Sabotage Made in: Great Britain Language: English Director: Alfred Hitchcock Starring: Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, Desmond Tester, John Loder, Matthew Boulton, S. J. Warmington, William Dewhurst Year: 1936
Adapted from the novel, The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad (which was arguably harder to read than Heart of Darkness).
Synopsis: After a mysterious blackout in London, undercover Scotland Yard detective Ted Spencer (John Loder) becomes suspicious that a movie theatre owner named Verloc (Oskar Homolka) is involved. Spencer is posing as a green grocer's assistant at the market adjacent to the theatre.
To further his investigation, Spencer becomes friendly with Verloc's attractive wife (Sylvia Sidney) and her younger brother Stevie (Desmond Tester), who's still a child.
Mr. Verloc turns out to be part of a terrorist cell (with unknown motives), and plots to set off a bomb in London's Piccadilly Circus. When Spencer's cover is blown and Scotland Yard starts moving in, Verloc involves Stevie as an unwitting pawn.
The Good: Much of the subject matter in Sabotage still seems relevant today. The bomb plot (which was very controversial at the time of the film's release because it involved a child) will feel eerily modern despite the film's age.
Tightly written and containing a strong cast, Sabotage has some pretty witty lines and has the feel of a solid Alfred Hitchcock thriller.
The scenes in Verloc's movie theatre are very well done (and even contain bits of an animated film by Walt Disney), and Sylvia Sidney offers a very compelling performance. Her last scene with Oskar Homolka is intense and brilliant. Unfortunately Sidney and Hitchcock didn't got along behind the scenes, and never worked with each other again.
The Bad: Even though Sabotage contains themes that are familiar to us today, many parts of it will look very outdated. The emotional reaction to the bombing that takes place in the film will seem oddly anticlimactic now, especially in the wake of events such as 9/11 and the London terrorist attacks.
Some of the melodramatic moments look a little silly, and from today's standards, the reaction of the characters to traumatic events isn't very believable.
Who would like this movie: This film's for you if you're a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, or if you're just starting to explore his work. This one's also for those of you who like old movies and spy stories. Despite the fact that parts of it may seem laughably outdated, there's enough intrigue and entertainment value here to make it a good show.