Blu-Ray Review – Sabotage (1936)



Alfred Hitchcock started showing his genius back in the ’20s with a film called The Lodger (one of Hitch’s favourites of his own films) but his reputation was formed in a series of films in his native Britain during the mid to late ’30s. The films were The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps, The Man Who Knew Too Much and the latest one to get the Blu-Ray treatment Sabotage which actually may be the best of the British films. The Hitch would of course make his greatest films in America such as The Wrong Man (for my money his finest film), Vertigo, Rear Window, Psycho, Shadow of a Doubt among countless others but a lot of his themes and style are evident in these early British films.

Sabotage is very loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent and should not be confused with the Hitchcock film Secret Agent which also came out in ’36. It’s a tale of espionage in the heart of London where there are mysterious blackouts and a Scotland Yard detective is on the trail of a terrorists who are planning to bomb London. This is set against a backdrop of Mr. Verloc (Oskar Homolka) and Mrs. Verloc (Sylvia Sidney) running a cinema and Mr. Verloc may or may not be involved in the conspiracy.

It’s often the case with Hitchcock’s films the film’s greatest virtues are it’s Mise en scène. Sabotage is certainly no exception and Hitchcock at the time was heavily into Sergei Eisenstein’s concepts of cinematic montage and the film’s much celebrated bus sequence is a textbook example of Rhythmic montage. This sequence uses quicks cuts in-between different images to create a rabid sense of tension and dread through montage, the most famous example of this technique later in his career would be the shower scene in Psycho.

The film’s pacing sticks closely to Hitchcock’s famous quote “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”. It runs at a non stop pace of 76 minutes which even for early Hitchcock films is a ridiculously lean running time. The finished film is a fascinating document of ambiguous pre-WW2 London where paranoia is strife, the terrorists are Europeans of an undisclosed country so the possibility of them being Nazis is quite plausible. The Nazi connection is even more prevalent when you know Mr. Verloc’s name was originally Adolf but changed Karl to avoid confusion.

Ian Schultz

Genre:Thriller | Distributor: Network | Blu- ray Release Date: 1st June 2015 (UK) | Rating: PG | Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Cast: Sylvia Sidney, Oscar Homolka, John Loder, Desmond Tester | Buy:Sabotage [Blu-ray]

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Ian Schultz

I'm the guy who normally covers stuff released by Masters of Cinema and Arrow Video along with a sprinkling of other stuff. I love a wide range of films from European art house films to silly action films. My top 10 films are Brazil, Blue Velvet, Donnie Darko, Fight Club, Jackie Brown, Seconds, Pan's Labyrinth, Badlands, Blade Runner, The Night of the Hunter.

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