A Scotland Yard undercover detective is on the trail of a
saboteur who is part of a plot to set off a bomb in London.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Charles Bennett
Starring Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, John Loder
Based on the novel The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
Sabotage is loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent from 1907. It’s strange because Alfred Hitchcock directed Sabotage and Secret Agent in 1936. Hitchcock’s career is very easy to get lost in but the man is an absolute titan of film history. I haven’t seen nearly enough from his wildly long filmography but the few I have seen are excellent. I have been seeking out films from the 30’s and it just made sense to start watching some earlier Hitchcock films. Sabotage is an espionage film by definition, which is one of Hitchcock’s best qualities as a filmmaker that happens to work very well on me as a fan.
The Verlocs are a family from the States that recently moved to London. Mr. Verloc manages a small cinema with his wife and her brother as a cover for his real job in a gang of terrorists, who are planning attacks on London. His family has no idea what’s really going on but Ted Spencer who works right next to the cinema is really an undercover detective, tracking the Verlocs every move and falling for Mrs. Verloc during the process. When covers are blown, Sabotage turns into a straight up thrilling film with a wild ending.
I enjoy Hitchcock’s sense of urgency as a director but I admire his patience in the right moments. You’re in good hands when watching one of his films. Frequent collaborator Charles Bennett provides a really solid script and Sylvia Sidney delivers a powerhouse performance as Mrs. Verloc who gets intertwined with two tenacious men with intent to take each other down. It’s a classic set up and a well-executed film.