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Alfred Hitchcock
Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter, Clem Bevans, Norman Lloyd, Alma Kruger, Vaughan Glaser, Dorothy Peterson
Writing Credits:
Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison and Dorothy Parker

3000 miles of terror!

Aircraft factory worker Barry Kane goes on the run across the United States when he is wrongly accused of starting a fire that killed his best friend.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 5/6/13

• “Saboteur: A Closer Look” Documentary
• Storyboards
• Alfred Hitchcock’s Sketches
• Production Photographs
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Saboteur [Blu-Ray] (1942)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 31, 2016)

Alfred Hitchcock provides a wartime piece of suspense with 1942’s Saboteur. Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) works at an airplane assembly plant with his buddy Ken Mason (Virgil Summers). A suspicious fire engulfs the factory, and Ken dies in an attempt to fight the blaze.

The authorities conclude that arson caused the incident, and Barry becomes a prime suspect in the sabotage. When he and Ken went to combat the flames, Barry handed a fire extinguisher to his pal. It turns out that this device was full of gasoline and obviously accelerated the fire – and Mason’s demise. Barry claims that a man named “Fry” gave the extinguisher to him, but no one knows of this guy and he can’t be located.

Rather than deal with the cops, Barry flees and becomes a fugitive. He chooses to investigate the crime on his own and he heads to a ranch he saw listed on an envelope possessed by Fry. There he meets Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger), the ranch owner who also participated in the sabotage. Tobin arranges for Barry’s arrest, but he manages to escape. The flick follows his attempts to stay away from the law and to prove the conspiracy for which he stands accused.

I’ll say this right now: if Saboteur didn’t directly influence The Fugitive, I’ll eat a bug. While the TV series – and 1993 movie - didn’t provide carbon copies of the Hitchcock flick, it doesn’t take much to draw obvious parallels between them.

Granted, one could make the same claim about any “man on the run from the law” story, but I think the similarities on display seem much too prominent to chalk up as genre basics. I will admit that the stories diverge pretty clearly after the first act; Saboteur and Fugitive share their basic premises but go their own ways after that.

Saboteur sure doesn’t waste any time in its pursuit of plot and action, as the movie barely gets started before the fire strikes the plant. Some may view that as a negative, since we get to know almost nothing about our protagonist before he goes on the lam, but I don’t mind this choice. Indeed, I suspect it was an intentional decision to make Kane more of an “everyman”. Since we receive so little exposition or detail about him, we can more easily put ourselves in his shoes.

That path seems more important for Saboteur given its status as a piece of wartime propaganda. Clearly the movie wanted to remind us that potential dangers to national security lurked around every corner. It goes to pains to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover. It’s no accident that the film’s most reputable characters are actually its most evil, while folks on the outskirts of society – a blind man, circus freaks – demonstrate proverbial hearts of gold.

The propaganda side of things occasionally becomes a little too strong, but only for brief moments. For the most part, the film wears its mantle well. It’d be hard to find an early 1940s movie with this subject matter that didn’t do its civic duty; Saboteur handles those elements with a general lack of heavy-handed sermonizing.

Because of Hitchcock’s deft touch, he ensures that the movie remains darned entertaining after more than seven decades. It comes as no surprise that he paces Saboteur so well. The flick progresses at a good clip, and it never becomes predictable. We can’t wait to see what will happen next in this inventive, bright story.

I also really like Hitchcock’s playful nature. With only a few notable exceptions, the characters and situations often aren’t what we expect.

Take the truck driver who helps Kane early in the flick. He’s so bored with his mundane life that he actually gets excited when a cop pulls over his truck! The driver offers a delightfully peppy personality, and Hitchcock sprinkles more appealing twists throughout the film. He makes it quirky but not in a self-conscious way, so there’s an amusing oddness to the whole thing.

I must admit I’m not wild about Cummings as our hero. He’s such a blandly stereotypical All-American Boy that he barely sticks to the film. As I alluded earlier, this was likely an intentional choice, as the filmmakers wanted the viewers to more easily put themselves in Kane’s shoes, but it does become tough to really care about him. Cummings shows little personality, even though the feisty Priscilla Lane – as love interest Pat – does her best to spice up their scenes.

These minor gripes aside, I find a lot to like about Saboteur. Well-paced, inventive and consistently intriguing, it stands above the average 1940s thriller. We sense the era in which it was made but still can find it almost timeless after more than 70 years.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Saboteur appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image held up quite well for its age.

Sharpness looked solid. Only a little mild softness ever cropped up, and even then, it occurred on infrequent occasions. The vast majority of the flick showed good delineation and accuracy. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge enhancement was absent.

Blacks worked well, as they were deep and taut. Contrast was solid, and low-light shots seemed smooth and distinct. Source flaws weren’t an issue, as the movie looked clean. Grain came across as natural, so I didn’t suspect any concerns related to digital noise reduction. Overall, I felt pleased with this strong presentation.

I also was happy with the monaural soundtrack of Saboteur. Speech tended to be a little brittle, but the lines were intelligible from start to finish, and they demonstrated a reasonable sense of accuracy.

Music showed the restricted tones I expected. The score showed no real concerns, though, as it only suffered from a minor lack of heft typical of its era. Effects were similarly thin but acceptable. The mix failed to deliver much range, which I expected. Some light hiss showed up but no other source concerns occurred. Ultimately, this was a more than acceptable track.

How does the Blu-ray compare to the prior 2005 DVD? Audio was a bit smoother and more concise; the lossless mono couldn’t do much to improve on the 74-year-old source, but it was a little stronger. Visuals came across as tighter, cleaner and better developed. This was a nice step up on the old DVD.

The Blu-ray replicates almost all of the extras from the DVD. The main component comes from a documentary called Saboteur: A Closer Look. This 35-minute and 24-second show provides the standard mix of movie clips, archival elements and interviews.

We hear from associate art director Robert Boyle, director’s daughter Pat Hitchcock O’Connell, and actor Norman Lloyd. The show examines the script and its development, wartime restrictions and their effect on the project, casting and performances, Hitchcock’s style as director, camerawork, aspects of the era and the political elements in the flick, and a few scene specifics.

As a general examination of Saboteur, “Closer Look” doesn’t excel. It lacks much breadth to its participants, so we get a limited perspective. Nonetheless, we learn some nice details, and Lloyd provides a few interesting stories, especially in terms of his performance choices. This becomes an enjoyable program.

Art appears in the next two areas. Storyboards shows 22 drawings created to plan the movie’s climactic sequence, while Alfred Hitchcock’s Sketches covers similar territory across its seven frames. These are brief but interesting.

45 Production Photographs mix advertisements, publicity shots and elements from the set, and we finish with the movie’s Theatrical Trailer.

Given its subject matter, I worried that Saboteur would degenerate into a bland piece of wartime propaganda. Happily, Alfred Hitchcock ensured that nothing dull or tedious would hit the screen. He created a consistently lively and enjoyable thriller. The Blu-ray provides excellent visuals, more than acceptable audio and a decent set of supplements. This becomes a nice release for a fine movie.

Note that this Blu-ray version of Saboteur can be found on its own or as part of a 15-film set called “Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection”. This also includes Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SABOTEUR

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