Based on the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name, Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) is crime-noir classic, and easily recognized as one of the Master of Suspense’s best American films. The film stars Farley Granger as Guy Haines, a tennis pro whose contentious marriage is constantly mentioned in all the papers. Whilst traveling by train, Haines happens to be approached by Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), a friendly, albeit eccentric man, whose well-aware of Guy’s tennis fame and marital woes.
While making friendly conversation, Bruno casually reveals to Guy his perfect plan to get rid of his hated father–he intends to swap murders with a stranger, committing a motiveless murder for someone else while they in turn kill his father. Bruno gives an example by suggesting that if Guy promises to murder his father, than he [Bruno] will kill Guy’s wife Miriam (Kasey Rogers), freeing him to marry his newest crush, Anne Morton (Ruth Roman), the beautiful daughter of a U.S. Senator.
Guy dismisses Bruno’s ‘crazy talk’, and leaves without agreeing to anything, believing he will never see Bruno again–that is, until Bruno murders Miriam and then visits Guy at his home to ensure he keeps up his end of the ‘bargain’. But when Guy doesn’t show signs of actually going through with the murder swap, an angered Bruno begins to plant evidence and attempt to frame Guy for the Miriam’s murder, eventually leading to a violent confrontation on one of the most deadly carousels in cinematic history.
With Highsmith providing the basic story, pulp-fiction author Raymond Chandler serving as one of the screenwriters, and the Master of Suspense himself serving as director, it should come as no surprise that Hitchcock’s film turns out to be a suspenseful, taut, psychologically deep story. All three artists involved are more than talented and well-versed in the art of murder and suspense, leading to the creation of one of the most taut thrillers to ever come out of the 1950’s.
Farley Granger, who previously appeared in Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller, Rope as a young murderer, gets to play the sympathetic hero in Strangers, a job that he easily and successfully pulls of. Granger’s natural charisma, combined with his acting talents and timing, results in his creation of a protagonist that’s worth cheering for as he’s unwittingly pulled into a psychotic murder scheme by the deranged and creepy Bruno. Meanwhile, Granger’s opposite–Robert Walker–does an equally satisfying job playing the murderous Bruno. Walker’s greatest attribute is his ability to rein in and restrain his madness just before he goes too over-the-top with the character’s dementia, thus grounding Bruno somewhat and portraying him as an eccentric, but nevertheless, realistic and frightening psychopath.
And though not even a great film like Strangers is completely perfect–the film’s latter half hasn’t necessarily aged all that well, and at times the dialogue can be a little vapid at times–these flaws are minor and few in between, and thanks to Hitchcock’s talents and abilities, the film still remains a fun and thrillingly tense picture despite its minor defects. For anyone looking for a fun and thrilling way to spend the weekend, look no further than Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, which will provide more than a few jolts of excitement this weekend.
Find the nearest Blockbuster near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.