“Sand. Sabotage. Wrecking. Deliberate. What’s at the back of it? Who did it?”
While investigating the subversive activities of a foreign-born cinema owner (Oskar Homolka), an undercover detective (John Loder) in London finds himself falling in love with the cinema owner’s unsuspecting wife (Sylvia Sidney).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Hitchcock Films
- Mistaken or Hidden Identities
- Sylvia Sidney Films
- Undercover Agents and Cops
Widely acknowledged as one of Hitchcock’s bleakest films, this adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel (originally entitled The Secret Agent) takes place in a pre-WWII London where mass terrorism is being hatched behind closed doors, and it’s impossible to tell who may be The Enemy (sound familiar?). While Hitchcock himself denounced the film’s most infamous sequence (which I won’t reveal here), it’s a powerful cinematic experience, one which mercilessly portrays the unintended ripple effects of sabotage. The perennially child-faced Sylvia Sidney is perfectly cast as the unsuspecting wife, a naive woman who is literally incapable of recognizing anything evil in her husband until it’s too late. Homolka does a fine job playing the guilt-ridden yet committed saboteur (though it’s frustrating that his character’s motivations aren’t sufficiently fleshed out); and both Loder and Desmond Tester (as Sidney’s younger brother) provide some much needed levity. Not for the faint of heart, Sabotage remains a compelling tale of both marital deception (one of Hitchcock’s enduring themes) and widespread terrorism.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
Yes. This early Hitchcock film — while terribly dark — shows true evidence of his no-holds-barred approach to storytelling.