16 January 2009

Hitchcock | Sabotage (1936)

Sabotage (1936)
written by Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, Helen Simpson and E.V.H. Emmett, based on a novel by Joseph Conrad

A movie theater owner with a suspiciously foreign-y accent is actually an agent for... well, Hitchcock never says. England was still three years from WWII at this point. I take it they're just some nebulous force for nefarious evil with a grudge against Mother England. A MacGuffin, in other words. This force instructs the theater owner to first sabotage the power station and, when that doesn't cause the panic it desired, plant a bomb in Piccadilly Circus. On his tail is a detective from Scotland Yard posing as a fruit stand merchant.

I remember watching the bus bombing scene in a film class in college. We studied the masterful editing of this sequence, watching the young boy unknowingly carry a time bomb through London. As with the equally suspenseful assassination scene in The Man Who Knew Too Much, I am always amazed when films like these can actually increase my heart rate. Knowing the bomb is on a timer, Hitchcock cleverly delays the boy on his journey with parades and annoying street salesmen. Once he finally gets on a bus, Hitchcock cuts from the bomb to the boy with increasing frequency. As a viewer, you have to wince with each cut back to the bomb, knowing that may be the second it explodes. Intensifying the effect, I couldn't remember whether the bomb actually exploded or not. It does and it's about as grim as a 1930s movie can get. I suspect, in light of 7/7, this film isn't watched as often in England these days.

It struck me as odd that the last fifteen minutes or so of the movie turn into a remake of Blackmail. In both, a woman kills a man with a knife and her policeman boyfriend tries to cover it up while she tries to turn herself in. However, the woman's murder hardly phases her policeman admirer at all in this film. In fact, he uses the opportunity, while she's busy freaking out, to admit his love for her. An interesting hero the movie has in this policeman. He seems to be, as they say, "thinking with the wrong head" half of the time. Whether you could blame this for his failing to stop the bombing, I'm not sure I could say for certain. He is an interestingly useless hero, I do have to say. (7/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Fox in 2008 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection. The transfer's fine.