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Sabotage (1936)

Last time I watched Sabotage I rated it highly, I think I was charmed by the London locations and by the cast - the three leads are all great. This time, without allowing myself to be distracted by all that, I was somewhat cooler on it.

The film ends with a bit of a whimper - OK, a cinema blows up, but somehow it blows up without any suspense, without risk to any good guys, and without any close involvement. We pretty much don't care that it blows up at all - particularly after we're informed that the audience all got out safely - and we're informed of that - we don't get to see it. Compare this with the wonderful chaos after the shooting in the theatre at the beginning of The 39 Steps.

Sabotage (1936)

The bus explosion that Hitch expressed regret for is actually a treat, a bit harsh to kill poor Stevie (and the puppy) but still beautifully told, and the way Stevie haunts Mrs Verloc makes his death seem important - even if, ultimately it goes nowhere.

Verloc's murder is tense but the film, frankly, dies along with him.

Oscar Homolka is great as Verloc, strangely managing to earn a little sympathy even if we can't fully understand the pressures he is under to carry out the sabotage. Sylvia Sidney has a face made to express damp-eyed pain and it does it so beautifully. And John Loder is another of those cheeky, charming leading men, that Hitch delivers so well.

  • Watched: 2018-02-03
  • Source: DVD
  • Rating: 5/10

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2017 was another year where I watched a lot of films and pointlessly rated them.

Pointless because ratings are affected by so many thing some of which have little to do with the actual film - e.g. mood, environment, time of day or day of week etc. But I do it anyway. So here's how 2017 went:

I rated 277 films, the mean rating was 5.87 and a median of 6

32 were silent films, 210 were in English, others were in: Bengali, German, French, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Swedish and Tamil.

I rated two films 10:

Some Like it Hot

Rivoli Ballroom

Hazel and I went to see Some Like it Hot at the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park - a fantastic 1950s ballroom that perfectly suited the film. It wasn't a perfect presentation: it was a DVD projection; they manipulated an interval into the film to flog a few drinks; they bafflingly decided to play 80s music before and in the interval (Come on! You're showing a 50s film in a 50s ballroom - think about it!)

BUT for all that, seeing the film in a room full of people just highlighted what a gem it was - maybe it's not a 10 film (although maybe it is), but the setting and being part of a crowd made it a 10 film for at least one evening!

Rivoli Ballroom

Cléo de 5 à 7

We've been latecomers to the genius of Agnes Varda - we'd seen a film at the NFT in 2013 but hadn't really followed up on that until this year. The other 10 film was her second film Cléo de 5 à 7. If I'd read the synopsis before watching the film there's a chance I may not have watched it at all - here's Wikipedia's...

[The film] follows a young singer as she waits until 6:30pm to hear the results of a medical test that will possibly confirm a diagnosis of cancer. The film is noted for its handling of several of the themes of existentialism, including discussions of mortality, the idea of despair, and leading a meaningful life.

But it's a beautiful story, beautifully told.


I saw four other Agnes Varda films during the year - and every one was a gem and might have got a 10 if the fancy had taken me!

Films rated (2017)
Decade made (2017)

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Secret Agent (1936)

Argh! I was supposed to write these little updates directly after seeing the film… but it's been months since we sat down to watch Secret Agent and we can't move on until the posts have been written - and Hitch's true golden period is on the horizon!

I enjoyed Secret Agent, it deosn't have as much charm or wit as The 39 Steps, but it has a silly enjoyable yarn. Gielgud is fine, and while he doesn't have the fizz with Madeleine Carroll that Donat had, it still works well enough for me (I think Hazel disagrees).

And another fab train crash to finish the film - maybe better delivered than that in Number 17, but nowhere near as much fun!

  • Watched: 2017-10 (that's a guess)
  • Source: DVD
  • Rating: 6/10

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The 39 Steps (1935)

“Would it be all right, me telling you, sir?”

I adore The 39 Steps - for years it was my “favourite Hitch” ~ it might still be, but I've given it a 9 because… The Lady Vanishes is coming!

There's so much to love about this film. Robert Donat is adorable and charming - and the sparkling relationship he and Madeleine Carroll build up is just lovely. The train journey is great and the chase across the moors is fun.

But it's the three crowd pieces that I think I love most:

The Theatre at the beginning is a hoot and Memory's performance is amazing ~ am I right sir? Even if he does dodge the “What causes pip in poultry question” (answer here) ~ and the way it turns to chaos after the gunshot is thrilling.

The political meeting in support of “Mr McCrocodile” is also breathtaking - I love that the audience are so energized by Hannay's speech that the fact that he's led out of the meeting in hand-cuffs doesn't seem to phase them at all!

And the final sequence in The London Palladium is also convincingly exciting and it always amazes that Hitch can make an inevitability (that Hannay will be vindicated) so tense and exciting - and again, Memory's performace is key to this.

There's very little not to love about this film — “I'm glad it's off my mind, at last.”

Watched: 2017-07-22
Source: DVD
Rating: 9/10

Am I right sir?

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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

We last watched The Man Who Knew Too Much in 2004, and I remember liking it more than this time. I still enjoyed the film but somehow the rather inconsistent tone and the occasionally rushed and sometimes lacklustre pace made it seem harder work than I remember.

Lovely to see Nova Pilbeam's appearance - we named a cat after her but it wasn't because of this film but the next Hitch film she turns up in. Leslie Banks is invariably good value and Edna Best was underused but came good in the end. Peter Lorre's villain is clearly so obviously villainous that at one point it's impossible to comprehend that he's believed by a bobby, over the charming, bumbling "Uncle Clive".

The Albert Hall sequence set up some good tension initially but had lost some of its momentum by the time of the assasination attempt. The final shoot-out was just plain bonkers.

Nova Pilbeam, Leslie Banks and Edna Best

Watched: 2017-07-01
Source: DVD
Rating: 6/10