Action / Thriller


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Alfred Hitchcock as Man Walking Past The Cinema as the Light is Renewed
Sylvia Sidney as Mrs. Verloc
Martita Hunt as Miss Chatham - The Professor's Daughter
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694.72 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 16 min
P/S 2 / 8
1.24 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 16 min
P/S 1 / 10

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by nycritic 10 / 10

Tense, Atmospheric Thriller

For reasons that are left unexplained -- and maybe it should be so -- Karl Verloc (Oscar Homolka) is working for unknown forces by terrorizing London natives as he sets off bombs. His wife's brother Stevie is the patsy given these packages to be delivered once they reach their destination at a certain time. Until one delivery goes terribly wrong and causes the innocent Stevie his life.

It's the sequence that is Hitchcock's earliest depictions of what he describes as suspense. The boy, whom we have grown to like over the course of the film, is on his way to a location on a bus carrying the bomb inside a package. Hitchcock cuts between the package, the street, the Big Ben, over and over and over until the tension becomes so unbearable and is finally released in an explosion which kills the boy.

While Hitchcock in his interview with Truffaut would later state that putting the boy in this situation is something that he resented because the audience at that time reacted negatively at this, I think this is a mistake. Because there is another character, Mrs. Verloc (played by Sylvia Sidney), who will eventually come to realize what she has been slowly fearing all along -- that her husband is the person behind the acts of sabotage -- she has to lose a person close to her to take action.

In the climactic sequence which resembles a silent film, Mrs. Verloc brings murder and retribution home without a line of dialogue but only using her survival instincts and those sad, expressive eyes. Hitchcock shifts from her face, to Homolka's, to the food they are eating, to her holding the knife, until we cannot bear it anymore and in a moment of almost casual surprise, it happens. It's too bad Hitchcock and she did not work again; she would have made an excellent Hitchcock heroine.

The Director would explore the theme of the suspicious wife time and again on two other films. In the correctly titled SUSPICION, Joan Fontaine would be the wife who has to come to terms with the gnawing fact that her dashing husband's love may be killing her, and in DIAL M FOR MURDER would bring to focus what was implied in SUSPICION.

Reviewed by krorie 10 / 10

Sabotage holds up much better than some of Hitchcock's later films

What an opening. The power goes off all over London as the camera gives the viewer a sweeping panorama of the situation, light, shadow, blackness, panning throughout the city with emphasis on historical sites. Then one word utterances from several different persons in charge of keeping the power up and running. This beginning grabs the audience's attention better than any other film this side of "The Letter" and Hitchcock's own "Rebecca." But unlike "The Letter" where the opening is the high point of the entire film, "Sabotage" keeps getting better and better. The opening is truly just the beginning of a cinema masterpiece. Hitchcock uses old film techniques such as cross cutting in novel ways. One of the best scenes takes place in a zoo aquarium where water creatures are compared with the human creature. Listen to the dialog between the two saboteurs as the camera zooms in on the sea turtles. Later the bomber thinks of the fish swimming in the tank and then sees motor cars filled with passengers speeding along the streets. An explosion. Suddenly the fish in the tank again flash through the bomber's head. To savor this splendid moment of cinematic brilliance, the viewer may need to zip back and watch and listen as the scene is repeated.

What a wonderful acting job Sylvia Sidney does. Hitchcock used all his influence and bargaining power to have Sidney play the part. Unfortunately Hitchcock and Sidney did not jell. Their personalities clashed. So the gifted actress refused to have anything else to do with the masterful director. Such a great loss for each.

The way Hitchcock handles the delicate situation involving the cute boy, Mrs. Verloc's (Sylvia Sidney)little brother, riding the bus with a time bomb in a package under one arm while petting a fluffy puppy with his free hand is necessary for what happens at the end of the film. For once, however, Hitchcock misread his movie patrons who were outraged. Never again would he make a similar mistake.

An interesting feature of this Hitchcock outing is a cinema owned by the bomber (Oskar Homolka) and his wife (Sidney) where clandestine meetings among the saboteurs occur. Several features are shown in the background from time to time during the film but one stands out, "Who Killed Cock Robin," a Disney short from 1935 featuring a parody of Mae West among others. Hitchcock skillfully blends the clip from "Cock Robin" into his story of "Sabotage." Mrs. Verloc deeply depressed and confused following her brother's death hears the laughter coming from the audience. She sits down and joins in with the gaiety. When the arrow is loosed and strikes poor Cock Robin, the laughter on her face changes to an expression of agony and terror. Reality replaces fantasy and make believe. Now she fully realizes what a monster her husband truly is, not the noble sensitive caring man of her dreams. One is reminded how a later director/writer Preston Sturges would use a similar technique with a Mickey Mouse cartoon in his classic "Sullivan's Travels."

There is also a clear message by Hitchcock on sabotage, today terrorism; those so-called martyrs for a cause are in reality misguided devils who end up killing the innocent and helpless instead of the ones their feeble minds believe to be the deceivers and exploiters of the human race.

Reviewed by zetes 10 / 10

Easily one of Hitchcock's greatest films

Ah, yet another Hitchcock movie that is less than famous but then turns out to be one of the best films ever made. Every Hitchcock film that I see just makes me want to the rest of his films.

Sabotage has a lot going for it. It is based on a novella by Joseph Conrad, the master writer who wrote Heart of Darkness (truth be told, that's the only novel of his that I've read the whole of, but I've been told that he has plenty of great novels besides that; I guess after Sabotage, I'm now obliged to read up). The story is excellent. Mix that with great characters played by great actors, and you've got yourself yet another Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece.

Maybe this film is not popular because it is atypical for Hitchcock. It contains tons of suspense, maybe more than any of his films besides Rear Window, especially in a sequence where he demonstrates his famous theory that a bomb that does not go off creates the suspense. No, this film is atypical because it lacks Hitchcock's masterful humor. This is usually taken as one of his trademarks, but I've seen several of his films that lack humor (or at least reduce it), and I find them just as good (I Confess, Rope, and The Birds). Instead, Sabotage may be the most emotionally affecting Hitchcock film, competing with the likes of Vertigo and Rebecca. It gives you characters to care about, especially Mrs. Verloc, played masterfully by Sylvia Sydney as a happy wife who discovers the hard way that her husband is a terrorist (don't worry, no spoilers here; we find this out in the first scene). John Loder plays Ted, a detective who falls in love with Mrs. Verloc, although she is clearly not willing, while undercover at a grocer next door. The best performance is Oskar Homolka's, who plays Mr. Verloc. Only Norman Bates is a more sympathetic villain than Mr. Verloc. We never do see why exactly he wants to sabotage things (and in this way, this movie is quite xenophobic), but we see that he does not wish to harm anyone, and that when he does he only does it through compulsion. He also cares greatly for his wife and her brother. Even at the end of the film, we understand why Mrs. Verloc wants nothing to do with Ted's advances. The film ends with an easy escape, but guilt remains heavy. 10/10

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