SABOTEUR ( 1942 ) ~ AMERICA HANGS BY A THREAD

The Police. Do they ever get it right? Geez!! The wrong man has been Hitchcock’s theme in many of his movies. And “SABOTEUR” uses it as well. Airplane factory worker, ROBERT CUMMINGS is wrongly accused of setting fire to the plant. We know he didn’t do it, but the police weren’t sitting next to us in the audience, so they haven’t a clue. With just the flimsiest of leads, Cummings goes on the trail for the real saboteur. Cummings is good. He’s clean cut, earnest, all-American and believable. It wouldn’t be a “wrong man” film, if Hitch didn’t have ‘The Disbelieving Girl’ by our hero’s side who comes to believe and love him. And yes, she is a blonde. Fitting that disbelieving bill very nicely is PRISCILLA LANE. She’s shamed by a community of circus folk into giving our hero a break. In fact, Cummings is shown interacting with “just-plain-Americans” giving him just that inch of a break. Hitch shows examples of our American character back then: fair, helpful, giving a fella an even break that’s warming to see.

Hitchcock also gives many satisfying jolts of suspense throughout “Saboteur”:

  • cutting the handcuffs with a car engine
  • police questioning the circus caravan ( include muzzling that weasel who wanted to squeal )
  • escaping a fancy dress ball
  • the pièce de résistance – the Statue of Liberty ( that seam unravelling is killer; I’m sure tailors all over the country were aghast. )

Of course I must give a shout-out to a great Hitchcock villain. I’m not meaning NORMAN LLOYD who was wonderfully serpentine as Frye, the beady-eyed villain you could see coming from a mile away, and who was very menacing by saying very little. ( In real life Lloyd is loquacious indeed, regaling us with his show business tales at a few TCM Film Festivals. ) This time the great Hitchcock villain I’m actually talking about is the capitalist named Tobin played by OTTO KRUGER. Kruger plays Wealth ITSELF, with big house, swimming pool and a network of tentacles that keep his own hands clean. This exchange:

CUMMINGS: “Why is it that you sneer every time you refer to this country. You’ve done pretty well here. I don’t get it.”

KRUGER: “You’re one of the idle believers. The ‘Good American.’ Oh there are millions like you. People that plod along without asking questions. Hate to use the word stupid, but that seems to be the only one that applies. The ‘Great Masses’. The ‘Moron Millions.’ Well there are a few of us that aren’t willing to troop along. A few of us who are clever enough to see that there’s much more to be done than just live small complacent lives. A few of us in America who desire a more profitable type of government…”

Interesting how Hitchcock keeps Kruger in a long shot delivering this speech, as he cuts the camera closer and closer to Cummings bringing us closer to him, not Kruger. I love Otto Kruger’s voice. Yes, he might’ve had a magnificent obsession with Dracula’s daughter but here Hitchcock uses Kruger in all his condescending sibilantly-spoken glory as the villain you don’t see coming ( a la Joseph Cotten, James Mason, Claude Rains or use your own etceteras. ) Kruger may be the kindly grandpa or the well~respected, well~heeled high society guy. But his villainy is more insidious. He not only wants to explode America from the outside with fires and bombs, but he wants it to implode her from within. Hitchcock’s done it again.

From the out of the past of 1942, this movie sounds very horribly current to me.

 

[   H  O  M  E   ]

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8 thoughts on “SABOTEUR ( 1942 ) ~ AMERICA HANGS BY A THREAD

  1. I think this is a very, very underrated Hitch film. The finale on the Statue of Liberty for me is one the most suspenseful sequences he ever filmed. It’s a very good wrong man film, and reminds me somewhat of The 39 Steps. I’m not a fan of Cummings, but I like him very much here and think he was good in the role.

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    • Hey Maddie, there are other Hitchcock films I have viewed more, but when I’m in the mood and catch this one, I always face~palm myself and remind myself how good Hitch lays out this story. I tell ya…that speech I quoted of Kruger’s character sounds more and more like today. Thank you so much for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good article. Priscilla Lane was the typical female Euro-blonde beauty I used to have a crush on in grade school. (The Spanish chicks never stood a chance) Every class had its own Priscilla. This Latino had it bad for the Priscillas he met in class. Thx for the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is one of my favorite movies-Otto Kruger is perfect. I believe Hitchcock understood villains with manners more than Americans. He saw first hand the collapse of Europe.
    I love Hitchcock but always gravitate to the movies with villains with manners-Foreign Correspondent, The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, Notorious. I think Hitchcock was sending a message to his audience about thinking that all villains look and sound like a thug with poor grammar and an ill fitting suit.

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    • You know us Americans, Sheila. We need to be hit over the head with a brick. He needs to be a snarling unattractive villain we can see a mile away. I mean someone who hyperbolically vows to “Make America Great Again” we welcome with open arms. Hitchcock…I think he is a genius. Thanks for reading my post. Look forward to more work from you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I, too, love this particular Hitchcock — though i can’t help noticing that Robert Cummings is the ONLY working class hero Hitch used — this is a guy who has working clothes and takes his lunch with him in a metal lunchbox. He’s nothing like the suave publishers, executives, photographers, professors, etc, in his later works.

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    • Ooooh good observation. How would you describe Joel McCrea in “Foreign Correspondent” as the journalist? Is he a working stiff…is he part of the “elite fake news”? ( L0L! ) I think Cummings is a cutie pie, an Every-Man. “Saboteur” is good solid Hitchcock. Thanks for stopping by, Linda.

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