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05 December 2011

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Country: USA
Runtime: 98 Minutes
When two strangers meet on a locomotive, their lives change forever- especially for the one known as Guy Haines.  Alfred Hitchcock’s clever murder thriller style stands the test of time as a zestfully entertaining piece of drama. It still has wit and tension by today’s standards with its innovative filmmaking style and unique plot. ‘Strangers’ stand as one of Hitch’s best works because of how intelligently made it is. The film has a great screenplay, great direction and great acting- a darn good film!

A tennis player called Guy Haines (Farley Granger) and Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) meet on a train by chance, and soon the eccentric Bruno comes up with a theory about murder. This leads to the planning of a murder, being crisscrossed murder. Two people with somebody that they want dead- each person does the other person’s murder. Not taken quite literally at first, Guy Haines agrees it is a very good idea, and later discovers that his wife Mariam (Laura Elliot), has been murdered. From this point on, Bruno is stalking Guy as he wants his father murdered, and wants him to do it. 

To begin with, the film unfolds with great Hitchcock auteur. The first 30minutes introduces all the characters and their lives beginning to intertwine. Their chance meeting is the first intriguing thing about the film. The first shots of the film show you different pairs of feet walking, which we later find out is two people boarding a train. Next, we are on the train, one man sits down and another comes and sits facing him. Accidentally, the man brushes the other man’s foot while crossing his legs, and from there, we have out story. It was a well-written way to start the story off and with a great director, it turned out very well indeed. 

The strangling scene was cleverly shot and definitely brilliant to see on screen. When Bruno holds the lighter up to Mariam’s face and asks “Is your name Mariam?” the soft reply she gives makes you sympathetic for her because you, the audience, have a privileged perspective. As she gets strangles, her glasses fall off, one of the films motif’s per-se. The camera looks at the glasses and we see a reflection of Bruno setting her on the ground gently. This is one of the many clever and distinguished shots in the film. 

The acting was definitely A-class. Farley Granger as Guy Haines had a certain unease to him- an innocent man that looked like he had a bit of a devil in him. As for Bruno, played by Robert Walker, we see one of the most charming and amusing villains in classic cinema history. The way he talks, the way he moves and definitely, the eccentric thing she does and says. Elliot played Guy’s somewhat hateful wife, Mariam wonderfully, and although she does not get much screen time, she is great on screen- especially on the spellbinding murder scene. 

Another thing ‘Strangers’ has is an excellent supporting cast. Bruno’s mother played by Marion Lorne is the daffy and odd mother that shows why Bruno is the sort of person he is partly. Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, plays Guy’s sister Barbara, who surprisingly looks like Mariam. Her performance was an entertaining comic relief and the film is overall well rounded with acting talent. 

The film is a book adaption by a novel of the same name written by Patricia Highsmith. Raymond Chandler adapted the screenplay and although I am unfamiliar with the book, the source material must have been rich. This is another terrific example of great book-to-film adaptions, and Hitchcock has done this many times with his film. He reads a good book, loves it and decides that it deserves a film. They commonly turn out successful and this is one of them. 

‘Strangers’ is filled with Hitchcockian trademarks. First, there is his cameo, which features him boarding a train with a cello.  Second is an innocent man being framed as a criminal of a crime he didn’t commit. The third of which is a lesser-known trademark which involves paintings, which we see when Bruno’s mother shows Bruno the painting she made, which Bruno identifies as his father. There is a Hitchcockian flavour to the film, being a suspense murder-mystery film and it definitely stands as one of Hitchcock’s greatest works. If you want to make a start with watching Hitchcock’s films, this is an excellent start.

My Rating: 9/10
 

3 comments:

  1. This is the only Hitchcock film I've seen and I hope that it isn't one of his greatest works. I found this quite ordinary. It had some very good moments and it is definitely a very good movie but that's about it. Nothing spectacular. I liked the characterization though.

    7/10.

    ReplyDelete
  2. terrific review of a film i'd quite like to see, but wheres the star of excellence?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Never has a tennis match in a movie been so filled with tension.

    I've seen this plot repeated in any number of other movies and TV show episodes, including an early episode of Castle.

    ReplyDelete

 

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