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Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Edition Vol. 1: The steely and naughty Saboteur (which has never looked or sounded better, by the way)....
Universal / 109 Minutes / 1942 / Unrated / Street Date: October 30, 2012
[As preparation for our comprehensive review of Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection, we're investing each of that massive Blu-ray sets films one by one chronologically. Saboteur is the first movie in the box set.]
In Saboteur, Hitchcock's first film produced for a major studio, Robert Cummings plays Barry Kane, a worker at a national defense plant in Los Angeles. When his best friend is killed in a sabotage incident at the plant, he is the primary suspect. Barry and his friend had bumped into a man named Fry (Norman Lloyd) just moments before the fire at the plant, but he has mysteriously vanished. Kane starts a quest to find the missing Fry, who he's convinced, is the saboteur.
In his cross-country quest to find Fry, Kane meets the wealthy Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger), who is covering up for Fry. After Tobin attempts to have him arrested, Barry escapes. Eventually, Kane kidnaps a high profile model named Patricia (Priscilla Lane), runs into a circus caravan, which befriends them, and uncovers a plot to destroy the Boulder Dam.
In the traditional Hitchcock style, there are many twist and turns, which eventually leads Barry and Patricia to the East Coast and the heart of the lion's den. The final climatic sequence is still impressive despite the dated technology, and remains the basis for one of those interactive behind-the-scenes stage shows at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
As with Psycho, I'm impressed with what Hitchcock was able to get away with in this film. Think about it, how do you actually produce a film even hinting at traitors lurking within the United States? Today it wouldn't be a big deal, but Hitchcock created this film during WWII, before the war even ended. Hitchcock wisely chose to heighten the suspense and drama by making all of the characters resemble average American citizens anyone could have living next door to them. If this film were made today, I'm sure most modern filmmakers would simply resort to the usual stereotypical characterizations so prevalent in current cinema.