Saturday, July 28, 2012

Strangers on a Train by Alfred Hitchcock

This psychological thriller begins with a seemingly chance meeting, between two men, on a train. Guy Haines is a professional tennis player with aspirations of pursuing a career in politics. Bruno Anthony is a ne'er-do-well with an Oedipus complex from a wealthy, privileged family. Bruno approaches Guy, drawn by his status as a pro athlete. "I certainly admire people who do things," Bruno enthuses.

In the midst of a steady stream of chatter, Bruno reveals that he has a problem he wants to get rid of: his father. Apparently the patriarch has tired of Bruno living off the family fortune without contributing to society. Bruno wants him dead. Furthermore, he's read about Guy in the gossip columns and knows he wants a divorce from his difficult wife, Miriam, so he can marry the woman he loves. Bruno has an interesting theory about how to pull off the perfect murder. If two men were to commit each other's murders, Guy killing Bruno's father and Bruno killing Guy's wife, no one would suspect the perpetrators. After all, neither of them had a motive to go after his victim.

Guy is repulsed by the idea. Yet there are several moments, which highlight why this is such a great psychological movie, when the viewer suspects he'll give into temptation.

The two men part. Guy seems to dismiss Bruno as a relatively harmless lunatic, and they go their separate ways. Nevertheless, Bruno is intent on putting his plan into motion. The result is a series of events that close in around Guy, threatening to destroy his future and his relationship with the woman he loves.

I can't believe I waited this long to see this movie -- it may be my favorite of the Hitchcock films I've seen so far. It is cleverly plotted and well paced, with strong acting and several satisfyingly insane characters. My sidekick, MovieBuff25, was rather partial to Bruno as a sociopathic mama's boy. And the cinematography is wonderful. In keeping with classic film noir style, most of the scenes are dimly lit, and there's an interesting interplay between light and darkness throughout the movie. An example is an unforgettable scene when Bruno follows some unsuspecting victims through a tunnel at an amusement park. We see only their shadows on the dimly lit wall of the tunnel, and Bruno's shadow seems to gradually gain on theirs, eventually swallowing it up.

There are too many other memorable shots to count. For example, I loved the moment when a murder is committed, after the victim's glasses have fallen to the ground, and we see the heinous crime dimly reflected in the lenses of the glasses. We barely glimpse the crime, yet that image is more memorable for me than most of the bloody, graphic acts of violence I've seen onscreen.

The suspense continues to intensify, climaxing in an intense scene on a runaway carousel. The continuing game of "cat and mouse," as well as the complex interplay between the characters, kept me guessing until the end.


  1. I love that scene you described about the crime being reflected on the victim's glasses. So much more effective and arresting than the scene being directly filmed on screen.

  2. I like Hitchcock films, the original Psycho being my favorite. Like you mention, he had the ability to We barely give us a glimpse of the crime, yet it was just enough to terrify.
    Great post! I stumbled across your blog and am glad I did :)

    1. Thanks! I just subscribed to your blog, too.

  3. Ah, I love Strangers on a Train! Essential Hitchcock right here. Great review, and very cool of you to make multiple mentions of the film's excellent cinematography. Hitch really knew how to manipulate those shadows.

    Also, I just gave you the Liebster Blog Award. Jump over to my blog to check it out!


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