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review added: 3/7/01



Saboteur
1942 (2001) - Universal

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

The Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD

Saboteur Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/A

Specs and Features

109 mins, PG, full-frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:08:38, in chapter 13), Amaray keep case packaging, Saboteur: A Closer Look documentary (with English, Spanish and French captions), storyboards, Alfred Hitchcock's production drawings, poster art and production stills gallery, production notes, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: English, French and Spanish


"Suddenly, I've had enough of this country."

Not to be confused with Hitchcock's earlier work, Sabotage (which features one of his most tense moments on film), Saboteur's claim to fame is its climax, which contains one of the best of Hitchcock's "landmark" endings. In fact, Saboteur kicks so much butt that I've always held it up as one of my top 5 Hitchcock films. But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's give you some backstory.

Right from the start with Saboteur, you know you're in for something gritty and ominous. With its thrilling soundtrack and the opening silhouette (of a stranger in a trench coat and hat slowly walking towards the camera), it'll grab you. It'll also amaze you, because its easy to totally let yourself get absorbed. This hardly feels like a film made close to 60 years ago. Every shot is like a heartbeat - necessary and important. Saboteur follows Barry Kane, an aircraft factory worker who toils away at his job, day after day. One afternoon, he and his buddy Ken are on their way to lunch when they literally bump into a skinny, weasely guy named Frank Fry. He drops an arm-full of mail in the encounter. But after he hurries away, they notice that he's left behind a hundred-dollar bill, so they return it to him. All of a sudden, all hell breaks loose (again, literally) when a factory fire breaks out... and the sprinkler system is bone dry. Rushing to help, Barry and Ken run for fire extinguishers. Fry confidently hands Barry an extinguisher, which Ken grabs out of his hands and uses. But to everyone's horror, it's filled with gasoline, which not only adds fuel to the fire (er... literally), but results in Ken's fiery death. Because Barry was the last one to handle the extinguisher, the police think he's a terrorist. But Barry suspects that Fry knew there was gas in the extinguisher. The problem is, the cops can't find any record of Fry's existence. So Barry goes on the lam to try and find this Fry, knowing that whereever Fry goes, a trail of death is likely to follow. Barry eventually uncovers a Nazi plot at work in America, that goes from coast to coast and up through the highest ranks of society. And if he ever hopes to clear his name, Barry will have to stop it any way he can.

Saboteur is a beautiful film. It works on every level imaginable and it's amazing how well it all comes together. Like I said above, this is one of my favorite films made by Hitchcock. The characters are well drawn, the dialogue is fun and the quirks he gives some of the villains here are wonderful touches. And of course, the ending (which takes place at the top - and bottom - of the Statue of Liberty) is a stunner.

Saboteur is a black and white, full frame flick and it looks good on DVD. The source print is nice, if maybe a bit on the dark side. There's noticeable grain in the first reel, but it clears up somewhat throughout the rest of the film. The print is in remarkable condition for its age. The audio on this DVD is also quite good. It's a clear, 2-channel mono mix that's relatively free of hiss or other defects. A few minor age-related flaws are present, but that's to be expected.

This is one of Universal's Hitchcock Collection DVDs and, as such, it has a nice set of special edition features. The first is a wonderful documentary about the making of the film. Two of the only remaining (living) participants from the film, actor Norman Lloyd (who played Frank Fry) and art director Robert Boyle, are involved here and they do a wonderful job. The piece runs about 31 minutes, and my only complaint is that I wish it ran longer. It's quite good. Next up are the storyboards from the climax, as well as a set of Hitchcock's own drawings for the same scene. To toggle from scene to scene, you can either skip forward from picture to picture or let it play through (each photo sits for 9 seconds). Also included are production photos, merchandising poster art, production notes, cast and crew info and the original theatrical trailer.

Hitchcock was never one to play politics, and yet his films have always had a political shadow behind them. That's true of Saboteur more than any other. It's one of his first American films - the first with an all-American cast - and it's also his most patriotic. But of course, it's patriotic is a dark and twisted way. If it weren't, it wouldn't be a Hitchcock film, would it?

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


The Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD




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