Sabotage is rooted in Hitchcock’s own city of London, using a mixture of location shots with elaborate studio reconstructions; key scenes are set at the Zoo, at Simpson’s restaurant in the Strand, in the City on the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show, and at the East End cinema home of the heroine (Sylvia Sydney from Hollywood), her husband, and her young brother. The screenplay, again by Bennett, skilfully condenses and updates Conrad’s 1907 novel The Secret Agent into a contemporary terrorist melodrama, with a tight four-day time span.
The two most memorable scenes are based on suspense and rapid editing: the carrying of a time-bomb on a London bus, and a killing over the dinner table that was particularly admired by one of the weekly critics of the time, the novelist Graham Greene.
This film is screening as part of The Genius of Hitchcock: Part Two. A full retrospective of Hitchcock’s 52 surviving films is taking place at the IFI from December 2012 to March 2013.
A six-week Evening Course, Shadow of a Genius, will look at the work of directors influenced by Hitchcock and will take place from February 5th to March 12th.