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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Friday, February 8, 2013
9:00 p.m. Saboteur
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1942)

Made just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Saboteur is a wartime thriller that follows a guileless factory worker who is falsely accused of torching an aircraft plant. Played with breathless sincerity by Robert Cummings, Barry Kane knows that proving his innocence rests on finding the real saboteur. Kane penetrates an espionage network that leads from a dusty ghost town in the California desert to the mansions of New York’s moneyed elite. With echoes of The 39 Steps, Hitchcock’s film dogs its fugitive through an unsettling landscape where civic respectability seems to mask seamy opportunism. Confronted in his lush manse, an industrial magnate who has become a Nazi collaborator contemptuously declares, “You’re one of the ardent believers. I hate to use the word stupid but it’s the only one that flies. The great masses. The moron millions.” But that great icon of hope, the Statue of Liberty, has the final say, as a Nazi spy clings desperately to its towering torch.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, Dorothy Parker, from a story by Hitchcock. Photographed by Joseph Valentine. With Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter. (108 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Universal)