Sabotage Information

Sabotage, also released as The Woman Alone, is a 1936 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is based on Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent. It should not be confused with Hitchcock's film Secret Agent released the same year, or his 1942 film Saboteur.


Karl Verloc (Oscar Homolka), the owner of a cinema, is part of a gang of terrorists from an unnamed European country who are planning a series of attacks in London. Their exact motives are not made clear. Scotland Yard suspects Verloc's involvement in the plot and assigns Detective Sergeant Ted Spencer (John Loder) to investigate Verloc, initially under cover. Spencer conducts the investigation posing as a greengrocer's helper, selling fruit and vegetables in a shop right next to the cinema.

Verloc's young and beautiful wife (Sylvia Sidney) believes that her husband is a good man because he has been kind to her and her little brother, Stevie (Desmond Tester), who lives with them. However, gradually she comes to suspect that her husband may be one of the people behind the terrorist attacks. The final straw comes when her little brother is killed, along with many other people, when a bus explodes. The boy had thought that he was simply delivering a film canister, but he was unknowingly carrying a time bomb for Verloc, to be detonated in the London Underground station under Piccadilly Circus. The boy had become distracted along the way, which had delayed his delivery, and thus the bomb exploded en route to its final target.

Verloc confesses to his wife, but then blames Scotland Yard and Spencer for Stevie's death, saying that they were the ones who prevented Verloc from successfully carrying out the bomb delivery himself. Soon afterwards, as Verloc and his wife are preparing to eat dinner, she stabs him to death with a knife. When Spencer arrives to arrest Verloc he realizes what has happened, but insists that she shouldn't admit that she killed her husband. Nevertheless, she starts to confess her crime to a policeman. Meanwhile, at this very moment, the terrorist bomb maker sneaks into Verloc's room to retrieve the birdcage that had been used to deliver the bomb out of fear that it might incriminate him. But as the police surround the building, he detonates a bomber-coat he wears in the event he is about to be caught. The explosion and fire interrupts Mrs. Verloc's confession, destroying all evidence of her crime and effectively preventing the policeman from remembering whether it was before or after the explosion that she told him, "My husband is dead!"

At the end we see an uneasy Mrs. Verloc and Ted Spencer walk away together.


Hitchcock liberally adapted Joseph Conrad's novel, transforming the highly political Tsarist-era agents provocateurs into foreign agents without any obvious political leanings. Verloc's shop is transformed into a cinema, with the films being shown echoing the story, and the policeman investigating the case is an undercover officer posing as a greengrocer. Since the film was produced in the years immediately preceding World War II, the unnamed hostile power behind the bombings has been assumed by many viewers to be Nazi Germany. However, the film does not specify this, and indeed, Verloc's first name has been changed, presumably because his name in the novel, Adolf, had too many connotations by the time the film was made.

Stevie, Mrs Verloc's brother, is portrayed as an ordinary schoolboy, with few of the visionary attributes of his literary counterpart. Stevie's death is a climactic moment in the plot, providing insight into Hitchcock's views about how the innocent suffer through random acts of violence. When a critic condemned Stevie's death as brutal and unnecessary, Hitchcock said that he regretted including it in the film, not because of the brutality, however, but because it violated his method of suspense, whereby tension eventually had to be relieved. Yet, Hitchcock remained faithful to the novel in having the bomb go off, and it also allowed him to justify in the movie that the boy's sister would eventually kill her husband, who was responsible for the boy's death, and get away with it.


The fact that many scenes of the film were set in a cinema allowed Hitchcock to include references to contemporary films and storylines. Perhaps the most famous of these is the final film sequence, an excerpt from a Walt Disney animated short Who Killed Cock Robin? (1935).


Hitchcock wanted to cast Robert Donat (with whom he had previously worked in The 39 Steps) as Spencer, but was forced to cast John Loder due to Donat's chronic asthma.

Mrs. Verloc was Sylvia Sidney's only role for Hitchcock. Reportedly, they did not warm to each other and she refused to work for him again.


Quentin Tarantino used a clip from the film, in which the bus conductor tries to prevent Stevie from boarding with the film cans, to indicate the flammable nature of early nitrate film reels in his 2009 film Inglourious Basterds.

In Season Five of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a quartet of episodes based on elements of Hitchcock films, including their titles, will feature, one of which is entitled Sabotage, similarly dealing with murky issues of terrorism and dissent in the context of a bombing at the Jedi Temple.


  • Sylvia Sidney as Mrs Verloc
  • Oskar Homolka as Karl Anton Verloc
  • Desmond Tester as Steve
  • John Loder as Sergeant Ted Spencer
  • Joyce Barbour as Renee
  • Matthew Boulton as Superintendent Talbot
  • S.J. Warmington as Hollingshead
  • William Dewhurst as The Professor
  • Charles Hawtrey as a Studious Youth
  • Peter Bull as Michaelis (uncredited)

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sabotage_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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