In 1966, François Truffaut published a book about the work of his fellow director, Alfred Hitchcock. Simply entitled “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” it went on to become one of the most famous of all film tomes, one considered indispensable by many cinéastes (though to my eternal shame, I’ve yet to read it myself).
“Why are there so many darn crows in Berkeley these days?”
Though auteur theory was still little more than a glimmer in François Truffaut’s eye, the American public was quite familiar with Alfred Hitchcock by 1956. Perhaps the most recognizable filmmaker since Chaplin, Hitch was a weekly presence in homes from coast to coast via his CBS series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, while theatergoers had made his color remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much a huge commercial success. His career still in the ascendancy, Hitch could choose any project he desired – which perhaps explains why his next project was one of the least Hitchcockian films of them all.
According to the unattributed dictionary definition that prefaces Alfred Hitchcock’s Sabotage, the word sabotage means ‘wilful destruction of buildings or machinery with the object of alarming a group of persons or inspiring public uneasiness ‘. It’s an apt description of the effect the film must have had on 1936 cinemagoers, who surely weren’t prepared for Sabotage’s gut-wrenching denouement — a scene still likely to jar viewers today.
Though he’s been dead for more than 30 years, Alfred Hitchcock remains an instantly recognizable pop culture icon. His French acolyte Claude Chabrol, on the other hand, could have walked down any street in America without fear of recognition, but he left behind his own impressive body of work when he passed away last September.