Saboteur (1942)

Saboteur (1942), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.


The "normal" are normally cold-hearted.

--Mr Bones, the Human Skeleton

After arson and murder at an aircraft plant, our hero, chased by the police, chases a nest of spies in a wild cross-country pursuit from LA to NY. He falls in love while in handcuffs and, miraculously, she sticks with him!

Can nazis climb on the Statue of Liberty? Think again, buddy.

Actually, "nazis" are not mentioned in the story, just generic "totalitarians". The character of the villains is the oddest part of this tale: we are used to rich, suave baddies, but these guys sing ballads on the road and reminisce about the long golden curls they had as children. The pace bogs down when they are all together and talk on and on.

The good folks are a mixed bag: a gossipy neighbor, a ghoulish truck driver who wants to see accidents, and even our hero who uses an infant as a human shield! But we get decency from the blind man and (some of) the circus performers.

This extra-patriotic jam-packed thriller is somewhere between The 39 Steps (1935) and North by Northwest (1959). It's rich with travelogue and strange situations, and the timing of barely missed disasters is strong throughout. We get 20 seconds of Hitchcock's only Western.

A great sequence is the hunt and shootout in the movie theater, where the alignment of fiction and reality must have tickled the audience. Also note the nice turning camera as our lovers spin on the dance floor, trapped in a public place.

Billy Curtis, last seen in High Plains Drifter (1973), is a comically nasty circus dwarf.

Hitchcock was often very self-critical and although not ashamed of this film -- it was big hit -- in the Truffaut interviews he talked about the problems with it:

Available on Blu-ray with a fine image.