Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the subsequent series, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, ran from 1955 to 1965. I often get to see it on METV. That means I am up too late as it runs at midnight here. Hitchcock only directed a handful of these. He usually provided a humorous (as in dark humor) introduction along with a brief epilogue. These give us a chance to see the master of suspense perform as a “presenter” who is often found in odd situations.
Those were not his only appearances on screen. Hitchcock was known to make cameo appearances in most of his movies, including the two early efforts reviewed below. As always, look closely or you will miss him.

Early Hitchcock, by Rich Paschall

The 1936 Hitchcock thriller, Sabotage, could be a story for the present day. Foreign saboteurs are planning terror attacks on a big city. No one is sure who these people are or why they are planning these things. In this adventure the city is London and the time frame is “the present,” in other words the mid-1930s. It is loosely based on a story by Joseph Conrad, Secret Agent. Hitchcock released another film in 1936 named Secret Agent. It is no relation.


In Sabotage London experiences a blackout which most take in good humor. At a local theater, patrons are demanding their money back, and when the wife goes to see if her husband, the theater owner, is home he claims to have been there all along. We have seen that he has just returned. He is the saboteur.

Oskar Homolka, the Austrian actor, plays the theater owner. You are left to guess what European country or group he may be working for. Sylvia Sydney plays his wife, apparently an American, while her younger brother, played by Desmond Tester, sounds rather British. Homolka as Karl Verloc does not come across as particularly evil but rather caught up in the plot.

Scotland Yard is suspicious of Verloc and has Detective Sergeant Spencer on the case. He is undercover as a grocery assistant at the business next to the movie theater. He ultimately befriends Mrs. Verloc and her brother to get information.

Unhappy with the results of the blackout, the saboteurs want Verloc to plant a bomb that will terrorize London. It is to go to the station at the Piccadilly London Underground at a busy time of day. Verloc does not want to cooperate with anything that may cause loss of life but is threatened by his contact who apparently has some hold over him.



The film was released in America in 1937 under the title The Woman Alone. I guess you could say Mrs. Verloc is alone in this story. She is unaware of her husband’s activities and seemingly has no one else. Well, no one else until the concerned Scotland Yard detective comes along. He obviously becomes fond of her as the story progresses.

Although early in his career, the film shows some of the aspects of the great Hitchcock films. As we build to what is supposed to be the big moment of the terror plot, we see the rapid-fire cutting of scenes, to take in not just the faces of the people around the bomb, but the clock as we watch the time move faster and faster to when the bomb is supposed to explode. Things are not unfolding as planned, and then they take a Hitchcock-style plot twist. We will leave the rest to you if you wish to track this down.

It is not going to land in the top 10 Hitchcock movies. It is just an interesting early work of a director who will ultimately become a master of this type of intrigue and suspense. This certainly is not very satisfying when compared to later Hitchcock fare.

The 1930 drama, Murder, is also an early Hitchcock piece that exhibits some brief moments of Hitchcock style, but basically contains all the elements of bad early “talkies.” It does not contain much to hold your interest. I fear its great reviews of more recent years are based on the reputation of the master, and have little to do with this work.

The plot starts out like Twelve Angry Men but does not go down that road for long. Written by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville, and Walter C. Mycroft the story is based on the novel and play, Enter Sir John. The story opens with a young actress being accused of the murder of another member of an acting company. She seems to have been caught red-handed with the murder weapon at hand. One of the jurors, Sir John, does not think she is guilty and after all jurors give in to the guilty verdict, including Sir John, he decides to investigate.

The lead character is played by Herbert Marshall, who went on to a long career in Hollywood films. Norah Baring plays the actress about to face the gallows. Yes, they were going to hang the beauty. This gives Hitchcock the opportunity to show us the shadow of the noose as the gallows are being built outside the cell window. There is no need to show the actual building when he can terrorize the audience through shadow and sound.

The lighting and editing are poor, more often than not. A little of that may be due to restoration. Hitchcock admitted in an interview years later that the actors were encouraged to improvise dialogue in scenes that were not quite finished. “The result wasn’t good; there was too much faltering. They would carefully think over what they were about to say and we didn’t get the spontaneity I had hoped for.”

This might account for the slow pacing and awkward pauses we find in many places. Also, the actors are playing as if they are in a theater rather than in a movie. It is not uncommon to see this in early talking pictures with actors who were trained for the stage. The over-dramatization by all the actors is a bit uncomfortable. The type of staging seen here was more suited to the West End than the silver screen. At the same time, Hitchcock also filmed the movie in German with other actors.

If these two features offer anything, it looks at life in London in the 1930s. You can see how a poorer class of people lived and at the very least, you know the props and sets come right out of that time period. Unless you are such a Hitchcock fan that you need to track down these re-mastered works, you could take a pass on them. For some reason, they are available on DVD and Blu-ray. Sabotage is free on YouTube and Murder! is posted to Vimeo.

Note: The Hitchcock cameo appears at 08:56 in Sabotage and 59:45 in Murder!

Categories: film, Movie Review, Movies, Rich Paschall

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16 replies

  1. As for Twilight Zone, my all time favorite is the guy who just wants to read, manages to avoid the holocaust by being in the back vault — and then breaks his glasses. It always makes me double check to make sure I have spare glasses.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have spare glasse too. It is more important now than ever.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen that one several times and agree. I broke my glasses before Christmas and am just now on the list to receive the new ones. Getting an appointment for a doctor visit was the longest I’ve ever had to wait, but some places are just now getting back to normal — or whatever passes for it, after the worst of the pandemic. Hopefully one more week is all I have to wait for the new ones to arrive. I’ve been using the drug store variety since Christmas and they are a pain to work with. Three different strengths to be changed 1000 times a day!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember just a few of those episodes — and not that early movie, either though I’m sure Garry will remember it and be able to recite the cast too.

    My favorite was the one where they kill a guy using a frozen leg of lamb and then serve it to the guests. I think of it every time I serve lamb.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I don’t remember if I have seen these two episodes but when I turn on the TV I usually tune in to METV. Hitchcock used to frighten me too much to watch but after a while I became a fan. I always looked for his cameo appearance, one of his trademarks. In this area “Twilight Zone” follows Hitchcock and it always left me feeling disoriented.

    Liked by 1 person

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