Posted by: greercn | June 6, 2012


Caution: The section of “Sabotage” in the attached clip contains a major plot spoiler. You can see the entire film, should you wish to, on Youtube. But it’s much better to watch it on a big screen. Really, it is.

Could a 1936 Alfred Hitchcock thriller be relevant and compelling to watch in 2012? Its curious themes of terrorist threats from ordinary people seem very modern, now.

I remember seeing this in the 1960s. It felt very dated then.

It was still useful to watch if you loved Hitchcock movies. The woman in distress, the ordinary person as criminal under pressure and the innocent caught up are all present here, as is the helpful outsider.

Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent”, the action is moved from Victorian London to 1936 and the central shop becomes a cinema. It’s fun to watch an audience reacting to a number of films, while you are watching a movie.

There are quite a lot of sly nods at the camera here, in additional Hitchcock touches. The bird shop makes you think about “The Birds”. The movement around London Zoo takes your memory to action sequences which were done better in “Strangers on a Train” and “North by NorthWest”.

I am told there was filming in more parts of London in “Sabotage” (also known as “A Woman Alone” and “I Married a Murderer”) than in any feature film that came before it.

Art director Oscar Friedrich Werndorff and photographer Bernard Knowles present the city with great love and focus.

Louis Levy’s music does feel dated. It has more of the silent movie about it than do the masterful soundtracks of Hitchcock’s later flms.

Sylvia Sidney and Oscar Homolka play the leads and John Loder and Desmond Tester play other key roles. It all has that distinctive and sinister Hitchcock quality of having ordinary people and situations gradually become more and more terrifying.

The audience at Stratford Picturehouse all enjoyed it, although there were disappointingly few people there.

It was shown as part of a series of movies set in London shown by the London Screen Study Collective (LSSC) which is a partnership between Birkbeck College and Film London. LSSC has the gorgeous aim of promoting awareness and research about London’s history on screen.

Do look at the Stratford Picturehouse website to see details of future screenings. These movies are all worth seeing.

On June 10th at 3pm, there is a discussion about the dark side of London on film. Every movie in this series is worth watching. If you can, do attend as many showings as possible. It’s a terrific project and you’ll see some real gems.


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