Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday's Ways Not To Die

Saboteur (1942)

Is there anything better than the cross-cutting between that eensy splitting seam of fabric and that grand sweeping vista of life and death on top of the Statue of Liberty? You might even say that the entire country's fate itself is hanging by a thread (wokka wokka). Seriously though it's all so masterful, from conception to shoot to edit. Pure Eisenstein up in the hizzouse.

Anyway I wanted to do something America themed since it's Memorial Day this weekend; first I was thinking of the scene on Mount Rushmore in North By Northwest, but while I was looking at that scene I realized the action itself on that set is really not all that thrillingly shot. I'm not saying it's a boring scene, or an ugly scene, or anything like that - don't stone me here. There are tons of spectacular shots that Hitch got of the giant faces from all kinds of angles, and it's edited masterfully, and the characters are all their charming Hitchy selves. But as far as money-shots go with the bad guys meeting their doom, notsomuch.

It just would've been kind of tedious to look at, in the context of this series. There's some wrestling with a knife, until Cary Grant throws the dude off the edge, the end. Yawn. I know that Hitch was hoping to do more with this scene in North By Northwest - he spoke about wanting to do a gag where Cary Grant sneezed while inside of Lincoln's nose!

I guess the logisitics of the location and the sets made it too difficult. He does manage to make Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint look like Presidential boogers way in the distance in the above shot though, so all's not lost.

(Above: Hitch and his delightful daughter Pat with Saboteur star Robert Cummings) Back to Saboteur though. This flick's probably more appropriate a pick for Memorial Day anyway, since it deals more specifically with war (of the non-Cold sort) - World War II in this case. Our hero Barry (Cummings) has been framed for the explosion of a munitions plant - the dude who actually did the crime is the one dangling off Lady Liberty's wrist. This film is mainly remembered for that incredible sequence but it's actually one of Hitch's finest films start to finish, if you ask me. It's a ripping good yarn, told with prime Hitch panache. Most highly recommended.

And here's a fun fact about Saboteur that I didn't know, via this informative write-up about the making of the film over at TCM:

"Hitchcock's cameo appearance (a tradition) in Saboteur was originally going to be shared with Dorothy Parker. In the scene where an older couple drives by the hero struggling with the reluctant model on the side of the road, the director drove the car and the writer, as the wife, delivered the line, "They must be terribly in love." After watching the dailies, however, Hitchcock thought their appearance was too distracting from the story, so he re-shot it with professional actors. He then decided to cast himself in a cameo as a man using sign language to convey an apparently bold comment to a deaf woman (played by his secretary Carol Stevens), who promptly slaps him. But the studio thought that would be offensive to people with hearing disabilities, so Hitchcock decided to make his cameo extremely brief, appearing at the window of a drugstore. Blink and you'll miss him."
Hitch also apparently wanted the leads of the film to be Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, but couldn't get them - I'll try not to think about how freaking incredible that could have been since I'm heaping praise on the movie instead. (But WOW can you imagine???)

All of the Previous Ways Not To Die after the jump...

Horns of Plenty... Dead! -- Mistress-And-Run -- Wolverine Interrupted -- Who Let The Guts Out -- Zzzapped Innards-Side-Out -- Bad Romance -- Twas Beauty (And Also Aeroplanes) -- Bad Head -- Valentine's Day Massacred -- Belly Buster -- For Being Not The Babysitter -- Splat In Slo-Mo -- To Be Dis-Continued -- For Being Mouthy -- Do You Smell What Billy's Mom Is Cooking -- The Milk Done Gone Bad -- An Inability To Stop Drop and Roll -- Bug Sprayed -- Extreme Makeover: Leatherface Edition -- Window Seat Suck -- Razor Bunting -- Stabbed Thru The Heart And Witches Are To Blame -- Shark Kibble -- Is That a Straight Razor In Your Trunks Or Are You Just Happy To See Me -- Bad Dates -- Fry Guy'd -- Super Battle Bystander Shrapnel Shred -- Staring Contest of the Dead -- Satanic Self Sacrifice -- Fist and Fortune -- Psychedelic Penis Slice To Window Toss -- For Crimes Against Accent -- Sacked -- Speed Bumped For Traffic Spikes -- Shark Versus Jet-Ski -- Hot Oil Treatment -- Tucked In By Jason -- Just A Pair of Snowbodies -- Poison Pellet Kibble Swap -- Dolly Disassembled -- Fire Escape Fall Out -- Unbuggered -- Tell 'Em Large Marge Sent'cha -- Blue Man Gooped -- Tongue Stung -- Now Wouldn't Cha, Barracuda? -- Leaving on a Rat Plane -- Panthers! -- Fashion Faux-Pwned -- "It's Just A Box." -- Blasted Pigeons -- Taunting Ahnuld -- The Too Hot Tub -- Beyond the Veil -- Sunken Prayers-- Super Crack -- Brains Blown -- Fur For The Boogens -- White Hot Bunny Rabbit Rage --Dragged To Hell -- The TV Van That Dripped Blood -- Don't Mess With Mama -- Heads Ahoy --Martyred For Sheep -- Heads Nor Tails -- He Loves Me Knot -- The Great Bouncing Brad --Miss Kitty's 8 Mishaps -- Boat Smoosh -- Meeting the French-Tipped Menace -- A Magic Trick -- Slick Suck -- We Who Walk Here Walk Alone -- Raptor Bait -- Kneegasm'd -- Dare to Dream in Fincher -- Reach Out and Throttle Someone -- De-Faced -- Voluntary Drowning -- Cross Borne -- Pulled Up Hell's Sphincter -- An Arrow Up The Ass - The Numerous Violent Unbecomings of Olive Oyl -- Ack! Ack! Zap! -- Baby's First Acid Splash -- Chop, Drop and Sashimi Roll -- Forever Rafter -- Can't You Hear Me Now? -- Daisies Ways #5 - Harpoony Side Up -- Acid Dip -- On a Wing and a Prey -- For Standing in the Way of Sappho -- Busting Rule Number Three (For The Purpose of Number Two) -- Daisies #4 - Window Dressed To Killed --Hands Off the Haas Orb -- Bullet Ballet -- A Single Vacancy at the Roach Motel -- A School Bus Slipped Thru The Ice -- Trache-AAHHHH!!!-tomy'd - For Mel Gibson's Sins -- A Wide Stanced Slashing --- Daisies Ways #3 - Scratch n' Snuffed -- The Victim of a Viscous Hit & Run-- Curled -- Kabobbed -- Daisies Ways #2 - Aggravated Cementia -- Boo! Nun! -- 2009's Ways Not To Die -- Bug Scratch Fever -- Daisies Ways #1 - Deep Fat Fried in My Own Unique Blend of 500 Herbs & Spices -- By the Yard End of the Stick -- Screwed From A Very Great Distance-- A Righteous Bear-Jew Beatdown -- Fisted By Hugo Sitglitz -- Xeno Morphed -- Fuck-Stuck -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 4 -- Lava Bombed -- The Cradle Will Rock... Your Face Off!!! -- The Food of the Nilbog Goblins -- The Slugs Is Gonna Gitcha -- Phone Shark -- Hide The Carrot -- Sarlacc Snacked -- Avada Kedavra!!! -- Hooked, Lined and Sinkered -- "The Libyans!" -- Axe Me No Questions -- Pin the Chainsaw on the Prostitute -- The Wrath of the Crystal Unicorn -- The Ultimate Extreme Make-Over -- Drown In A Sink Before The Opening Credits Even Roll -- The Dog Who Knew Too Much -- Don't Die Over Spilled Milk -- Inviting the Wrath of Aguirre -- An Inconceivable Outwitting -- The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique -- Nipple Injected Blue Junk -- Your Pick Of The Deadly Six -- Thing Hungry --Don't Fuck With The Serial Killer's Daughter -- DO Forget To Add The Fabric Softener -- Any Of The Ways Depicted In This Masterpiece Of Lost Cinema -- Rode Down In The Friscalating Dusklight -- Good Morning, Sunshine! -- Mornin' Cuppa Drano -- The Cylon-Engineered Apocalypse -- Tender-Eye-zed -- Martian Atmospheric Asphyxiation -- Maimed By A Mystical Person-Cat -- The Sheets Are Not To Be Trusted -- Handicapable Face-Hacked -- I Did It For You, Faramir -- Summertime In The Park... Of A Pedophile's Mind -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 3 -- Strung Up With Festive Holiday Bulbs By Santa Claus Himself -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 2 -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 1 -- Decapitated Plucked Broiled & Sliced -- Head On A Stick! -- A Trip To The Ol' Wood-Chipper -- Pointed By The T-1000 --Sucking Face With Freddy Krueger -- A Pen-Full Of Home-Brewed Speed to The Eye --Motivational Speech, Interrupted -- A Freak Ephemera Storm -- When Ya Gotta Go... Ya Gotta Go -- Hoisted By Your Own Hand Grenade -- Having The Years Suction-Cupped Away --Criss-Cross -- Turned Into A Person-Cocoon By The Touch Of A Little Girl's Mirror Doppleganger -- Satisfying Society's "Pop Princess" Blood-Lust -- Done In By The Doggie Door-- Tuned Out -- Taking the 107th Step -- Rescuing Gretchen -- Incinerated By Lousy Dialogue-- Starred & Striped Forever -- Vivisection Via Vaginally-Minded Barbed-Wire -- Chompers (Down There) -- Run Down By M. Night Shyamalan -- Everything Up To And Including The Kitchen Toaster -- Sacrificed To Kali -- Via The Gargantuan Venom Of The Black Mamba Snake -- Turned Into An Evil Robot -- The Out-Of-Nowhere Careening Vehicle Splat -- "Oh My God... It's Dip!!!" -- Critter Balled -- Stuff'd -- A Hot-Air Balloon Ride... Straight To Hell!!!-- Puppy Betrayal -- High-Heeled By A Girlfriend Impersonator -- Flip-Top Beheaded --Because I'm Too Goddamned Beautiful To Live -- By Choosing... Poorly... -- Fried Alive Due To Baby Ingenuity -- A Good Old-Fashioned Tentacle Smothering -- Eepa! Eepa! -- Gremlins Ate My Stairlift -- An Icicle Thru The Eye -- Face Carved Off By Ghost Doctor After Lesbian Tryst With Zombie Women -- Electrocuted By Fallen Power-Lines -- A Mouthful Of Flare --Taken By The TV Lady -- Bitten By A Zombie -- Eaten By Your Mattress -- Stuffed To Splitting -- Face Stuck In Liquid Nitrogen -- Crushed By Crumbling Church Debris -- Bitten By The Jaws Of Life -- A Machete To The Crotch -- Showering With A Chain-Saw -- In A Room Filled With Razor Wire -- Pod People'd With Your Dog -- Force-Fed Art -- Skinned By A Witch -- Beaten With An Oar -- Curbed -- Cape Malfunction -- In The Corner -- Cooked In A Tanning Bed -- Diced -- Punched Through The Head -- Bugs Sucking On Your Head


joel65913 said...

Saboteur is my favorite of all the Hitchcock's. There are many that are close, Rear Window would be second, but there is just something about the smooth precision and quirkiness of this one, the circus caravan group is always a delight, that keeps it first.

Gary Cooper would have been awesome in the lead but in this case I thought Robert Cummings' lack of real star presence made him more of the everyman the story required. Cummings is an actor that for the most part I'm indifferent to but he and the role were well matched.

While I could never say that Barbara Stanwyck wouldn't have been memorable in the female lead, I don't think she was capable of being anything but arresting on screen, I adore Priscilla Lane in this. Her apple pie American blondeness was the ideal at that time, not hard to believe she would be smiling down from all those billboards. While I don't think she was a great actress in the Stanwyck mode I've always found her a good one with a warm presence who sadly is pretty much forgotten today. She appeared in a few memorable films, The Roaring Twenties, Four Daughters and the terrific Blues in the Night, playing a character named Character!, but Saboteur is her only certifiable classic and insures her some immortality.

And that climax is pure edge of your seat brilliance.

gregory brown said...

Guy should have bought his suit at Brooks Bros.