, 25 tweets, 14 min read Read on Twitter
To celebrate the pending 120th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock's birth, we begin here a longish thread recalling the film where Hitch's young career was very nearly derailed by a boy on a bus with a bomb (and a puppy😁). #Hitchcock #AlfredHitchcock
A loose adaptation of Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel, The Secret Agent, SABOTAGE (1936) co-stars Oscar Homolka, as a terrorist; and features Desmond Tester, as a likable schoolboy who is unwittingly dispatched to deliver a bomb hidden in a package, which must arrive before 1:45 p.m.
Thus begins an eight-minute sequence wherein the camera follows the boy as he makes his way across a section of London, all the while carrying a bomb. As Hitchcock later told Truffaut: 'I made a serious mistake in having the little boy carry the bomb...' #AlfredHitchcock
'A character who unknowingly carries a bomb around as if it were an ordinary package is bound to work up great suspense in the audience.' I like the way cinematographer Bernard Knowles tracks behind the boy here. Before Hitch moved to the U.S., Knowles shot several of his films.
#Hitchcock, to #Truffaut: 'The boy was involved in a situation that got him too much sympathy from the audience...' Such as this bit, where Stevie, the boy, gets recruited by a street vendor and is, reluctantly, used as a test subject, for comic effect.
After both the street vendor's toothpaste & hair tonic are each forcibly applied to the poor boy, he (and his bomb) are dispatched, so that he can continue on his mission...
'SABOTAGE is the cleverest picture Alfred Hitchcock has made since the arrival of the talkies. It is also, to me, the least likeable of them all.' Or, so wrote C.A. Lejeune, film critic for The Observer (from 1928 to 1960). She was one of the first film critics for newspapers.
'Every shot in it, every sound... is the result of close & consummate care. It is a cold, calculated, & quite masterly piece of film technics, designed to raise suspense & horror... I am prepared to give it every honor... so long as I am never asked to sit through it again.'
'The keynote of SABOTAGE is complete destruction. Not only is the main plot concerned with a plot to blow up Piccadilly Circus & terrorize London, but everything that is human & innocent & ordinary in the picture seems consecrated to the needs of ruthlessness.' ~C.A. Lejeune
#FrançoisTruffaut: ‘What’s your feeling on the whole about SABOTAGE?’
#AlfredHitchcock: ‘I would say that it’s somewhat sabotaged! Aside from a few scenes… it was a little messy. No clean lines about it.’

Via the 1967 book HITCHCOCK by #Truffaut
‘In the mid-30s, the celebrated Observer critic, C.A. Lejeune, went up to [SABOTAGE] screenwriter Charles Bennett at a cocktail party and said, “Charles, I'll never speak to you again. You should never have killed that little boy. It was horrible!”' Via trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/arti…
‘It was C.A. Lejeune who later objected to the cruel death of the boy in SABOTAGE—a death not only faithful to the Conrad novel, but also necessitated by the predominant theme of the spread of chaos and the awful suffering of the innocent through the action of revolutionaries...'
'...and terrorists. Hitchcock, always careful to please the most powerful critics, readily—and wrongly—agreed with Miss Lejeune’s postmortem and, fearing the alienation of a powerful critic, regretted the sequence ever after.’ ~Donald Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius (1983)
'The boy was involved in a situation that got him too much sympathy from the audience...' ~Hitchcock, regarding SABOTAGE (1936), to Truffaut, in HITCHCOCK (1967), by Truffaut
'... so that when the bomb exploded and he was killed, the public was resentful. The way to handle it would have been for [Oscar] Homolka to kill the boy deliberately, but without showing that on screen, and then for the wife to avenge her young brother by killing Homolka.’
'I’m quite satisfied to let the pieces of film create the motion. For instance... when the little boy is in the bus & he’s got the bomb at his side, I cut to that bomb from a different angle every time I showed it...' #Hitchcock
'I did that to give the bomb a vitality of its own, to animate it.'
'If I’d shown it constantly from the same angle...'
'...the public would have become used to the package: “Oh well, it’s only a package, after all.” But what I was saying was: “Be careful! Watch out!”' #AlfredHitchcock #Hitchcock120
‘I’d made the mistake of not relieving them [the viewers] at the end of the suspense.’ Discussed at about the 2:40 mark, although he later disagrees with Dick Cavett that one of the victims being a child (or also a puppy!) was a reason for his mistake.
Edited by: Charles Frend
Shot by: Bernard Knowles
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
(13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980)
#Truffaut: 'Making a child die in a picture is a rather ticklish matter; it comes close to an abuse of cinematic power.’
#Hitchcock: ‘I agree with that; it was a grave error on my part.’

'This is... a brilliant piece of horrification. The scene with the boy in the bus is superbly timed.... there is a code in this sort of free-handed slaughter, & Hitchcock has gone outside the code... Discreet directors don't kill schoolboys & dogs in omnibuses.' ~C.A. Lejeune
Continuing this thread: Desmond Tester, delayed again, in SABOTAGE (1936). Here, part of the extended sequence leading up to the bus ride, as the boy must wait for a passing parade, while the bomb ticks away. Celebrating #Hitchcock on his birthday! #AlfredHitchcock #Hitchcock120
Finally, the climax of the 8-minute sequence, edited by Charles Frend. Though not considered a top Hitchcock film, SABOTAGE seems to have taught him a valuable lesson in what his audience will, or will not, tolerate.💣 #Hitchcock #Hitchcock120 #AlfredHitchcock
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Daniel Marley
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!