Robert Cummings and Otto Kruger

The ardor of Alfred Hitchcock for tales about fifth columnists and spies has already been productive of so many fascinating films that his further commerce with such characters, in this time when they are cluttering up the world, was virtually a social obligation. Mr. Hitchcock is the expert on that tribe. And so his auspicious production of Universal’s “Saboteur,” which arrived yesterday at the Music Hall, is in the nature of an official report, clearly and keenly appreciative of what is expected from it.

To put it mildly, Mr. Melodramatic action is their forte,canada goose parka but they scoff at speed limits this trip. All the old master’s experience at milking thrills has been called upon. As a consequence according to Hitckcock custom is a swift, high tension film which throws itself forward so rapidly that it permits slight opportunity for looking back. And it hurtles the holes and bumps which plague it with a speed that forcefully tries to cover them up.

In the style of some of his earlier British pictures, Mr. Hitchcock has filmed one long, relentless “chase” in which an aircraft worker from a California plant races all the way across the country in vague pursuit of a hatchet faced rat who attempted to set fire to the factory. As usual, the hero meets with difficulties, which are complicated considerably by the fact that he himself is a fugitive suspected of the deed. He runs afoul of an American fifth columnist, he is almost turned in by a subsequently loyal girl, he has a close brush with the law in the freak car of a small circus, he is cornered in the New York mansion of a second fifth columnist socialite and he narrowly nips a sabotage plot to blow up a battleship in a Navy Yard. And, in the final five minutes, he chases the saboteur through a howling movie audience, with pistols barking on screen and off, and finishes this wild and fantastic hue and cry atop hold! That’s a secret we won’t tell!

So fast, indeed, is the action and so abundant the breathless events that one might forget, in the hubbub, that there is no logic in this wild goose chase. Actually, there is no reason for the hero undertaking his mad pursuit, since the obvious and sensible method would be to have it conducted by the FBI. Consequently, one wonders one stops to wonder at all the hero is in such a dither as to his personal relations with the police, why any juncture shouldn’t hand the job over to the cops.

This possible intrusion of one’s reason might therefore tend to drain some of the harrowing tension from many of the tricky episodes. Particularly in the one sequence, where the hero and heroine seem to be coerced to silence at a party of innocent folk, one wonders why a word to a near by general or admiral wouldn’t do to put an end to their peril. And how was a bomb ever set in the navy yard.

As usual, Mr. One gathers that the nation’s safety depends entirely on civilian amateurs.

It goes almost without saying that some of the “Hitchcock touches” are exceedingly clever, withal. The sequence with the circus freaks is a bit of capital satire, and the smashing, conclusive adventure should terrify a steeplejack. Mr. Hitchcock has actually exacted a credible performance from Robert Cummings as the hero; Priscilla Lane is passing fair as the incidental girl in the case and Norman Lloyd both looks and acts a villain as the ubiquitous saboteur. Less can be said for Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter and Alma Kruger in smaller roles.

Apparently Mr. Hitchcock has endeavored to imitate his own “The 39 Steps.” But the going is not so even. He trips too often in his headlong ascent.

SABOTEUR, original screen play by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison and Dorothy Parker; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; presented by Frank Lloyd Productions, Inc., and released through Universal Pictures. At the Radio City Music Hall.

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