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Strangers on a Train
Genre Thriller
Year: 1951
Strangers on a Train is classic Alfred Hitchcock magic in black and white. It’s primary message is one that everyone echoes when you’re young, don’t talk to strangers. In this Hitchcock suspense, thriller we meet Guy Haines (Farley Granger), a tennis player with a nasty divorce around the bend. He’s in love with Anne Morton (Ruth Roman), the senator’s daughter. In comes Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), a psychopathic socialite who seems to know Haines better than he does himself. The two share a Scotch on the train, and Bruno delivers his “criss-cross” theory on how they could make each other’s lives a whole lot better. Unfortunately for Haines, Bruno isn’t joking.

The film creates tension in the words we say, and the actions that complement them. Haines’ ill wishes for Miriam Haines (Kasey Rogers) are withdrawn and regret sets in as soon as they are granted. It’s the story of a seemingly innocent man, who gets drawn into a web of confusion, and loses his footing. Granger plays Haines with a cool, level-headed disposition. He’s a man that knows what he wants, but wants to play the game legally. Walker gives Bruno a psychotic edge, and once again a mother complex comes into play. Bruno is effeminate, lethal and crazed. Anthony has an unrelenting obsession for Haines’ life, and wants to bring him back down to earth.

Hitchcock’s stamp of class is all over this film. The crisp camera work, beautifully framed shots, his impressive take on the tennis match and malevolence at the fairground make this one of his best efforts. It’s the tension between those that have, and those that have not that sustains this classic thriller. It was nominated for an Oscar for best cinematography in 1952, and Hitchcock was nominated for a DGA for his work on Strangers on a Train. The editing creates tension in the juxtaposition of scenes between the tennis match and Bruno’s recovery of the evidence.

Hitchcock gets what he wants from Granger and Walker. Unfortunately for Walker this would be his last complete feature film. The thought of killing a complete stranger is unthinkable in this Hitchcock special. Bruno’s hate for his father has driven him to kill, and although his conscience won’t catch up with him, the law might. Strangers on a Train is a classic, and is not to be missed. If you’ve never been interested in watching film classics, you may want to avoid this. The power of this film is in the relevance it has for today.

The bottom line: Thrilling.

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