Sabotage is one of Hitchcock's best British features, a smart updating of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent that cleverly gets around the censor's objections to the author's saboteur hiding behind the counter of a Soho shop selling mucky books under the counter by turning him into the manager of a seedy fleapit cinema, which is clearly the next best thing. That's not to say that Hitchcock isn't pushing the material as far as he can - in the film's most famous sequence he doesn't just put a boy with bomb on bus but a loveable puppy as well while the police are resolutely unambitious, simply happy to go after the minions rather than the masterminds - though he does lose the petty politics of the novel and the tragic finale to turn it into a more conventional and pacier thriller. Rather than a useless talking shop of anarchists who never do anything until manipulated by a foreign government into action, Verloc's acquaintances here are a more overtly criminal gang made up of the likes of Torin Thatcher and Peter Bull, and Verloc himself is a more mercenary figure in it for the money. It also changes the target of the atrocity, no longer the symbolic Greenwich and an assault on `time itself' but Piccadilly Circus, `the centre of the world.'
More significantly, Sylvia Sidney's Mrs Verloc is a much stronger figure here than in the novel, with more than a mere insinuation of romantic attraction to John Loder's undercover cop who is ultimately willing to cover up a crime for her (in true movie formula you know they'll get together because they start off hating each other). That their relationship has more than a hint of Hitchcock's earlier Blackmail is perhaps not so surprising considering its screenwriter Charles Bennett's prominence among the four credited writers. But while it may follow the formula of many of Hitchcock's British films, it's still filled with strikingly memorable detours like the bomb-making professor and his silent but communicative daughter and granddaughter ("Is the father dead?" "I don't know. He MIGHT be.") and technical flourishes such as an Aquarium tank turning into Piccadilly Circus as it crumbles into dust after a imagined bomb blast as well as more subtle ones like the soft squeak of Verloc's shoes in one key scene. And it also has a terrific turn from Oskar Homolka as Verloc, who may be a less complex figure than Conrad's self-critically semi-autobiographical creation, but still manages a superb combination of pathetic desperation and amoral reptilian menace.
One of Hitchcock's best, unlike the plethora of public domain releases flooding the market, Network's UK PAL DVD copy is superb, looking almost like new, and comes with a few minor extras - a brief but informative introduction by Charles Barr, a featurette on the locations introduced by a fidgety Robert Powell and a brief stills and poster gallery, the latter revealing that the film was originally intended to co-star Robert Donat in the Loder role when it had the working title 'The Hidden Power.' Network's Blu-ray carries these over and while the upgrade to higher definition does reveal a few problems with the source material in a few night shots where the contrast is noticeably lighter (mostly in the opening scene), it's still so head and shoulders above the cheap releases from other labels that it's a worthwhile upgrade.
on 5 June 2015
Just watched Sabotage blu-ray from Network U.K. It's region B locked. The picture and sound quality are quite nice, maybe a notch above their last release of Young and Innocent. Picture is stable with good grain and no noticeable film damage. Some mild contrast wavering and soft shots, but I think this is fairly typical of these early British films. Audio is clear with no noticeable hiss. Overall a good film at a good price.
Made shortly after his classic The 39 Steps, Alfred Hitchcock's 1936 film Sabotage is another early gem from this cinematic master. Given that the film was made with (necessarily) rudimentary production values, Hitchcock still manages to impress greatly in his skilful use of stage and (London) location sets, which, together with superb editing and close-up photography (creating great audience tension), lead me to rate the film as a five star effort (particularly for its time). For the film, Hitchcock deftly cast US import Sylvia Sidney and Hungarian-born Oskar Homolka as the married couple, the Verlocs, who live in and run a London cinema, which they share with Mrs Verloc's younger brother Stevie. However, unbeknown to Mrs Verloc, husband Karl is engaged in activities of sabotage, which begin with the deliberate shutting down of Battersea power station (producing a London-wide blackout), but which progress (at the behest of Karl's senior collaborators) to more serious matters, with the proposed planting of a bomb at Piccadilly Circus.
Hitchcock and cinematographer Bernard Knowles have created a brilliantly authentic look and feel to the exterior London shots, with the pervading atmosphere of the film gradually becoming more claustrophobic and menacing as it progresses. Similarly, Charles Bennett's screenplay is full of smatterings of 'wartime banter' and (cockney) humour in the early sections of the film (typical of the Hitchcock films of this period), before taking on a more sinister tone as Karl's evil plans are gradually revealed (although one might argue that his suspicious behaviour - and accent - could be regarded as something of a giveaway!). The film is full of brilliantly designed set-pieces and trademark Hitchcock touches. Particularly impressive is the use of close-ups - such as that on Verloc's face as young Stevie is describing what he might expect a gangster to look like, and then again on the face of his wife, as, towards the end of the film, her smile at watching a 'who killed cock robin?' cartoon turns to a grimace as the truth about her husband finally begins to sink in. Hitch also includes an innovative scene where Karl's view of the aquarium at London Zoo (where he has just been given his latest instructions) suddenly morphs into a view of Piccadilly Circus collapsing as if being hit by a massive explosion.
On the acting front, both Sidney and Homolka deliver outstanding performances - she, as the perennially innocent wife whose gradual realisation of her predicament is superbly done, and he, as the apparently loving husband, but whose underlying motives are cold-blooded and calculating. John Loder also gives a solid performance as the undercover policeman planted at the nearby grocery stall to keep an eye on Verloc - in fact, Loder's role here of befriending a close confident of the guilty party is a plot device Hitchcock has used elsewhere, notably relating to Teresa Wright and undercover cop Macdonald Carey in Shadow Of A Doubt.
A final mention should also be made of the film's most famous scene, that where little Stevie is transporting the suspicious parcel to make his timed delivery at Piccadilly Circus, whilst the Lord Mayor's Show is going on in the streets. Hitch is at his brilliant best here as he uses a range of devices to slow up Stevie's progress (including having him accosted at a market stall for a toothpaste demonstration!), with nearby street clocks tracking the time, thereby upping audience tension to unbearable levels. And to cap the scene, the master of suspense (and black comedy) then has Stevie sit down next to an old lady who is carrying a small puppy!
A film which, whilst for me not on a par (scale or content-wise) with some of Hitchcock's later masterpieces, contains enough great things to qualify as an outstanding thriller, and a portent of things to come.
on 18 February 2016
SABOTAGE [1936 / 2015] [Blu-ray] Alfred Hitchcock's Most Significant Mystery Melodrama Pre-war British Film!
Celebrated for the macabre, tour-de-force plots and sublime twist endings that would come to define the very genre of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock is one of cinema's greatest auteurs, his career spanning six decades and over sixty films. Based on Joseph Conrad's ‘The Secret Agent’ and starring Oscar Homolka and Sylvia Sidney, ‘SABOTAGE’ is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most significant pre-war British films. Featured here in a High Definition transfer from original film elements, this classic early thriller has never looked better.
Karl Verloc, manager of a London cinema, is secretly involved with a gang of European saboteurs who are plotting a massive bomb attack in Piccadilly Circus. With the police already suspicious of Karl Verloc, they place an undercover detective on his trail and can he bring the saboteurs to justice before they perpetrate their outrage on London?
FILM FACT: The fact that many scenes of the film were set in a cinema allowed Alfred Hitchcock to include references to contemporary films and storylines. Perhaps the most famous of these is the final film sequence, an excerpt from a Walt Disney ‘Silly Symphony’ Who Killed Cock Robin? . Alfred Hitchcock wanted to cast Robert Donat (with whom he had previously worked in ‘The 39 Steps’) as Sergeant Ted Spencer, but was forced to cast John Loder due to Robert Donat's chronic asthma. Alfred Hitchcock also chose the young Bobby Rietti (later known as Robert Rietti) to play the part of Steve, but was not able to sign him for legal reasons. Mrs. Verloc was Sylvia Sidney’s only role for Hitchcock. Reportedly, they did not get along and she refused to work for him again.
Cast: Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, Desmond Tester, John Loder, Joyce Barbour, Matthew Boulton, S.J. Warmington, William Dewhurst, Pamela Bevan (uncredited), Peter Bull (uncredited), Albert Chevalier (uncredited), Clare Greet (uncredited), Charles Hawtrey (uncredited), Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited), Martita Hunt (uncredited), Mike Johnson (uncredited), Hubert Leslie (uncredited), Aubrey Mather (uncredited), Frederick Piper (uncredited), Fred Schwartz (uncredited), Torin Thatcher (uncredited), Austin Trevor (uncredited), Jack Vyvian (uncredited) and Sam Wilkinson (uncredited)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producers: Ivor Montagu (uncredited) and Michael Balcon (uncredited)
Screenplay: Charles Bennett and Joseph Conrad (story)
Composers: Jack Beaver, Hubert Bath and Louis levy
Cinematography: Bernard Knowles
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Radio: 1.37:1
Running Time: 76 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: A Gaumont-British Picture Corporation / Network
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: In 1936 the idea of a terrorist blowing up a bus in London's Piccadilly Circus was an unimaginable and somewhat outrageous conceit. Yet that action provides one of Alfred Hitchcock's most famous and controversial sequences in ‘SABOTAGE’ , an adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel, “The Secret Agent” (the novel of the title was actually the name of Alfred Hitchcock's previous film, which was based on W. Somerset Maugham's "Ashenden" adventure stories, hence the need for a new title). At the story's centre is Karl Verloc [Oscar Homolka], the owner of a cinema theatre and a member of a secret terrorist organization bent on destroying London. His wife Mrs. Verloc [Sylvia Sidney] is completely ignorant of her husband's activities until a government agent Det. Sgt. Ted Spencer [John Loder], pretending to be a grocer, arouses her suspicions, but not in time to prevent a terrible tragedy.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1936 film ‘SABOTAGE’ [‘The Woman Alone’ USA Title] is one of the masters of suspense’s earlier efforts, but it once again shows why he’s one of cinema’s greatest directors and based on Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent.” The ‘SABOTAGE’ film opens with a definition of the word “sabotage” which states “wilful destruction of buildings or machinery with the aim of alarming a group of persons or inspiring public unease.”
‘SABOTAGE’ holds up very well in the 21st Century. The central themes on terrorism within the British capital are even more relevant today in 2015 than they were when Alfred Hitchcock first made the film in the 1930s. That’s what makes the movie such essential viewing today and the concept of terrorism hitting at the heart of the homeland.
‘SABOTAGE’ is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier efforts and the film was one of the last films that the director made before upping sticks and moving to Hollywood. It’s easy to see why America came calling, because ‘SABOTAGE’ is yet another fine example of the director drawing tension from a relatively simple concept. The fact that the central character owns a cinema lets Alfred Hitchcock play with his passion and unleash tiny homages to the art form that he clearly loves so well.
Oskar Homolka delivers a strong performance as the terrorist, while Sylvia Sydney offers strong support as the wife oblivious to her husband’s deadly secret. You’re drawn into the characters here and you invest in them as well as the plot. That’s what makes Alfred Hitchcock such a great director and he litters his film with tiny details. He’s not content with simply ratcheting up the tension and he works at making the world in his films feel tangible and real and this helps draw the audience in when things become emotionally taut. They’re on-board with him when the plot gets farfetched and at this point they don’t care when he takes them over the edge and into the ridiculous.
Oskar Homolka as Verloc is a perfect tool for Hitchcock's deliberate tempo. Miss Sidney as his bewildered wife, tragically mothering her young brother; Master Tester as the boy, John Loder as the romantic sergeant from Scotland Yard and William Dewhurst as the bomb manufacturer are severally perfect. But it is Alfred Hitchcock's picture and a valuable one, for its entire refusal to give us the whys and the wherefores of the sabotage plot. I will not inform you what happens, because that would be to cheat Alfred Hitchcock of his just reward, but it is a warning what you may not expect, which, as are the way of all Alfred Hitchcock melodramas, is the unexpected.
‘SABOTAGE’ was widely praised on its release in 1936, although Observer critic C.A. Lejeune was generally a strong supporter of Alfred Hitchcock, complained about the cruelty of the explosion scene, which is perhaps why the director dismissed it years later. Despite the vagueness of its politics, the film was banned in Brazil as a potential threat to public order.
‘SABOTAGE’ was Alfred Hitchcock's last film for Gaumont-British Picture Corporation which, at the behest of its financiers the Ostrer brothers, had decided to abandon production and concentrate on distribution. For what would be his last two pictures before relocating to Hollywood, Alfred Hitchcock signed once again with Gainsborough on a two film contract.
Hollywood did indeed take notice of Alfred Hitchcock. After completing ‘Jamaica Inn’ in 1939, and Alfred Hitchcock and family emigrated lock, stock and barrel to the USA to make the film ‘Rebecca’  for producer David O. Selznick and begin a long and illustrious career in America. However, ‘SABOTAGE’ was not a major success for the director, partly due to the controversial bus bombing sequence. It was banned outright in Brazil where it was accused by the censors of teaching conspiracy and terrorist techniques. In the USA it was given a title change ‘A Woman Alone’ but it didn't fare much better with audiences here than in Britain. Alfred Hitchcock's daughter, Patricia, wrote in her book, “Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man,” saying that "the film was definitely a bit of a downer. Sabotage remains, probably with ‘Vertigo’  and ‘Psycho’ , one of my father's darkest films, where a happy ending was impossible."
Blu-ray Video Quality – Network brings us ‘SABOTAGE’ in a 1080p Black-and-White image resolution, and sadly we encounter less than pristine HD transfer. The black levels are a touch soft when the light levels drop, and the picture displays the sort of exposure flicker that we once accepted as inevitable on older films before modern digital restoration really made it mark. Dust spots have been minimised, but the odd frame of damage is still visible and the picture jiggles around just a little in the gate. But in other respects this transfer justifies its Blu-ray incarnation, particularly in the level of picture detail, which is far superior to any Standard inferior DVD version you may have seen, and in the daylight scenes the contrast is very well balanced, the tonal range generous and the image itself pleasing. Not perfect, perhaps, but still a solid and impressive job and network should be praised for trying their best to bring as best an image quality with what was available from the original negative. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio track shows its age in the narrowness of the dynamic range and the treble bias, but there are very few signs of damage, the dialogue is always distinct, and there is next to no background hiss or noise.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Introduction by Charles Barr  [1080i] [1.33:1] [3:40] Professor Charles Barr of the School of Art, Media and American Studies at the University of East Anglia provides a brief but interesting overview of Alfred Hitchcock's working relationship with left-wing aristocrat Ivor Montagu, who was instrumental in introducing him to the work of the silent-era Soviet filmmakers, whose influence is clearly visible on this film. Charles Barr sees the scene as evidence of the influence of Soviet montage that Alfred Hitchcock’s collaborator Ivor Montagu had introduced him to. But one must add that such cross-cutting was also a feature of DW Griffith and other directors in the silent period (with the famous example of cutting between the speeding train and the heroine tied to the track). The (almost silent) opening shots of a light bulb, a power station, the bulb flickering and going out followed by the sabotage being discovered and finally Karl Verloc walking out of the shadows certainly recalls the Soviet style, although here it is used for a different purpose. Charles Barr also points out the two key scenes in ‘SABOTAGE’ that help build up the tension in the film that was Alfred Hitchcock’s famous trade mark, which made his films so loved by the cinema going public and film critics.
Special Feature: “On Location” introduced by Robert Powell  [1080i] [1.33:1] [11:06] Robert Powell, who played Richard Hannay in the second remake of Alfred Hitchcock's ‘The 39 Steps,’ takes us on a brief but engaging tour of London locations used in the film ‘SABOTAGE.’ The first location on Robert’s tour is London Zoo and the Aquarium, where you asked if you recognise the famous Carry On film actor that we have a brief glimpse of in the 1936 film. Next on the tour is Trafalgar Square, then we move onto the famous Simpson’s in the Strand, where the three characters have a meal. We then have a section called “Movie Trivia” which Robert Powell explains certain scenes in the film and why Alfred Hitchcock decided to shoot them that way. But finally Robert Powell reveals the Carry On film actor that appeared in a short scene from ‘SABOTAGE’ and of course Robert reveals it is of course Charles Hawtrey. Now again we get scenes from the film ‘SABOTAGE’ that Robert Powell shows us on his tour and suppose you could class this as spoilers, so not one for those who have not watched this film.
Special Feature: Image Gallery [1080p] [2:26] Here we get a rolling gallery of Cinema Film Posters, Front-of-House Cinema Lobby Cards that are colorized, we also get to view lots of Black-and-White publicity promotional stills, plus lots of Black-and-White studio photographs, and the majority are of very high quality. Also Included are some very rare behind-the-scenes shot of the Lord Mayor's show that was faked in a field in Norfolk, and one of Alfred Hitchcock and Oscar Homolka in cheerful mood.
BONUS: Here we have a beautiful designed Blu-ray Cover and especially inside where you have on one side displayed two colorized cinema posters for ‘The Woman Alone’ [USA Release] and one for ‘SABOTAGE’ [UK Release]. Below that we have six colorized Cinema Lobby Cards for ‘The Woman Alone.’ On the right hand side you have a Network advert for their ‘Network Film On Air’ publication, which you can sign up to receive online their weekly newsletter and a free monthly collectable PDF magazine highlighting new releases in the BRITSH FILM range from Network.
Finally, Every Alfred Hitchcock is worth watching but ‘SABOTAGE’ is a great example of his work as a director without the excess of a Hollywood budget, not that it was ever a bad thing. It’s a tense, dramatic thriller that works as well today as it did back when it was released in 1936. Alfred Hitchcock's ‘SABOTAGE’ was an underrated and too rarely seen film from Alfred Hitchcock's late British period that scores on intrigue and tension, and even from a modern perspective delivers a genuine jolt by breaking a rule that the director otherwise swore by. An Arrow-standard restoration would have been lovely, but despite some visible imperfections, Network's Blu-ray still delivers the goods. It is nice to own Alfred Hitchcock's ‘SABOTAGE’ on Blu-ray. I found this a very dark exciting film with the child aspect, but Sylvia Sidney is her usual, bright, charming self. This is a very good film. This transfer is far better than previous inferior DVD versions and it will be a film I will definitely want to revisit. Despite any slight age-related image problems, it still worth purchasing and this early Alfred Hitchcock classic thriller has never looked better. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on 10 February 2015
Based (liberally I might add) on Joesph Conrad's The Secret Agent, Sabotage is another early effort from the grand old master of suspence. Sylvia Sydney stars as the sympathetic Mrs. Verloc, a kind hearted and naive woman who dotes on her little brother and takes care of her overaged husband (played brilliantly by Oskar Homlka) Unknowingly, to his young wife, Mr Verloc is a saboteur who, for money, tries to put fear into the population of London. Falling for the charms of the young and handsome Ted Specner (John Loder) Mrs. Verloc begins to see what her husband truly is, culmitlating in and exciting finale.
This is a great early under the radar classic from Hitchcock's British era that, for most of the time, consisted both suspence, wit and set pieces. Sabotage has its fair share of those, but it lacks in other areas namely fast paced wit and the flare of the chase that is superbly used in The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. Having said that Sabotage is still gripping as the very best from his later Hollywood era. A must watch for any Hitchcock fan, and a perfect sombre entry for those who want to explore the master's early British career.
on 15 April 2005
When people think of Hitchcock films, they talk about the tension, the frights and the shocks. They forget that almost all of Hitchcock's films were based upon good, sometimes excellent thriller novels (in this case provided by Joseph Conrad.) He also had an intelligent group of screenplay writers with him. To cut a long story short, the dialogue in this film (as in most hitchcocks) is marvellous: it is fun and witty when it won't be ruining the tension, and as the film draws to its cushion-bitingly tense conclusion it supplies speeches which are realistic and engaging but not hackneyed, and which allow us to actually enjoy and immerse ourselves in a brutally nerve-racking finale, without dissecting or judging it.
While John Loder (in standard english hero form) attempts to emulate Robert Donat, and does a fair job too, Sylvia Sidney provides a fantastic performance as the wife who is unwilling to think badly of her husband, but gradually becomes more and more cautious. Oscar Homolka also does brilliantly by providing a character who is more hateful for his weakness and his concordance with others' orders than for his evil deeds.
Part of the film (the bit with the bus) is nasty and unpredictable enough to even be something that Quentin Tarantino 60 or 70 years later wouldn't dare do, and this, joined with its many other assets remind us that this isn't a generic tinseltown picture, but a classic Hitchcock which everyone WOULD enjoy, yet a piece that probably only the fans will have the opportunity to appreciate.
I didn`t expect too much from this 1936 Hitchcock adaptation of Conrad`s exciting novel about anarchists at large in London, so I was delighted at just how good it is, capturing some of the paranoid spirit of the book, and populating each frame with perfectly realised scenes of the teeming streets of the city.
Oscar Homolka plays Verloc, the mild-mannered European-born owner of a cinema, with Sylvia Sidney as his worried wife. They`re both superb. She`s worried because of the odd things that have been happening, including the total blackout which opens the film, bringing an abrupt halt to the well-attended film she`s showing, and the suspicious way her husband has been behaving lately.
John Loder (a forgotten actor now) is effective as a policeman undercover as a neighbouring greengrocer`s assistant, who gets more and more entangled with the anarchists` plotting as well as with the pretty Mrs Verloc.
Then there`s the matter of the messenger boy, who is given a parcel to deliver by a certain time, but gets waylaid by his own curiosity, so has to take the bus...
This can hold its head high in the company of any of Hitch`s later classics, due mainly to the richness of its photography, its set designs, and the Master`s sure grip on its direction. The whole thing whips along in just over 70 minutes, and there`s barely a dull scene or shot among them. It`s a pleasure simply admiring the way he`s assembled his extras for the crowd scenes, angling the camera in typical innovatory fashion, to express the mounting fear and paranoia of both Mrs Verloc and the plotters themselves.
It`s a great film to look at!
I was momentarily surprised to see none other than a young Charles Hawtrey (over twenty years before he began to Carry On) stroll across the screen in a very brief one-line cameo, but he was by then in his early twenties - having begun as a child actor - with a string of films already to his credit.
Sabotage (by coincidence Hitch had used Conrad`s original title The Secret Agent earlier that year for another film) is an engrossing, suspenseful comedy-drama, and one of the most rewarding of Hitchcock`s pre-Hollywood films.
Definitely one I`ll be watching again.
on 17 August 2011
This adaptation of Conrad's "The Secret Agent" is among Hitchcock's best early films, which I think puts it among his best films, full stop. Oscar Homolka and Sylvia Sidney are not the typical style of actor seen in his films: darker and more vulnerable than usual. They both give splendid performances. The climatic scene between them, carried off entirely without dialogue, is immensely powerful. The production is a mixture of studio and location shooting. The use made of London street life gives a real energy and unpredictability to the action: a far cry from the highly contrived style of later Hitchcock. In the useful extras, there is a tidbit of information on the way Hitchcock staged one of the showpiece exteriors; you'll be amazed how he pulled it off. There is an atmosphere or mood throughout this film which emanates from its principle setting, a local picture theatre, the Bijou. The fantasy world of celluloid amusement and the terrible deeds being plotted within the Verlocs' upstairs parlour play off each other to great effect. The Network release is a beautiful looking transfer.
One of the darker movies of Hitchcock's British career, but one of the most successful at the box office, Sabotage is by no means a flawless film, but still does manage to come out on the positive side of the equation.
Veloc's attempts to strike fear into the hearts of London by causing a power cut are laughed at by the newspapers so his paymasters withhold his payment and say that in order to get his money he has to deliver a bomb, timed to go off during the Lord Mayor's parade. What Veloc doesn't know is that the friendly fruit monger next door is actually a policeman and he is already under surveillance. When the policeman notices Veloc sneaking back into his cinema on the night of the power cut, yet later insisting he was in all night, they are sure something is afoot.
Oskar Hemolka is decent enough as Veloc but perhaps lacks the creepy charm that Hitchcock's number one choice, Peter Lorre, would have brought to the role. Slyvia Sidney as his wife was another leading lady that failed to charm, or indeed be charmed, by Hitchcock and although she is never thoroughly convincing, she makes a good fist of her role. John Loder puts in a good performance as the policeman who finds himself falling in love with Mrs Veloc at the same time as realising that her husband is indeed a saboteur and is one of the best things in the movie.
The controversy with the film largely surrounds Stevie, the boy who unwittingly carries the bomb that explodes; Hitch admitted his "mistake" in later years, acknowledging that he would have been better served by not letting the bomb blow up whilst Stevie is carrying it, but in many ways it was the only choice. It is unconceivable that anything other than Stevie's death would lead to Mrs Veloc's actions towards the end of the film, even with the way that the murder is filmed leaving some doubt as to her actual intentions.
There is nothing inherently "wrong" about this film and it carries some of Hitch's characteristic set pieces with aplomb, but it is definitely, for this viewer anyway, missing the spark that would have carried it to greatness. Perhaps the fact that the story never really chooses its focus (with not enough time allocated to any one character) ultimately prevents this from being one of Hitch's best efforts. But even with its flaws, it is certainly a film worth watching.
This is a just barely okay print of a pretty good early Hitchcock movie that would be a classic but for the dismal and very badly judged romantic ending.It also suffers from poor casting with its leading man, John Loder, who completely lacks any of Robert Donat or Cary Grant's charm and is consequently quite irritating at times.On the plus side Oscar Homolka is good and Sylvia Sidney is okay,although not one of Hitchcock's best leading ladies.
What sets this film apart,even now,is the script,although it has been much copied in the subsequent years I don't think it's ever been bettered for sheer mischevious malice.There aren't many directors willing to kill off a kid and a sweet little puppy.Hitchcock does and it must have come as a huge surprise at the time and although it's no longer surprising it is still shocking.
The dvd has no scene access and each chapter is about 15 minutes long so you might have to do a bit of ff or rewinding. Although the print is quite sharp in parts it is also very soft at other times, particullarly during exteriors and night scenes.Sound is fine.There might well be better prints available, but this is certainly adequate as long as you buy it cheap.