Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sabotage (1936)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!

... and sometimes posters just suck

Genre: Drama Thriller (UK)

Starring: Sylvia Sydney (Blood On The Sun; You Only Live Once), Oskar Homolka (War And Peace; A Farewell To Arms)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Lifeboat; Rope)

Overview: An undercover detective follows a suspicious man and his wife, whom he suspects play a part in recent acts of London terrorism.

Acting: Personally, I thought Sylvia was a little weak, in character and in casting choice. Maybe it's because the other version has such a strong woman in it. The role of the detective also seemed a little strange, but that may have been the script more than the performance. In fact the only really good roles where were those of the shady characters, the husband and his malignant ilk.

Rating: 8

Cinematography: Here is the lighting that has inspired hundreds of directors, the lighting Hitchcock has made his own. This is all about stark shadows synonymous with Noir. What I found interesting was that the film itself isn't filled with artistic montages or intricate sets and camera set ups, it's just a pure mood-setting look, simple yet so effective.
Rating: 8

Script: Every line spoken by the husband was gold. The words of the odd little shop owner: terrific. The baddies are all creepy-cool. As it was with the acting, the dialogue suffered most when it was the happy righteous people talking their common blather. My favorite conversations are the ones that serve to make things worse, explanations used to bury characters in their own mire of filth.
Rating: 8

Plot: Ridiculously similar to Conrad's The Secret Agent, I though it couldn't be a coincidence. After some fact-checking, I discovered 'Written by Joseph Conrad'. Go fig. Well it's a modern day retelling of that story, yet completely different, less cerebral than the 1996 version but with far more mystery and suspense, thanks to linear editing. I can't say I appreciated the personal stake the detective brought to the story, but the climax stayed true to my expectation, yet with enough difference to keep it from ending exactly the same way.
Rating: 8

Mood: The score, the lighting and the mystery are perfectly honed in this. This is tremendously cliché Noir, in the best sense of the word. My only complaint would be the policing side of things, especially that too personally involved detective. If Hitchcock wasn't so bent on making the police look like a bunch of knobs this could have been far more immersive. It's a shame that a film has to suffer just to appeal to the paradigm of its director.
Rating: 8

"As a matter of fact I DIDN'T know the word came from jamming wooden clogs in gears! You sold me!"

Overall Rating: 80% (Sets Off A Few Sparks)

Aftertaste: Well consistently the quality of this director's works improves year by year. It also proves that pumping out film after film in rapid succession doesn't necessarily make you learn a business more quickly. If what I envision of hitchcock is correct, I suspect he's still got a few production reigns that are preventing him from making his ideal visions. Onward and upward!