I’m not generally a huge fan of the “fugitive man, wrongly accused” genre, but if you watch enough Hitchcock you can’t really avoid it. “Saboteur” (1942) puts the theme into the context of World War II, with generally good effect.
As the film begins, Barry Kane and his best friend, employee in a airplane factory in California, run up against Mr. Fry, a grumpy, standoffish fellow war worker who isn’t the least bit grateful when Barry helps him pick up some envelopes and money that he dropped on the way to their break. Only moments later, when a fire breaks out in the factory, Fry hands them a fire extinguisher which has been filled with gasoline. Barry’s best friend dies in the resulting conflagration, and when Fry disappears it looks to the police like Barry must’ve been behind the sabotage.
Barry, played by Robert Cummings, takes off to the address he saw on Fry’s envelope, the only clue he has to finding the real culprit. But his name and description are being spread all across the state because he’s a wanted man.
As he works his way across the state, and then the country, finding a ring of saboteurs and trying to foil their nefarious plot, Barry is helped by a variety of characters, even some who either knew who he was or knew he was wanted by the law, including the other main character, Pat (Priscilla Lane; you knew there had to be a beautiful blonde in an Alfred Hitchcock film). Although he’s obviously the good guy once you get to know him, this struck me as odd for its time. I suppose the fact that the police eventually come around to the right side, along with the various pro-American speeches peppered throughout, was good enough for wartime censors.
If you’re wondering if you’ve seen this before, it’s the Hitchcock film with the climactic scene on top of the Statue of Liberty. If you haven’t, it’s worth watching just for that.