Sunday, January 20, 2013
While on the subject of Hitchcock's more masterful early work, how about Sabotage. Released a year after The 39 Steps, this is Hitchcock at his most restrained and most serious. Hardly an ounce of humor to be found here. This is largely because he's working from a piece of classic literature, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent (not to be confused with Hitchcock's film Secret Agent, ironically released the same year as Sabotage). The result is a substantial work putting the big, a terrorist plot on London, within the small, a house with a small movie theater attached to it where the antagonist secretly works out his plan. What's particularly potent about the film is that the terrorist, Verloc, is against taking lives, and despite his sturdy, worn face, is actually weak at heart. He's also married and carries extra baggage by providing for his wife's kid brother as well. In all he's not terribly equipped to be a successful terrorist, and the film deals with the ramifications of his shortcomings in a particularly harsh and tragic way. It surely is in keeping with Conrad's novel, though I'm a bit surprised the film made it past the studio without any alterations. Perhaps that explains why Secret Agent came out in the same year.