Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Saboteur (1942)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Saboteur (1942)

In Alfred Hitchcock's exciting "wrong-man" spy thriller in the WWII era, it told about the efforts of a suspected and framed saboteur to confront and capture the real fifth columnist and foreign saboteur, in order to clear his name; the resolution involved a breath-taking cross-country road-chase that excitingly climaxed atop the Statue of Liberty (an NYC landmark) with a fall to the death (reminiscent of King Kong (1933)) - symbolizing the victory of democracy over tyranny; the patriotic film was a forerunner to similar themes in Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) - (with its many famous US monuments and sites), and obviously The Wrong Man (1957), and it was also considered as a US version of the director's earlier British film The 39 Steps (1935):

  • during the impressive title sequence, a shadowy, subversive, anonymous silhouette of a trench-coated, hatted saboteur appeared in front of giant corrugated sheets of aluminum siding in an aircraft factory - he kept growing in size as he walked forward; the sinister figure had a slight limp
    [Note: Later in the film, the scene was echoed in Radio City Musical Hall when a silhouetted figure moved across a movie screen]
  • after the credits, in the opening scene, aircraft workers at 8 am entered the Stewart Aircraft Works plant (Glendale, CA, suburban LA) for their shift - some of whom lit up cigarettes; aircraft munitions worker Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) and his best friend Ken Mason (Virgil Summers) were walking along when Mason was distracted by the sight of a hot blonde demonstrator; he bumped into an unfamiliar and unfriendly worker named Frank Fry (Norman Lloyd), identified by dropped envelopes onto the floor
    [Note: This would provide an unexpected clue to the man's name and future whereabouts: the Deep Springs Ranch in Springville, CA.]
  • Barry joked about the distracting blonde that had caused Fry and Mason to stumble and fall to the floor: "Uh-oh. Bottleneck: Mr. Roosevelt should hear this"; as the rude individual Fry departed, Barry shouted out after him: "That just goes to show you what a little blonde can do to hold up national defense"
    [Note: Later, it would be Fry who would be the saboteur to sabotage and 'hold up' the 'national defense'; the initial blonde in the film would later be tied to another blonde in the film, billboard model "Pat" Martin, who would help to identify Fry and stand up to his evil deeds by becoming "Miss Liberty" carrying the torch (of freedom)]
  • ominously, trails and wisps of billowing black smoke (a stand-in for the saboteur figure) began to engulf an area in front of more corrugated steel siding and almost covered the entire screen, foreshadowing the existence of a massive arson's blaze - an act of sabotage; fire sirens alerted workers in the factory's lunch-room
  • in a spectacular sequence, Kane was handed a fire extinguisher to put out the flames of a blazing factory fire by Fry, which he then passed to Mason; Kane's efforts resulted in the self-immolation of Mason, because it was later revealed that the canister was filled with gasoline; subsequently, Kane was obviously framed and falsely accused of the death, partly due to the fact that there was no one named Fry on the employee register; while visiting Mason's grieving mother (Dorothy Peterson), two detectives came looking for him to arrest him; Kane fled and hitched a ride with a helpful, friendly, down-to-earth trucker named Mac (Murray Alper) - to begin a journey to locate Fry and clear his name
Death of Mason by Sabotage in Aircraft Plant - Kane Was Falsely Blamed
Extinguisher Handed from Fry to Kane
Extinguisher Handed from Kane to Mason
Mason Immolated
  • during Kane's time as a fugitive fleeing from authorities, billboards (with sayings) editorialized upon his predicament: "You’re Being Followed," "She’ll Never Let You Down," and "The Final Tribute: Beautiful Funeral"
Billboard Messages - Hitchcock's Humor (Images of Billboard Model Patricia!)
Ad for Motor Oil
Ad for Drink
Ad for Funerals
  • [Note: the film made many references to fire, torches, or destructive explosions: aircraft workers lighting up cigarettes as they entered the factory, an arson-saboteur named Fry, the opening factory fire with gasoline implanted in a fire extinguisher, plans to blow up Hoover Dam providing electric power to LA defense plants, or to detonate a USS naval battleship during its launch, the Statue of Liberty's Torch, the mansion's sprinkler system activated by a match, etc.]
  • fortunately for Kane, the trucker was driving on Rte. 395 north toward the exact location where Kane wanted to go - the small high desert town of Springville, CA and one of its large ranches, the Deep Springs Ranch - he remembered Fry's name and address on dropped envelopes from earlier (in an impressive double-exposure) during the truck ride
    [Note: the actual town of Springville, CA was located on Rte 190 on the western side of Sequoia National Forest, about 200 miles NW of the high-desert region where he was dropped off]
  • at the ranch, Kane met rich, elitist, cultured, well-respected ranch owner and philanthropist, Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger), with his daughter Mrs. Brown (Kathryn Adams), a young mother, at his backyard swimming pool; the tycoon denied knowing Fry; when Tobin went inside, Kane became suspicious when Tobin's infant grand-daughter Suzy tossed him correspondence from Tobin's coat-pocket with Fry's name on them
  • Kane read a recent Western Union telegram that Fry's next destination was Soda City - to meet Neilson ("All finished here. Joining Neilson in Soda City. Frank"); radio broadcasts had already informed the urbane and charming Tobin that Kane was a fugitive from the law
    [Note: Soda City was a fictional town; the sequence in 'Soda City' was filmed at Owens Lake, California, USA]
  • in a dramatic conversational sequence, Kane confronted the crooked Tobin for covering up for Fry and for being mixed up in sabotage at the aircraft plant: "Frank Fry is a saboteur who doesn't mind killing Americans for money...You can't get away with this, Tobin! Even if I don't stop you, there are others that will. A man like you can't last in a country like this"
  • the crooked and villainous Tobin confessed that he was unconcerned about Kane's threats against his anti-American, fascist objectives; Tobin - who knew that Kane was a fugitive, had already reported him to the Sheriff: "Very pretty speech. Youthful, passionate, idealistic. You see, I've already sent for the police...Must I remind you that you are the fugitive from justice and not I? I'm a prominent citizen, widely respected. You are an obscure young workman wanted for the committing of an extremely unpopular crime. Now which of us do you think the police will believe, hmm?"
  • Kane fled on horseback, but was soon captured, handcuffed, and taken into policy custody; his efforts to incriminate Tobin fell on deaf ears: ("Just because he's got a big ranch and a fancy pool and a lovely house doesn't mean he's a nice guy"); as Kane was driven away, during an opportune moment when stalled on a bridge (blocked by the same truck (with a flat tire) that had given Kane a ride), Kane was able to escape by jumping off the high bridge railing into a river
  • during a rainstorm, fugitive Kane received refuge, dinner, heat from a fire, and aid in the cabin of a compassionate, blind composer named Philip Martin (Vaughan Glaser)
    [Note: The entire scene played homage to a similar one in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).]
  • Kane decided to masquerade under the alias last name of his dead co-worker friend, as Barry Mason; in the cabin, they were interrupted by the arrival of Philip's visiting niece - a NY billboard blonde model named Patricia "Pat" Martin (Priscilla Lane); the blind man revealed that he intuitively knew (through his accentuated hearing) that the stranger was wearing handcuffs, but sensed that the 'dangerous man' was innocent: ("It is my duty as an American citizen to believe a man innocent until he's been proved guilty....I can see intangible things. For example, innocence"); he urged his suspicious niece to drove to the town's blacksmith to have the handcuffs removed
  • Kane was double-crossed by Patricia who attempted to drive him to the police station and turn him in; she was convinced he was guilty: ("There's only one reason why a man commits sabotage. That's worse than murder") but he resisted her efforts to betray him; in the California desert, she stopped the car and awaited approaching cars to seek help; in the suspenseful sequence, he was able to frantically grind through the chain of his handcuffs with the fan belt of their car; then, he grabbed her and drove off to avoid scrutiny by elderly onlookers in a car, who humorously noted: "My, they must be terribly in love"
Patricia's Double-Cross - We're On Our Way to the Police
Kane Grinding Through the Chain of His Handcuffs
  • shortly later on their way to Soda City, their car overheated (with a broken fan belt), and then on-foot in a bizarre night-time encounter, they came into contact with a caravan of the Russell Bros. circus trucks and some of its performers - unusual freaks (a sequence inspired by Freaks (1932)) - a microcosm of America (or the world) and its viewpoints; the outcast characters included argumentative conjoined Siamese twins Minnie and Marigold (Jeanne and Lynn Romer), a fascistic Hitler-esque Midget (Billy Curtis), a good-hearted Bearded Lady named Esmeralda, a chivalrous and thin "Bones" (a 'Human Skeleton') (Pedro de Cordoba), and a Fat Woman named Titania (Marie LeDeaux); the "freaks" led by "Bones" helped to conceal Kane and Patricia when police stopped the caravan; after taking a democratic vote, Esmeralda (who cast the deciding vote) rationalized: "It's the good people that stick when anybody's in trouble, and there aren't many good people in the world. I think that we, all of us, know that better than most....We don't give them up"
  • after being dropped off 2 miles from the seemingly-deserted, western ghost-town of Soda City, Kane and Patricia discovered a cabin hideout; inside was a tripod and telescope designed to be pointed at Hoover (Boulder) Dam; presumably, it was part of their ongoing plot to blow up the dam; when a car approached, Patricia hid in an adjacent room as Kane was confronted by two more saboteurs - sinister, sexually-ambiguous Mr. Freeman (Alan Baxter) and Neilson (Clem Bevans)
  • in order to infiltrate the fascist ring, Kane decided to pretend to be an allied saboteur that needed protection; he was able to convince them that he was sent by Tobin; he showed them a recent press article about his 'wanted' status'; he persuaded Freeman to take him back East by car to their next destination and objective; meanwhile, after overhearing Kane's duplicitous confessions about helping them, Patricia (now disbelieving) reported him to a local Sheriff after they left - little did she know until later that the Sheriff was one of the conspirators
Soda City: Hideout For More Saboteurs
Telescopic View of Hoover Dam
Kane's 'Wanted' Article in Newspaper
(l to r): Neilson and Freeman
  • before making their way to New York, Freeman had their car swing by Hoover Dam for one last look, to speak about how its demolition would disrupt electricity to Los Angeles and its defense plants; in one of the creepiest moments of the film, Freeman made some unprompted comments - about how he wished his youngest of two male children (aged 2 and 4), a naughty and destructive child, was a girl: ("Sometimes I wish my younger child had been a girl"), and proceeded to describe how as a child, he had long golden locks that people would stop to gaze at: ("When I was a child, I had long golden curls. People used to stop on the street to admire me")
  • Hitchcock's cameo appearance was at approx 1 hour and 4 minutes - in front of Cut Rate Drugs in New York as the saboteurs' car pulled up in the city, he was speaking to a woman; it slipped that their next target was in Brooklyn (at the Navy Yard, to sabotage the launching of a new U.S. Navy battleship)
  • Freeman led Kane to a charity ball held at a mansion by a co-conspirator - wealthy New York dowager Mrs. Henrietta Sutton (Alma Kruger) who was generously funding the saboteurs; after meeting Mrs. Sutton, Kane was shocked to discover Patricia in the room; according to Freeman, Patricia had been "indiscreet" after leaving him in Soda City when she went to the Sheriff (who was corrupt and on the side of the saboteurs) to report on Kane; Kane tried to signal Patricia to "ESCAPE" by pointing to a book's spine on a shelf; but then Tobin entered the room - the mastermind of the fifth columnists; he recommended another more appropriate, "somehow prophetic" book for Kane - and indicated "THE DEATH OF A NOBODY" by Jules Romains
Kane's Surreptitious Signal to Patricia to "ESCAPE"
Tobin's Recommended Book: "THE DEATH OF A NOBODY"
  • Tobin announced to Mrs. Sutton and the others that their entire operation at the dam had been compromised and had to be abandoned; they had followed Patricia to her blind uncle Philip Martin, who then went to the police; Tobin left his ranch before officers arrived to arrest him; he criticized Freeman for his carelessness regarding Kane: ("You might have been more efficient")
  • the slimy ranch owner Tobin then began the first of two heavy-handed monologues about the patriotic Kane and his true character - with heavy sarcasm: "He's noble and fine and pure, and so he pays the penalty that the noble and the fine and the pure must pay in this world. He's misjudged by everyone. Why, even the police have a completely erroneous impression of him. I can assure you that, contrary to what is supposed, and to what he may himself have told you, that young man is certainly not one of his country's enemies"; his main point - that Kane was an imposter - startled the others: ("Mr. Kane is definitely no part of our little organization") - finally, Patricia realized that Kane was on her side; Tobin subtly suggested that Kane had to be eliminated, and their work must proceed the next day in Brooklyn; however, Tobin himself was immediately leaving for Central America: "Havana will be very gay this season"
  • knowing that they were both trapped, Kane and Patricia snuck away and entered the elegant party's ballroom dance floor - posing as members of the upper class; she told him how she had become the group's captive when they picked her up upon arrival in NYC at the airport; realizing that all their exits were blocked, Kane tried to convince an elderly male guest of their predicament: ("This whole house is a hotbed of spies and saboteurs"); he also told another disbelieving male: "We're right in the middle of the biggest bunch of fifth columnists in this country"
  • surrounded from all angles by "ruthless" saboteurs ("It's easy to win when you forget about the rules"), they decided to dance together; falling in love with Kane, Patricia remarked that she wished she had met him earlier, possibly somewhere else like the North Pole: (Kane concurred: "We might wind up there yet too, chasing Fry over an old glacier"); she also added: "Why couldn't I have met you 100 years ago, on a beach somewhere?" - and they kissed; she also spoke about being romantic in public: "I'm afraid we're not behaving very well," to which Kane responded: "What's the difference? We weren't invited anyway?" before they again kissed; he savored the moment: "No matter what happens, they can never take it away from me"
  • Patricia was whisked away by another dance partner, while Kane attempted to create an evasive diversion; he spontaneously made a public announcement about an on-the-spot auction of one of his rich hostess Mrs. Sutton's bracelets, and was about to reveal her true identity, but he modified his speech after being alerted by strong-armed butler-saboteur Robert (Ian Wolfe) that a gun was pointed toward his direction from behind a curtain on the balcony; he was interrupted and ushered upstairs to speak to Tobin; Kane prefaced their discussion: "Why is it that you sneer every time you refer to this country? You've done pretty well here, I don't get it"
  • in a second long monologue with Kane, Tobin (in black) was positioned on a couch between two symmetrical pictures; during the exchange, the camera slowly zoomed in on Kane, while Tobin was kept in a long-shot; the condescending Tobin admitted his choice to be anti-American, with totalitarian-leanings and pro-terrorism views, and expressed his disgust for any patriots or populists in the country: "You're one of the ardent believers - a good American. Oh, there are millions like you. People that plod along, without asking questions. I hate to use the word stupid, but it seems to be the only one that applies. The great masses, the moron millions. Well, there are a few of us who are unwilling to just troop along, a few of us who are clever enough to see that there's much more to be done than just live small complacent lives, a few of us in America who desire a more profitable type of government. When you think about it, Mr. Kane, the competence of totalitarian nations is much higher than ours. They get things done"; Kane replied: "Yeah. They get things done. They bomb cities, sink ships, torture and murder so you and your friends can eat off a gold plate; it’s a great philosophy"; Tobin reacted: "I neither intend to be bombed nor sunk, Mr. Kane. That’s why I’m leaving now. And if things don’t arrive for you, if, uh, we should win, then I’ll come back. Perhaps I can get what I want then: Power. Yes. I want that as much as you want your comfort, or your job, or that girl. We all have different tastes, as you can see. Only I'm willing to back my tastes with the necessary force"
  • Kane rebutted Tobin: "You certainly make it sound smooth and easy. Well, that's a trick. I know the results of that power you believe in. It killed my friend, and it's killing thousands like him. That's what you're aiming at. But it doesn't bother you, I can see that. Because you really hate all people. Let me tell you something. The last four or five days, I've learned a lot. I've met guys like you, and I've met others - people that are helpful and eager to do the right thing; people that get a kick out of helping each other fight the bad guys. Love and hate. The world's choosing up sides. I know who I'm with. There are a lot of people on my side - millions of us in every country. And we're not soft; we're plenty strong. And we'll fight standing up on our two feet, and we'll win. Remember that, Mr Tobin. We'll win, no matter what you guys do. We'll win if it takes from now until the cows come home"
  • Kane was knocked out from behind by Robert, and then imprisoned in the mansion's basement-cellar storeroom overnight, while Patricia was taken and entrapped in an office hideout (inside the Rockefeller Center skyscraper); the next morning, Kane successfully slipped away from the mansion by triggering a fire alarm sprinkler system, while Patricia alerted a group of cab drivers below on the street of her predicament by dropping an SOS note (written in lipstick on poster-board) from the office window that fluttered down in the wind
  • Kane raced in a taxi to stop the planned sabotage of the USS Alaska battleship as it was christened at 11:30 am and launched down a slipway at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; there, he wrestled with armed foreign saboteur Frank Fry, who was impersonating a newsman in a fake American Newsreel camera sound truck; his efforts succeeded in delaying the blast (detonated by a pushed button) so that only the dock was destroyed
  • although successful at the Navy Yard in preventing the ship's destruction, Kane was taken prisoner by Fry and his two accomplices, and driven to the Rockefeller Center skyscraper; there, because of Patricia's note, the police and FBI were awaiting their arrival in the American Newsreel office; Kane was taken prisoner (he was still a 'wanted' man), and Fry's accomplices were apprehended, but Fry escaped
  • there was an exciting pursuit after Fry across the movie theatre stage of Radio City Music Hall, where on-screen gunfire in the comedy being viewed was mirrored by deadly gunfire in the audience; Fry shot a man (Milton Kibbee) seated next to his wife, to cause chaos; Fry escaped from Radio City Musical Hall in a taxi, and during his flight, he spotted and smugly smiled at a ship on its side (evidence of an earlier successful act of sabotage)
  • the pursuit after Fry was taken up by Patricia who now actively tracked and shadowed the saboteur via taxi; they boarded a ferry that was bound for Bedloe Island ("Liberty Island") where the Statue of Liberty was located; in contact with the FBI by phone, she was directed to enter the Statue's base and stall, distract and keep Fry occupied until Kane and the FBI arrived; she followed him up to inside the statue's crown where she engaged in small-talk with Fry; when he suspected her story and she mistakenly called him Mr. Fry, she further identified her knowledge of his act of sabotage: "It all started with an unknown blonde, an aircraft worker at a factory in Glendale, California"; Fry sarcastically called her: "Little Miss Liberty, carrying the torch"
  • once Kane arrived at the Statue of Liberty in the film's exhilarating conclusion (reminiscent of North by Northwest's climax), he pursued Fry onto the viewing platform on the statue's torch; in a frightening, harrowing scene high up above the water of NY harbor, Kane confronted Fry with a gun; windblown against a cloudy sky, Fry backed away, accidentally lost his balance and fell over the side of the platform's railing - he bounced once and was left clinging to the space between the immense base of the thumb and the forefinger that composed the concrete hand of the statue; Kane climbed down to rescue and valiantly save the spy - he half-crouched and had one hand wrapped around part of the base of the torch; with his free hand, he could only reach and clutch Fry's coat jacket sleeve near the wrist; the police and FBI reached the platform and watched what was unfolding from the railing
  • Fry perilously hung there clinging for his life as perspiration beads appeared on his forehead; the sleeve began to gradually tear apart at the stitching or seam where the left arm joined the shoulder; the saboteur literally dangled by a thread; as the split widened, Fry's terror-stricken face noticed that his entire coat jacket would soon separate; he cried out: "Quick, the sleeve, the sleeve!" and then his arm slipped suddenly out of the sleeve - in a disorienting, downward view from Kane's perspective, Fry fell away through space and dropped to his death many feet below; his face contorted, his body rotated awkwardly, and his screams became fainter as he approached the ground: "Kaaaaaaaaaaaaannnne...." - the film's last line of dialogue
Fry's Fall From the Statue of Liberty - Clinging For Life
  • the film's ending images were of Kane climbing back up and embracing Patricia

In the Aircraft Plant (l to r): Kane, Fry, and Mason

Fry's Dropped Letters and $100 Dollar Bills - Clues

Ominous Black Smoke - Evidence of Sabotage

Kane Hitching a Ride Out of Town in a Truck - Sitting Next to a Fire Extinguisher

Kane's Double-Exposure: Remembering Fry's Letter, Addressed to Deep Springs Ranch

Kane's Meeting with Tobin at Deep Springs Ranch

Western Union Telegram to Tobin: Fry's Next Destination Was Soda City to Meet Up With Neilson

Kane's Confrontation with Tobin

Kane Handcuffed by Police

Kane's Escape: High-Dive Off Bridge

Kane's Refuge with Clairvoyant Blind Man

Blonde Billboard Model Patricia "Pat" Martin (Priscilla Lane)

The Group of Circus "Freaks"

Soda City Sign (With Bullet Marks)

Kane with Freeman on Drive to the East

Hitchcock's Cameo - In Front of NYC Drug Store

Mrs. Sutton - Benefactress of Saboteurs

Tobin's Speech About Kane

Patricia and Kane on the Dance Floor

Elitist Tobin's Allegiance to Terrorism

Kane's Reluctance To Bow to Saboteurs

Brooklyn Naval Yard's Launch of Battleship

Plans to Detonate the Battleship During Launch

Announcement of the Battleship's Launch

Patricia's SOS Note

Kane Wrestling with Fry in News Truck, To Prevent Detonation of Blast by Button-Push

Delayed Blast Blew Up Dock, But Avoided Ship

Radio City Music Hall (On-Screen and Off-Screen Murders)

Fry - on the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty Island

Patricia Inside the Statue's Crown with Fry

Ending: Fade to Black - Kane Embracing Patricia


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