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.
- the circus people
- the trucker
- the kindly blind man ( reminiscent of the blind man in “The Bride of Frankenstein” )
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.
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