Classic Movie Review: Strangers on a Train (1951)

Title: Strangers on a Train
Release Date: June 30, 1951
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Production Company: Transatlantic Pictures

Two men meet on a train leaving Washington, DC. One is a tennis star with aspirations for going into politics, Guy Haines (Farley Granger).  The other is Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), a layabout son of a wealthy family. Bruno initiates conversation and soon reveals that he knows a lot about Guy, not just his tennis accomplishments, but his personal life as well, and perhaps this meeting is not happenstance.

Bruno knows that Guy wants to marry the daughter of a US Senator, Anne Morton (Ruth Roman), but first has to divorce his unfaithful wife Miriam (Laura Elliott).  Bruno floats the idea of murdering Miriam in exchange for Guy killing Bruno’s father, a “murder swap” where neither man would have motive for the crime.  Guy tries to brush off the proposal as a joke, but Bruno takes it as agreement.

After killing Miriam at an amusement park, Bruno consistently harasses Guy to carry out his part of the deal.  The tension builds over whether or not Guy will be pressured to go along with the plan as the police begin to make a case against him as Miriam’s murderer.  Or, what will Bruno do if Guy continues to resist.  I have to say the movie played out in ways I didn’t expect, although it veered into melodrama at times.

This being a Hitchcock film there are some great technical moments.  Miriam’s murder is depicted reflected in her broken glasses on the ground, a startlingly beautiful shot for such an horrifying event. The denouement of the film plays out at the same amusement park aboard a merry-go-round that’s spinning out of control, which is filmed spectacularly (although I think it’s wrong that no one in the movie never acknowledges that the police shot and killed the ride operator).  Patricia Hitchcock (the director’s daughter) has a great role as Barbara Morton, Anne’s younger sister who takes a lurid interest in the details of the murder.

Rating: ***

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