24 May 2009

Hitchcock | Saboteur (1942)

Saboteur (1942)
written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, Dorothy Parker and an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock

These "wrong man" movies are starting to feel a little familiar (and I'm still fourteen years away from the movie with that exact phrase for a title). They are still interesting to watch, nevertheless. You know without a shadow of a doubt that the wrongly accused man will clear his name and catch the bad guy by the end of the picture. Yet, somehow, the film is still suspenseful. I got nervous, hoping the blind man and his granddaughter didn't notice the handcuffs on Barry. It felt claustrophobic when Barry and Pat were absurdly trapped in a mansion during a ball. Movies have this strange power over logic and Hitchcock is well-aware.

This is Hitch's first post-Pearl Habor film. The British director and writers give us a fascinating outsider's view of the country during the early days of the war. Besides the two main characters -- Barry and Pat -- the only good, honest people in the entire film are the outsiders they encounter on the road. Specifically, the truck driver, (most of) the circus people, the blind man in the cabin and the cabbies that find Pat's note are all decent, hard-working folks who implicitely trust in Barry's truthfulness. All of them stand in stark contrast to the villains, who are physically normal-looking and part of the upperclass. It paints a picture of two different Americas, fighting or ignoring each other during a time of crisis. It's not something I expected to see pointed out in a wartime movie.

While this movie sometimes sort of feels like a practice run for Notorious and North by Northwest, it's strong enough to stand on its own. (7/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Universal in 2006. Nice transfer and a nice documentary.