Saboteur is a little too self-consciously Hitchcock. Its succession of incredible climaxes, its mounting tautness and suspense, its mood of terror and impending doom could have been achieved by no one else. That is a great tribute to a brilliant director. But it would be a greater tribute to a finer director if he didn’t let the spectator see the wheels go round, didn’t let him spot the tricks – and thus shatter the illusion, however momentarily.
Like all Hitchcock films, Saboteur is excellently acted. Norman Lloyd is genuinely plausible as the ferret-like culprit who sets the fatal airplane factory on fire. Robert Cummings lacks variation in his performance of the thick-headed, unjustly accused worker who crosses the continent to expose the plotters and clear himself; but his directness and vigor partly redeem that short-coming.
There is the customary Hitchcock gallery of lurid minor characters, including a group of circus freaks, a saboteur whose young son has the macabre habit of breaking his toys, and a monstrous butler with a sadistic fondness for a blackjack.