+100%- Print This Post
October 1, 2022 | Rome, Italy

Strangers on a Train

By | 2018-03-21T18:52:54+01:00 January 18th, 2013|Reviews|


Date: 1951

Director: Alfred Hitchock

Starring: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock, Laura Elliott

Hitchcock’s lastingly deft study of madness, murder, and obsession and is perhaps the finest slow-burner of his long career. It opens benignly, almost awkwardly, and remains parked, concealed almost, until the beginning of a thumping, whirlwind climax that features a literally thrilling assortment of physical and mechanical motion, including a tense tennis match and the movie-stealing runaway merry-go-round.

Farley Granger is Guy Haines, a celebrated amateur tennis player who meets odd and Svengali-like Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) on a New York-bound train. From the start, dapper Bruno knows far too much, including social climbing Guy’s love affair with a senator’s daughter and the purpose of his trip, to agree on a divorce with his unfaithful wife Miriam. From the moment pushy and intrusive Bruno introduces the idea of the possibility of a perfect murder, “a criss-cross,” he calls it — with his killing the inconvenient Miriam and Guy returning the favor by murdering his loathed father — Hitchcock enters stalker territory that is destined to thicken. Sure enough, the driven Bruno makes shockingly good on his murderous end, using a cigarette lighter Guy left behind on the train as leverage to force the panicked younger man’s hand.

Bruno is a self-styled “very clever fellow,” a wealthy and charming lunatic, his sly grin chock with madcap schemes. Pre-“Psycho,” Hitchcock serves up an eccentric mother to lay the foundations for Bruno, whose repressed, homoerotic mischief has grown into full-blown adult wrath. Walker portrays this delusional instability with exceptional bravura, forcing himself to the center of the film and insinuating himself as Guy’s dark-side double. “Good” Guy’s sudden “why me?” predicament also reflects Red Scare paranoia prevalent at the time.

Two set pieces, the amusement park killing (an arousal-turned-murderous) and the climactic 10-minute focus on the out-of-control carousal, are rightly legendary. Hitchcock turned over Patricia Highsmith’s debut novel to Raymond Chandler for a screenplay, but the men bickered and parted ways, with the final version cobbled together based on Hitchcock’s vision. The 33-year-old Walker, long troubled by mental illness and drug addiction, died only two months after the film’s June 1951 release.

About the Author:

A military brat, Marcia Yarrow was born in Hamburg, Germany but grew up in Germany, Spain, and Provo, Utah. She's been writing for the magazine since its creation in 2004.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!