Films like this one, in which an unconventional teacher inspires his students to be something more than what’s expected of them, are common enough to constitute a minor genre on their own. In addition to Dead Poets Society, we’ve seen Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dangerous Minds and Stand and Deliver. Those are just the ones that I could name off the top of my head.
Alfred Hitchcock‘s first film for Universal, Saboteur follows his favorite theme of the innocent man falsely accused and on the run. This time Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) a young worker at a wartime aircraft factory is suspected of setting the fire that killed a close friend of his. Fleeing the police, he sets off in pursuit of Frank Fry (Norman Lloyd), a surly character who gave Kane the gasoline-filled fire extinguisher that resulted in the man’s death.
Compared to later Hitchcock films, this is a fairly straight-forward wartime potboiler, although the director’s hand does help elevate Saboteur about the crowd. It reworks the basic plot of The 39 Steps, which would also be foundation of Hitchcock’s later classics like The Man Who Knew Too Much and North By Northwest. Many of the standard Hitchcock trademarks are here, most notably the blonde heroine. Pat Martin (Priscilla Lane) is not, however, the frigid, distant, psychologically damaged figure that would dominate later Hitchcock films.