Strangers on a Train (1951)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Raymond Chandler & Czenzi Ormonde

Again we have yet another Hitchcock film that is held is pretty high regard and yet again it is a thriller/mystery. Hitchcock was a master at this genre and never really went away from it in his career, though there was little reason for him to do so when pretty much every film he was making was an instant classic. Other than a few story ideas, however, Hitchcock did not have his hand in writing these marvelous films. The screenplays were written by any number of people and so often they were great ones, but it still remains that Hitchcock had his hands over each and every one of them, making them what they are today, classics.

Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a fairly successful tennis professional. But he has some personal issues going on in his life. His wife, Miriam (Kasey Rodgers), has left him and wants a divorce, which is all well and good since Guy has met Anne Morton (Ruth Roman) and wishes to marry her. But when Miriam changes her mind, after another man gets her pregnant and runs off, Guy finds himself in a tight spot. That is until he meets Bruno (Robert Walker) on a train one day. Bruno proposes the perfect murders: two complete strangers murder the person the other needs out of the way. So when Bruno takes matters into his own hands, Guy finds himself in a pickle.

Again, I don’t know how these kinds of stories come to Hitchcock, perhaps because screenwriters, and the studio, knew he was the master and could do so much with already dynamite stories. This film is no different. There is tension throughout and it is even built upon, setting up one of the tensest finales I have seen in a while. I must admit, however, that there were times while watching when I wondered why Guy didn’t just go to the authorities with the truth of the matter. There is some talked about why he could not, and how Bruno pretty much had Guy right where he wanted him, but still, I was never completely sold on the dire situation.

The acting is what really made the thrill as thrilling as it was though. Robert Walker played a great psychopath, sure to incite fear and tension into any viewer. I was reminded of Robert Mitchum’s great performance in Cape Fear, which came out about 10 years later. They even look somewhat similar. The only person I may have to take exception to was Pat Hitchcock, yes, the director’s daughter, go figure. And really it is only a minor complaint, but he character, Anne’s sister Barbara, was annoying just a little bit.

And to build off the annoying nature of Barbara, there were some misplaced lines and awkward editing. But all those minor complaints aside, I really enjoyed the film and it is just another winner from Hitchcock. This is the 26th Hitchcock film I have seen and to this point there have only been a few I disliked (I watched about 20 of his first films before he came to Hollywood). But the vast majority have been anywhere from very good to masterpiece. The true sign of a great director is all the very good films that remain in the background of all the great masterpieces that everyone knows about.

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