Not to be confused with the 1942 Hitchcock title Saboteur– this one is from Joseph Conrad’s “Secret Agent”, is an extremely brisk 77 minutes, and is most noteworthy for a brilliantly dramatic editing sequence featuring a horrifying terrorist explosion of a boy (and puppy) on a train
A short cartoon sequence from Disney (noted in opening credits) that briefly cheers up (or at least distracts) Sylvia Sidney (who is really strong in her performance)
A very engaging narrative—it’s not quite the weighty more saga-like achievement of Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler is but it’s a spy film in that vein—intelligent and engaging
A great close-up (with short dolly-in) of the sinister German villain played by Karl Anton Verloc—Sidney gets one similar later in the film as she contemplates killing her husband in another outstanding sequence (this one is silent with some subtle footsteps in the sound design a la the silent sequence in North by Northwest with the plane) – really well done
Peter Bull in an early role- not much more than a cameo
The highlight of the film is the tension built by Hitchcock in the film canister explosive device sequence. This is part of Hitchcock’s thesis of style when discussing it with Truffaut in the famous interviews in the 60’s. Hitchcock decides to let the audience in on it and the entire sequence is thrilling. This is his essence. It’s not the violence (though this is dreadful) or surprise—but the dramatic tension. A very nice graphic match of the inner-workings of the bomb with a clock in this scene. And of course he has the innocent boy and the puppy to steer (and yes manipulate) his audience. A marvelous montage sequence.
Later- Sydney keeps seeing her dead brother who is interspliced via editing to key to her mentality and surrealism