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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Friday, January 11, 2013
8:45 p.m. Sabotage
Alfred Hitchcock (U.K., 1936)

Sabotage is a prescient thriller that puts London on bomb alert well before the real siege of WWII occurred. It’s a sad little film seemingly out of Hitchcock’s subconscious: it does away with the law (guilt and innocence are taken by quite another measure), the cruel father, and childhood itself. The settings include a greengrocer’s whose friendly lettuce salesman is a mole for Scotland Yard (Hitch’s father was a greengrocer); a movie theater where the behind-the-screen “happy family” of Sylvia Sidney and Oscar Homolka is more brutal than what is on screen; and ye olde pet shoppe that is anything but. In marvelously choreographed street scenes the constant sideshow becomes a key element in the story, as a little boy is sent to Piccadilly Circus with a film, a bomb, and his youthful curiosity. There is nothing wrong with the film’s being mainly important for style. There’s so much of it.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, Helen Simpson, Alma Reville, E. H. Emmett, based on the novel The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. Photographed by Bernard Knowles. With Sylvia Sidney, Oscar Homolka, John Loder, Desmond Tester. (76 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Park Circus)