Release year: 1936
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenwriter: Charles Bennett, Joseph Conrad (novel)
Starring: Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, Desmond Tester, John Loder, Joyce Barbour, Matthew Boulton, S.J. Warmington, William Dewhurst
Scotland Yard detective Ted Spencer (Loder) goes undercover to observe Verloc (Homolka), a man suspected of sabotage. But as Ted gets close to the suspect, he also gets close to the suspect’s wife (Sidney) and her teenage brother (Tester).
This tense, little thriller is far from the first by the famed director, but was released before he really started to break through with The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Rebecca (1940). Starring the doe-eyed Sidney (Beetlejuice, 1988), the expressive-faced Homolka (The Seven Year Itch, 1955) and the charming Loder (How Green Was My Valley, 1941) Sabotage is a fluid, self-assured thriller like most movies made by the genius Hitchcock. What truly makes the movie stand out, is the fact that we almost from the beginning knows the identity of the saboteur, but that doesn’t mean there is no excitement or no tension. As Hitchcock takes his own sweet time building up the climax, he spends his time developing his characters, most of all his heroine. Sidney and her sad eyes are undoubtedly the star of the movie and the actress delivers a rich performance full of emotion, inner turmoil and plenty of expressions in no need of dialogue. While Loder is great, he is reduced to a mere catalyst for the events that sets the heroine’s growth in motion. As the suspect of sabotage, Homolka makes full use of his expressive face and foreign accent to play a villain with more than one side to him, while young Tester (Tudor Rose, 1936) is a complete sweetheart as the young brother. There are funny moments created by by-passer’s quirky conversation but as in most Hitchcock’s movies, there are suspense, particular one scene is so suspenseful it becomes almost unbearable. While the villain is revealed at the very beginning, there is no reason to suspect the ending gives itself. Hitchcock knows what he does. A lesser known movie from the Master of Suspense, but definitely worth your time!
The scene in Inglourious Basterds (2009), where it is mentioned that film is three times more flammable than paper and a boy is shown asking if he can bring film onto a bus, with the bus driver saying: “You can’t bring that on here. It’s flammable”, is from this movie.
The film “Bartholomew the Strangler” is fictitious.
Mrs. Verloc’s first name is never revealed in the film. However, in the 1886 novel “The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad, it is given as Winnie.