SABOTAGE (1939, Dir. Harold Young)

Olive Films Blu-ray $29.95, DVD $19.95
67 min. / B&W / 1.33:1 / Subtitles

I’m going to start this review the same way everybody in the world should start their review of this release: this is NOT the 1936 Alfred Hitchcock film also called Sabotage (nor is it the 1942 Hitchcock film The Saboteur, with which it shares a few plot points and an actress).

Nice-guy Gordon Oliver has his dream job down at the aerospace plant and nets his dream girl, lovely entertainer Arleen Whelan, so things are lookin’ pretty darn sweet for him—until the plant is closed down because a plane manufactured there has crashed (in one of Republic Pictures’ most well-staged special effects sequences), brought down by the titular crime, and Oliver is arrested. Things look bad but his dad, Charley Grapewin, the plant’s security guard (yeah, they only have the one) steps in to identify the real culprits. If Dorothy Gale’s Uncle Henry can’t spring you from the pokey, who can?

B-movies don’t get much more B-movier, and as often happens, one wonders exactly how things like this get chosen for HD upgrade (other than the obvious, an attempt to sell it to Hitchcock fans). Whatever the reason, if you set your sights low (not BAD MOVIE low, just LOW-BUDGET PROGRAMMER low) you’ll find this is a movie that’s a lot of fun. It’s probably the best role Grapewin would have (and it was released the same year as Wizard of Oz) and the fun comes from his gang of detective pals: his friends from the Old Soldiers Home, mostly a motley crew of Octogenarian Civil War veterans(!), who provide a lot of laughs, intermixed with a lot of good old-fashioned flag-waving and Americanism, as in this speech by Grapewin…

Million-dollar Dialog:

“This plant was not closed on account o’ my son. It’s closed because it’s been poisoned, the same as our city’s bein’ poisoned, by a lot of alien forces that are tryin’ to make us look at each other with suspicion. They wanna stop us from work, they want us to ACCUSE each other. Well, you can’t pass judgment on my son and my family without knowing the facts, without giving us a trial! It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, it isn’t justice! It is NOT the American way! My, there’s somethin’ evil and vicious goin’ on here and in other cities. There’s people tryin’ to do HARM, tryin’ to commit planned sabotage. Why don’t you get busy and poison these rats before they poison you, or are you too lazy? You wanna condemn the first man that somebody picks out without goin’ to work against this movement yourselves! Well, you’ve got to do something about it. You’ve got to get rid of these human termites before they eat the foundation from out under your livelihood! I’m not talkin’ for justice for my son, now. I’m talkin’ for your future independence and safety! It’s up to you!”

The effective supporting cast includes Lucien Littlefield, Paul Guilfoyle, Joe Sawyer, and Dorothy Peterson, the latter of whom would pop up three years later in The Saboteur.

The Olive BD presentation shows no wear or tear, but due to the age and obscurity of the film, some of the sequences don’t look quite as good as others, although overall, this offering is perfectly acceptable. There’s no bonus material but in accordance with Olive policy these days, there are optional subtitles. Recommended as a curio and a fun B-movie.