Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sabotage (A Woman Alone) (1936)

It opens with what looks like a generator filled with sand.  Then, we see a creepy German guy walking away all creepy.  Not only is he is cartoonish villain, but he proves the Hitchcock character guide.
Hitchcock character guide
Is the character American? ---> Yes! ----> They're good!
Is the character British? ---> Yes! ---> They're really good!
Is the character European, with a Eastern European or German accent ---> Yes! ---> They're the villain!
The sketchy German guy, Mr. Verloc, causes a blackout by using sand, it appears, and returns to the movie theater where he lives.  He lives with his American wife, Mrs. Verloc, and her little brother. Sylvia Sidney, who plays Mrs. Verloc, is an atrocious actor.  The family is being watched by Ted, who at first appears to be an unassuming grocery store worker.  We very soon learn he is an undercover detective for Scotland Yard.  Also, Mrs. Verloc is a dark brunette while her brother is a redhead.  I do not understand genetics.

Verloc is being paid by another creepy foreigner to plant a bomb in a cloakroom near Piccadilly Circus. He was happy to cause a blackout, because he thought he was helping. However, the man is angry and wants to scare the citizens.  So he forces Verloc to plant the bomb.  Verloc doesn't want to murder anyone and doesn't want to do it.  It seems he has no choice in the matter.  I both feel pity and disgust for this character. He does not want to kill, but has no problem sending the little brother to plant the bomb.  This way, he maintains his guilt-free conscience.
One bad part was the tension leading up to the explosion.  We know the package is supposed to explode.  The camera constantly focuses on the package.  No matter where the little brother goes, we are reminded he is carrying the package.  All we can do is wait for it to go off and hope he's not holding it.  The bus he is riding is stuck in lunch hour traffic.  So little brother doesn't make it to his destination and the package explodes on the bus.  Immediately, it jumps to the adults laughing.

If I'm forced to watch the build-up of the explosion for like half the film, at least let me see the explosion.  Where is the thrill? I thought this said it was a thriller.  The jump is actually a terrible film transition and a poor editing choice.

Then, the wife gets all upset when she learns her brother is dead.  She stabs her husband with a rounded kitchen knife.  Then, she meets Ted the detective on the street, and confesses.  She appears distraught and no longer cares for her own life.  Ted, of course, has the whole, let's run away to Europe theory.  I also found out that they didn't need passports there back then.  Ted and Mrs. Verloc's "romance" is so laughably contrived.  Their acting is just so stupid.  I cannot take either one of them seriously.

Then, Mr. Verloc is killed in another explosion, which takes away all evidence of his murder.  So, Mrs. Verloc escapes any jail time and lives happily ever after.

As hokey as it was, it was still fun it watch.  However, I will give it a 4/10 as I expect more from the director.


  1. Definitely the poorest of the British era Hitchcock film on the list. It is as you say very contrieved. Also any movie that deliberately kills children gets a thumbs down from me.