Saboteur remains a solid middle tier Hitchcock thriller. I actually enjoy it more than Foreign Correspondent which was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars 2 years prior. It treads the line between strongly serious and 40s Hollywood schmaltz.
Saboteur has a few really nifty suspenseful sequences. The opening titles set the tone with the shadow of a man walking towards the viewers. I imagine this is supposed to be the character of Fry walking to the factory to set the fire that kickstart the events of the film. The quiet as the workers eat lunch and we see the smoke billowing. Of course I have to mention the Statue of Liberty scene which is firmly in the canon of Great Hitchcock scenes.
I think what keeps Saboteur in the category of good and not great is that it’s thrills are combined with typical Hollywood melodrama which prevent it from being all it can be. Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane are good in their roles, yet I don’t feel the charisma you get from other Hitchcock leads. However most of the runtime they act like a couple in a screwball comedy and not caught up in international intrigue. The film’s music does not help this as it can at times play either too sentimental or just too strongly that in a scene of action it’s too much. I’m glad the Statue of Liberty sequence knew not to have music to undercut its thrills. Yet this is still early Hollywood Hitchcock and he would evolve.
I know it’s not on the level of North by Northwest. I’m not sure it’s on the level of either version of The Man Who Knew Too Much or The 39 Steps. However Saboteur is still quite entertaining as an early effort from the superstar director’s Hollywood career.