Sabotage (1936)

Sabotage (1936)I have known for a while now that Sabotage (1936) contained one of a the few mistakes that Alfred Hitchcock made on film. I wanted to see for myself how it all happened. Of course I knew it involved a boy on a bus with a bomb, that was all. Now with I am the other side I find this film to be a rare flawed film in the cannon of Hitchcock.

What is supposed to be a terrorist group in London, starting out by causing some minor disruption by effecting the power to the capital, where under the blanket of darkness anything could happen. We have an idea early on who has committed the act as Mr Verloc (Oskar Homolkaa sinister character who is not at all very open to his American wife, a role that is not really defined by Sylvia Sidney who is more interested in Ted (John Loder) the undercover police officer for Scotland Yard, whose guise as a grocer allows him observe the suspected Mr. Verloc at the cinema.

The film has all the regular hallmarks of Hitchcock all before the young boy Desmond Tester who is innocent to all around him. unlike Mrs Verloc who the more time she spends with Ted becomes suspicious of his identity, taking her attention away from the truth at home. All this is great stuff building up the unease and tension whilst a bomb-plot is being laid out.

It’s when the boy is sent on an errand to send a package to a station, where the bomb is supposed to detonate things start to go wrong. The build-up has me on the edge of my seat as time is ticking. Held back by events out of his control he goes along with it, unaware that he is carrying a bomb. A bomb that even Hitchcock knew should never have gone off. An act that hurts the audience and characters who act completely out of character. An act that an audience can still respond to terrorist attacks, sending us into states of shock. Not really knowing who we can trust, even those around us can be part of these terrible acts.

For me it all falls apart then, apart for a few brilliant moments when images play tricks on the mind. It’s as if Hitchcock knows he made the awful mistake and can’t go back. We see the effect that the events have on those left. A lesson that he tries to recover from, I just feel betrayed by what the explosion which send the plot spiralling to its confused climax.

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6 responses

  1. One of my favorite pre-American movies by Hitch. Nicely done!

    January 24, 2014 at 6:03 am

    • thanks Douglas. Shamefully I’ve not seen them all yet, something I want to correct over this year.

      January 24, 2014 at 12:06 pm

  2. Tim hope you enjoy your review of all those early Brit period movies! Hitch walked the line with his many threats to children in his early ouvre. There are so many innovations in those early movies that get fully realized later.

    A favorite American period blooper of mine is the North by Northwest, Mount Rushmore cafeteria scene, where the young boy covers his ears BEFORE the gun shot is heard! Obviously many takes were done!

    Now some great fun here: the homage in “High Anxiety” that Mel Brooks pays to a scene in the Lodger (Hitch’s first film I think) – uses a camera under a table looking up at the characters. What Mel Brooks does with this is brilliant. Hitch himself really liked the Brooks film and was a consultant, so to speak, with Brooks.

    January 24, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    • Cheers Doug, I’ve seen a few, about a quarter of them, just never gotten around to see them all as fast as those he made in Hollywood.
      Yes I know the blooper, funny though.
      I never knew Hitch was advising on that film, a great tribute to him. Only just seen The Producers the other day too.

      January 24, 2014 at 5:40 pm

  3. I didn’t know that this film had a mistake in it. Great post! Now I have to see it.

    January 26, 2014 at 12:02 am

    • Yes, its more a plot mistake, instead of releasing the tension with the bomb, Hitchcock lets it go off, Something he never did again.

      January 26, 2014 at 4:40 pm

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