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A Scotland Yard undercover detective is on the trail of a saboteur who is part of a plot to set off a bomb in London. But when the detective's cover is blown, the plot begins to unravel.

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Sabotage, also released as The Woman Alone, is a 1936 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock about an agent who uses a time bomb to blow up London. It is loosely based on Joseph Conrad novel The Secret Agent. It should not be confused with Hitchcock's film Secret Agent (1936 film) released the same year, or his 1942 film Saboteur (film).


Suddenly, London goes dark and loses all of its electricity. There is commotion at a cinema, with people demanding their money back. The owner of the cinema, Karl Verloc (Oscar Homolka), enters through a back entrance to the living quarters above, and pretends to have been asleep and not know anything of the blackout. His wife, Mrs. Verloc (Sylvia Sidney) comes to get him and is surprised to see him, but he informs her that he had been sleeping the entire time. He instructs his wife to return the money to the customers -- against her protests -- because he has "some money coming in." As the money is about to be disbursed to the customers downstairs, the lights go back on. It is revealed that sand was put in the Boiler (power generation) as an act of sabotage on London's electricity grid.
The next day, Verloc meets with his contact and it is revealed that he is part of a gang of terrorists from an unnamed European country who are planning a series of attacks in London, though, their exact motives are not made clear. Verloc's contact is disappointed that the newspapers mocked the short loss of electricity, and instructs Verloc to place a parcel of "firecrackers" at the Piccadilly Circus tube station London Underground station. Verloc tells the contact that he is not comfortable with any act that would cause the loss of life.
Meanwhile, Scotland Yard suspects Verloc's involvement in the plot and assigns Detective Sergeant Ted Spencer (John Loder (actor)) to investigate Verloc. Spencer is initially undercover as a greengrocer's helper next to the cinema, and befriends Mrs. Verloc and her little brother, Stevie (Desmond Tester), who lives with them, by treating them to a fancy dinner. At this point, Spencer and Scotland Yard are unsure whether Mrs. Verloc is complicit in the terrorist plots or merely innocently unaware.
Verloc goes to a bird shop to meet his contact, who is actually a bomb-maker. The contact tells Verloc the time and place of where he is must deliver the bomb -- all Verloc has to do is place the bomb at the Tube station at 1:45 on Saturday, as it is actually a time bomb that will already be set. Later that night, the associates of the terrorist group are having a meeting in Verloc's living room above the cinema. Detective Spencer attempts to eavesdrop on the conversation, but he is found. His cover is blown by one of the terrorist associates, and Verloc realizes that the police are investigating him. The meeting ends abruptly and the members scatter, worried that they are all being followed. Verloc tells his wife the police are investigating him, and he confirms with the greengrocer that Spencer was with Scotland Yard.
The next day, the Domestic Canary are delivered to Verloc -- a present for Stevie -- and the bomb is located within their cage. Detective Spencer shows up with Stevie and tells Mrs. Verloc of Scotland Yard's suspicions that he is involved in sabotage. Verloc sees his wife and Spencer talking, and becomes nervous. Before Spencer comes to question Verloc, he tells Stevie to deliver a film canister to the cloak room under Piccadilly Circus, but he was unknowingly carrying the time bomb for Verloc. The boy had become distracted along the way by street sideshows, which had delayed its delivery, and thus, the bomb exploded en route to its final target.
Verloc confesses to his wife, but then blames Scotland Yard and Spencer for Stevie's death, saying that they were the ones who prevented Verloc from successfully carrying out the bomb delivery himself. Soon afterwards, as Verloc and his wife are preparing to eat dinner, she stabs him to death with a knife. When Spencer arrives to arrest Verloc he realizes what has happened, but insists that she shouldn't admit that she killed her husband. Nevertheless, she starts to confess her crime to a policeman. Meanwhile, at this very moment, the terrorist bomb maker sneaks into Verloc's room to retrieve the birdcage that had been used to deliver the bomb out of fear that it might incriminate him. But as the police surround the building, he detonates a Explosive belt he wears in the event he is about to be caught. The explosion and fire interrupts Mrs. Verloc's confession, destroying all evidence of her crime and effectively preventing the policeman from remembering whether it was before or after the explosion that she told him, "My husband is dead!"
At the end we see an uneasy Mrs. Verloc and Ted Spencer walk away together through the crowd.


Hitchcock liberally adapted Joseph Conrad's novel, transforming the highly political Tsarist-era agents provocateurs into foreign agents without any obvious political leanings. Verloc's shop is transformed into a cinema, with the films being shown echoing the story, and the policeman investigating the case is an undercover officer posing as a greengrocer.< name="book"></> Since the film was produced in the years immediately preceding World War II, the unnamed hostile power behind the bombings has been assumed by many viewers to be Nazi Germany.
However, the film does not specify this, and indeed, Verloc's first name has been changed, presumably because his name in the novel, Adolf, had too many connotations by the time the film was made.
Stevie, Mrs Verloc's brother, is portrayed as an ordinary schoolboy, with few of the visionary attributes of his literary counterpart. Stevie's death is a climactic moment in the plot, providing insight into Hitchcock's views about how the innocent suffer through random acts of violence.
Mrs. Verloc was Sylvia Sidney’s only role for Hitchcock. Reportedly, they did not warm to each other and she used to work for him again.


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    Category:1936 films
    Category:1930s thriller films
    Category:Black-and-white films
    Category:British films
    Category:British spy films
    Category:British thriller films
    Category:English-language films
    Category:Films based on mystery novels
    Category:Films based on works by Joseph Conrad
    Category:Films directed by Alfred Hitchcock
    Category:Films set in a movie theatre
    Category:Films about terrorism
    Category:Films set in London
    Category:Psychological thriller films
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