Film: Saboteur

Saboteur is a 1942 wartime thriller by Alfred Hitchcock and was his first movie made with an all-American cast.

The protagonist is Barry Kane (Robert Cummings), who works at an airplane factory in California when a friend of his is killed in an act of sabotage. While the law thinks he is responsible, Kane goes on a cross-country hunt for the real saboteur, a man named Fry. While on the run, Kane, in true Hitchcock fashion, gets involved with a sexy blonde (Priscilla Lane). He discovers that the fire at the airplane factory was caused by a group of Nazi-sympathizing fifth columnists, and that the saboteurs have more attacks planned.

Dorothy Parker was one of three writers credited with the screenplay.


Tropes:

  • Affably Evil: All of the saboteurs appears to be lovely people outside their work. Tobin adores his little granddaughter. Mrs. Sutton the New York dowager is hosting a fancy dress ball for charity when she isn't plotting treason.
  • Blind Musician: Philip Martin, whose niece, Pat, becomes a reluctant ally to Kane.
  • Clear My Name: Barry is the prime suspect in the fire at the aircraft factory.
  • Climbing Climax: Atop the Statue of Liberty.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: While Barry is having his first confrontation with Tobin, the radio helpfully interrupts with a bulletin about the sabotage attack at the aircraft factory.
  • Creator Cameo: Hitchcock did this in all of his movies. Here he is standing outside of a pharmacy window that says "CUT RATE DRUGS", at the 1:04 mark.
  • Disney Villain Death: Fry's death in the end.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Barry's friend Mason is distracted by a hot blonde, which causes him to bump into Fry. This is what drives the plot, since Fry drops some letters and telegrams, letting Barry know his name and where he's headed.
  • Dramatic Irony: The ball room scene, where the bad guys are chasing Barry and Pat while they are trying to find a way out.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Charles Tobin and his young granddaughter. Also Freeman, who has two children.
  • Ghost Town: Barry tracks the bad guys to Soda City, NV, which turns out to be an abandoned mineral works—with a strategic view of Hoover Dam, a target of the saboteurs.
  • Jump Cut: There is a jarring transition between Barry emerging from the stairs to the observation deck on the Statue of Liberty's torch, to him confronting Fry.
  • Karma Houdini: Tobin. Maybe. Fry takes a dive off the Statue of Liberty, most of the other conspirators were arrested, and the cops would presumably have scooped up Mrs. Sutton, but Tobin says the night before the bombing that he is leaving the country immediately.*
  • Little People Are Surreal: During part of their journey, Barry and Pat travel with a sideshow, and the bearded lady, thin man, little person, and conjoined twins seem to parallel the then-current situation in Europe.
  • Living MacGuffin: Fry is a textbook example.
    Patricia Martin: Fry... He seems so small now, I'd forgotten about him.
  • Monumental Battle: The final battle on the Statue of Liberty.
  • Rancher: Charles Tobin has a horse ranch in the Nevada desert.
  • Repressive But Efficient: Tobin cites this as one reason why he's working for Germany.
    "The competence of totalitarian nations is much higher than ours. They get things done."
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: At one point Barry threatens to leave Pat alone in the desert and reminds her that it's crawling with snakes at night.
  • Say My Name: As the last piece of spoken dialogue in the movie, Fry calls out Kane's name as he falls to his death.
  • Scenery Porn: The Statue of Liberty.
  • Smug Snake: Tobin
  • Spies in a Van: At the launching of the battleship, Fry and his fellow conspirators are hiding inside a newsreel van, where Fry will push the button that blows up the launch and sinks the battleship.
  • Stock Footage: A latter-day viewer might see the clip of the capsized ship and think that Fry succeeded in his mission. The shot actually shows the SS Normandie, a Real Life ocean liner which really did catch fire and capsize in 1942. So Barry succeeded in stopping Fry from sinking the SS Alaska, but Fry's smirk implies that his group was behind the earlier loss of the Normandie.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Let's just say that this film is more than a little bit similar to a previous Hitchcock film, The 39 Steps.