyable Hitchcock good versus evil tale, where those that are good are certainly good and those that are evil are decidedly evil. The disc has some interesting extras for fans of the master of suspense, and the transfer scrubs up rather well for a film of such vintage.

There's even a particular scene towards the end that fans of The Simpsons may be familiar with, without necessarily having had known the original source...

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      And I quote...
    "Not vital, but still an enjoyable Hitchcock good versus evil tale, where those that are good are certainly good and those that are evil are decidedly evil..."
    - Amy Flower
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