Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Sabotage (1939) - An Olive Films DVD Review

SABOTAGE (1939) is a Republic Pictures "B" film released today on DVD and Blu-ray by Olive Films.

SABOTAGE was released in October 1939, when the U.S. was still a couple years away from entering WWII. Gordon Oliver plays Tommy Grayson, an airplane factory worker who has just become engaged to Gail (Arleen Whelan), a chorus girl on a show which was passing through town.

On Tommy and Gail's planned wedding day, Tommy is arrested for sabotage which had led to planes cracking up on test flights. Tommy is a good guy and while his brother (Donald Douglas) heads out of town to hire a top attorney, Tommy's dad Major Grayson (Charley Grapewin) works with Gail and some elderly friends from the veterans home to crack the case and find the real saboteurs.

It doesn't take long for the case to be solved, given that the film is only 69 minutes long! The movie mixes some scenes which are frankly silly (i.e., shenanigans at the old gents' home) with sequences which are more successful. Major Grayson and Gail both have spunk, finding ways to break into the airplane factory as well as the home of a suspected saboteur (Paul Guilfoyle) in order to find key evidence.

The film will chiefly be of interest to those such as myself who enjoy WWII films; I found the storyline interesting as its portrayal was of the U.S. essentially being on a war footing in 1939. Major Grayson makes a long speech to disgruntled factory employees about how saboteurs were succeeding in turning them against one another. The saboteurs themselves (who include Joe Sawyer) have a scene where they discuss various points of infrastructure they plant to damage.

I also found it noteworthy that the plot united Civil War veterans of the North and South to defend America and clear Tommy. (Doing the math, that would make them all about 15-18 in 1865.)

Aside from the WWII aspect, this film's chief attraction for me was actress Arleen Whelan, who played Sarah Clay in John Ford's YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939) that very same year. She spent time on Broadway in the early to mid '40s, then appeared in Westerns such as RAMROD (1947) with Joel McCrea, comedies like THAT WONDERFUL URGE (1948), and she worked with Ford again on THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (1953). The latter title is on my list of 10 Classics I'll be seeing for the first time this year.

SABOTAGE was directed by Harold Young and filmed in black and white by Reggie Lanning.

Those not interested in the cast or the "B" movie/WWII angle will probably find SABOTAGE only moderately entertaining; it's a modest film but I enjoyed taking a look at it. I'm particularly delighted when Olive Films releases relatively unknown films such as this or the recent BRAZIL (1944).

There's one jailhouse scene with a couple seconds of some strange shadowy waves at the edges; I'm not sure what the cause was. Otherwise the Olive Films DVD is a fine print. There are no extras.

Thanks to Olive Films for providing a review copy of this DVD.


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