Nathan’s review published on Letterboxd :
Think it's fair to place this in direct competition with Foreign Corrspondent, as they're so similar and serve the same basic purpose.
In Saboteur's column:
- weirder settings
- a more engaging, wider-ranging travelogue-like scope anticipating North by Northwest
- the "episodes" (Soda City, blind man, State of Liberty) are probably more memorable on average than all but a few of those in Foreign Correspondent
- better villains, less bougie in general thanks to its suspicion of the wealthy
- works harder to exist as an everyday story rather than a wartime rant
In Foreign Correspondent's column:
- better lead actors, and a few stronger supporting cast members to boot (Robert Benchley, Edmund Gwenn, George Sanders)
- more confidently directed, with what appears to be a considerably higher budget
- better jokes, better characters; because the responsibility for wild happenings is more evenly distributed, the film feels more believable
- the lead character's outsider status but also his actual competence in a specific job makes him more interesting to watch than Cummings' golly-gee-whiz derring-do
- the plane crash and the umbrella and windmill scenes are more astounding than anything in Saboteur, even the deservedly famous climax
It's kind of a wash, really, but I still think Foreign Correspondent plays better, helped by its sheen of expertise; Saboteur has some incredible moments, and some real intrigue, but never totally hangs together, and you can sense when Hitchcock's enthusiasm is strongest, often (as with the movie theater scene, and the circus truck sequence) in moments that don't really do much to advance the plot except symbolically, as though he'd just been waiting for a place to stuff a bunch of ideas. I wish it went further with its opening small-time vibe of just a guy comforting his friend's mother, and that she played a larger role in the story (not to mention her annoying neighbor, semi-revised from Murder!); Hitchcock was so unexpectedly strong when it came to those small, domestic moments, as he'd demonstrate conclusively a year later. That said, all the scenes involving Otto Kruger's terrifying Mr. Tobin and Alan Baxter as one of his henchmen manage what few other early American Hitchcock thrillers can: a genuine sense of eccentricity and threat to match that you saw in his British films.