“There is much more to be done than just live small, complacent lives.” Surely, that is the most poignant quote from the villain, Tobin, in Hitchcock’s 1942 classic film “Saboteur.” He was delivering a monologue about how stupid we in the “moron millions” are and how the few elite know so much better. In his speech, that one quote sticks out as the kernel of truth on which the villain and the hero can agree; there is much to be done.
Like so many classic films waiting to be discovered by we Generation X’ers and our slightly younger brethren Millennials, “Saboteur” is a film that speaks to our present struggles. It predates the Boomers too, and that generation would do well to watch it. It’s cliché to blame ones predecessors for the world’s problems, but given their track record the Baby Boomers will have a lot to answer for in the final tally of things. An anti-establishment film if there ever was one, “Saboteur” reminds us of Aesop: “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” The movie starts in an American airplane factory with a fire. The saboteur disappears like a ghost, and the hero, Barry, is framed for the fire. Not only did it cause a major setback for the war effort, it also cost his friend his life. He sets out to catch the culprit, only to find that he was not a lone wolf. In fact, he was a paid operative for a group of leaders in society. Rich and powerful people were conspiring to help the Nazis, all while pretending to be fine, upstanding members of society. As Barry runs from the police, he uncovers their plan to conduct more clandestine operations. In order to clear his name, he has to derail their plans and expose the plot without getting killed. Modern directors should study Hitchcock more often. They would discover there are ways to make things suspenseful and scary without splattering brain matter all over the camera lens. It’s a wonder he was able to make the movie, even at the time. He was smearing a group of high powered people; real people with real power. Movies like this still get made on occasion, but all too rarely.
The speech in which the opening quote of this article appears is so fascinating because it shows how cool and collected evil people can be when concocting and explaining their machinations. Having both a public and private policy comes very natural to them. The metaphorical wolves in sheep’s clothing, none of it bothers them. They even grow tired of wearing the clothes and would prefer to show their naked aggression. They start wars, carry out assassinations, and overthrow countries without remorse or regret. When questioned, they are dismissive of their Earth changing consequences with statements like, “What difference does it make?” and “We came, we saw, he died.” They throw parties and accept awards for being peacemakers all while planning their next drone strike on someone who may or may not be their actual target or enemy. If a four year old happens to be killed in the process, so be it. It is worth the cost for them to acquire the power they crave. If their decades old wars cause twenty service people to commit suicide every day, their policies don’t change. Their insatiable desire for control only fuels their blood lust further.
The founders of our country were against a standing army. Why? Because standing armies need something to do. The military’s only job is to kill people and break things. When our war machine was not dismantled after World War II, we were given the Big Bad of Soviet Russia. They gave us something of which we could be scared. Something the elite could hold over our head and say, “You have to keep giving us all this money and power, or the Russians will get us.” After that died out, we were given the Big Bad of Terrorism. “Let us listen to your phone calls or the terrorists will get us.” I’m not saying I liked the Soviets, and I certainly have no use for ISIS. Both enemies were exacerbated by people seeking power. They were enlarged and encouraged by evil people for evil purposes; evil people who sleep well at night no matter how much blood is on their hands. “Saboteur” came out in 1942. It is as frightening today as it was then because no matter how many battles we “stupid, small” people win, the enemy is always there. There is always much more to be done.