SABOTEUR, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s contributions to the war effort, started shooting two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Similar to his 1935 British thriller The 39 Steps, this wrong-man situation—written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison and Dorothy Parker—wasn’t a huge hit in defeat-darkened April of 1942, but the well-reviewed effort did more than enough business to cover a $780,000 tag, grossing $3,600,000.
SUPERCILIOUS TRAITOR: “You’re one of the ardent believers – a good American. Oh, there are millions like you. People who play along, without asking questions. I hate to use the word stupid, but it seems to be the only one that applies. The great masses, the moron millions.”
Defense worker ‘Barry Kane’ (Robert Cummings) is falsely blamed for an aircraft plant fire, a blaze that killed his buddy. Innocent but fingered, he goes on the run, trying to discover the whereabouts of the actual culprit, and find out who the man is in league with. On the lamb from California to New York, Barry falls in with ‘Pat Martin’ (Priscilla Lane), who initially doubts him, but comes around when things become clear. Meanwhile, the real subversives are plotting much bigger and more dastardly acts of sabotage and destruction.
The fascists in this scenario are all home-grown (Hitler and Germany aren’t mentioned) but a viper is a snake wherever you find it (and if you’re smart, chop its head off). Here they’re led by blithely confident rich serpent Otto Kruger, and his lead mischief maker is Norman Lloyd, in his film debut, making an immortality grab at the Statue of Liberty in the movie’s famous set-piece. There are several more decorating the plot, along with a slew of colorful characters encountered by the hero and heroine-in-tow. Hitchcock wanted Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, who would’ve been perfect, but settled for Cummings and Lane, who were both gaining traction at the time. Cummings is good, Lane bland (looking like Ginger Rogers but minus the pep). The supporting cast is a plus, and the plot clicks along with dispatch. Not quite as good as Hitchcock’s other WW2 entries—Foreign Correspondent and Lifeboat, but still a solid piece of entertaining escapism.
WISE BLIND MAN: “My dear, the police are always on the alarmist side.” NAIVE NIECE: “But they said this man is really dangerous.” WISE BLIND MAN: “I’m sure they did. How could they be heroes if he were harmless?”
108 minutes, with Alan Baxter, Vaughan Glaser, Clem Bevans, Alma Kruger, Murray Alper, Pedro de Cordoba, Anita Sharp-Bolster, Billy Curtis, Ian Wolfe, Charles Halton, Will Wright. Just before he went into the Army, 21-year-old Tony Randall may be spotted in an uncredited bit as a cameraman.