Remember when Hitchcock played a cameo in "Blackmail" as a subway passenger being bothered by a little boy? In "Sabotage", he created considerable suspense by showing a young boy as he dawdled through the city streets while carrying a bomb timed to explode. By creating tension through rapid cross-cutting and then relieving it with horror, Hitchcock tried to do something that was quite a few decades ahead of its time. The audiences of his own time were horrified and outraged and he decided never to do THAT again.
Only he did, many times, he just played with the audience's sense of morality: it was perfectly alright, he found, to relieve tension with horror if the character was a mean lesbian, (Dame Judith Anderson in "Rebecca") a treacherous spy, (Edmund Gwenn or Herbert Marshall in "Foreign Correspondent" or Norman Lloyd in "Saboteur") a Merry Widow killer, (Joseph Cotten in "Shadow of a Doubt"), a hired poseur. (Kim Novak in "Vertigo") a thief, (Janet Leigh in "Psycho") or a barmaid just dumb enough to trust Barry Foster (Anna Massey). Only make sure that Doris Day sings "Que Sera, Sera" until her kid is rescued!
"Sabotage" has a good performance by Sylvia Sidney who resolves to Do Something about the boy's death, plus the usual MENACING turn by Oscar Homolka and the usual MASCULINE turn by the powerfully built John Loder. As for Desmond Tester, who played the unlucky Steve, "Sabotage" was the fourth of nine films he made between 1935 and 1939. His next character as a child prodigy was so obnoxious that the future cast and crew of 1937's "Non-Stop New York" (including John Loder) might have reacted with cynicism if he'd taken a flying leap into the stratosphere without benefit of parachute.
© 2005 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 2/16/05
UK - 1936