Sabotage The Woman Alone (1936)
Pretty classic movie. It’s sort of a classic spy movie from this era because the “spy” element is assumed and not explicitly explored. Oskar Homolka was absolutely great at Verloc: a petty, greedy local asset who is used by a foreign agency to commit acts of sabotage and terrorism. Either any British audience member of the time would have assumed German agents or not care enough to wonder who the ones manipulating Verloc were. Sylvia Sidney was alright, in appearance she looked like a Betty Booped Kristen Schaal but her best moments came too late in the movie for my taste. For Hitchcock it was all about making a thriller and having spy elements in the story just made it better. He lived for these moments of exquisite tension like the boy carrying the package and the husband/wife moment at the dinner table afterwards. I’ll be honest, in both situations I should have known better but he surprised me with how they turned out.
For arm-chair intelligence critics, I thought this movie was a nice description of how despite constant surveillance and reasonably developed intelligence, a terrorist cell can still pull off an act of terror.
I wouldn’t say this one has to make a “spy” movie list but it is worth seeing along with more explicitly spy/espionage movies mostly for its understated elements.