Strangers on a Train
strangers on a train | alfred hitchcock | raymond chandler | czenzi ormonde | farley granger | robert walker | ruth roman | psychopath | crime | film noir | film-noir | thriller | united states | based on | novel | patricia highsmith | leo g. carroll | patricia hitchcock
Film: Strangers on a Train
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Raymond Chandler and Czenzi Ormonde
Starring: Farley Granger, Robert Walker and Ruth Roman
I originally saw this film when I had decided to check out the filmography for Alfred Hitchcock. After my original viewing, I found it interesting, but not my favorite by him. Recently for October, my local theater was showing some of his films, so I decided to check this one out again. It isn’t necessarily horror, but I think after reading this, you will see why I lump it in. The official synopsis is a psychotic socialite attempts to force a professional tennis star to prove a theory that two complete strangers can get away with murder.
For this film, we start on a train as it is heading away from Washington D.C. Two strangers bump their legs together. One of them is a semi-pro tennis player, Guy Haines (Farley Granger). He is keeping to himself, but the other man is Bruno Antony (Robert Walker). Despite what he says, he sparks up conversation with Guy and convinces him to have lunch in his car.
It is here that we realize Bruno knows a lot about Guy from the newspapers. He knows that he is married, but that he is trying to get a divorce to marry the daughter of a senator. Bruno proposes killing Guy’s wife and having Guy kill his father. He thinks that this removes the motive and they both get away with it. Guy laughs it off as he gets off the train.
We then see that his wife, Miriam Joyce Haines (Kasey Rogers), isn’t just ready to get a divorce, even though she is pregnant with another man’s baby and is going out on dates with multiple men. Guy is furious and tells Anne Morton (Ruth Roman) how he wishes he could strangle her neck.
That is exactly what happens when Bruno goes to Guy’s hometown. He then starts to hound Guy to hold his end of the bargain. The police make Guy the prime suspect. We get to learn more about Bruno and that there’s something not quite right about him. He threatens Guy that if he doesn’t kill his father, he’ll frame him in as the murderer of Miriam.
To really understand this film, I had to try to think about the implications of the time. The first thing is that forensic evidence isn’t what is today. I did find a big plot hole that Bruno is going to leave the lighter at the scene of the crime days after it happened. I would assume that area would be canvassed pretty extensively for evidence. There also isn’t a lot of evidence pointing to Guy aside from him wanting a divorce. I would think that they would need a little more to be that sure he was the killer.
This film did have some good pacing to it. There is a feeling of dread that comes from how creepy Bruno is. There is an iconic scene where at a tennis match; everyone is watching the ball while he is intently staring at Guy. It is part funny, but also quite creepy. I thought the ending sequence was pretty good as well. I do think that it makes sense how things play out and how Guy sneaking away ends up solving everything.
Acting for this film was pretty good as well. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Granger. He comes off as really moody. I didn’t really connect with him outside I didn’t want him framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Other than that he isn’t overly likeable. Now his girlfriend Roman was pretty good. I like the realism that she isn’t sure about Guy until she sees the evidence. Walker was great in this film. I thought as the psychopath he was damn near perfect. His stare is eerie and we see how unhinged he is. I love when he stares at the Anne’s younger sister, Barbara (Patricia Hitchcock), and he loses control. The reason this happens is interesting. I thought the rest of the cast round out the film just fine for what they needed.
There wasn’t a lot in the way of effects for the film, but for the most part Hitchcock didn’t really need to use a lot since it was based more on the story. The film I thought was shot very well also. The composition of the shots really has a lot of depth to them. He also selected some interesting shots that didn’t look like the easiest to get.
Now with that said, this film isn’t necessarily horror, but it is definitely right there on the fringe. We are dealing with a man who murdered someone and then is pushing someone to commit one for them. Bruno is insane and the lengths that he goes to create a growing sense of dread. To go with that, he is driving Guy into madness. I thought the story was interesting despite some minor plot holes. I thought the acting was pretty good as was the look of the film. There weren’t much in the way of effects and the score didn’t really stand out, but I won’t hold either against this film. I don’t think it is his best, but it is still an above average film.
My Rating: 7 out of 10