Strangers on a Train (1951)

Director:  Alfred Hitchcock
Studios:  Warner Bros.
Starring:  Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman
Tagline:  It's Off the Beaten Track!
MPAA Rating:  PG
Genre:  thriller, psychological thriller, suspense, crime, mystery, black and white
Scare score:  C+
Rating:  A-

Plot overview:  While heading to visit and discuss divorce with his unfaithful wife Miriam (Laura Elliott), amateur tennis star Guy Haines (Granger) crosses paths with eccentric and good-for-nothing socialite Bruno Anthony (Walker) on a train.  Bruno wastes no time in prying into Guy's "private" life - which the tabloids are currently exploiting - and although Guy remains shy, Bruno goes so far as to explain his idea of how to pull off the perfect murder.  But when Bruno takes this exchange too far and begins acting on his plan, all signs point to Guy as the guilty party.  Will Guy be able to clear his name and save himself from Bruno's antics?

Ever since I saw a CSI episode when I was 10 where this movie title was dropped (leading to a brutal murder via screwdriver to the back of the head), I have wanted to see it - not sure why I waited so long!  Obviously this film has been very famous for over 60 years now and for a good reason.  This movie was very enjoyable, not only because it's Hitch and I love him, but because on one hand we have a lovely black and white classic, and on the other we have an entertaining thriller.  From the beginning I was never quite sure where the plot was headed, and I found myself doubting various characters.  They proved me wrong a few times, and even the ending managed to surprise me.

The plot itself is interesting although I didn't find it to be the most plausible thing ever thrown at us (not that the events of The Birds are much more likely...)  Let's be honest.  Bruno's mother should realize her son is psychotic.  If I were her, I would get him help and then separate myself from him.  If I were Guy, and an obsessive weirdo approached me on a train, I would never let him discuss details of my intimate life solely because the tabloids have exploited them.  I would ask him to please stop talking to me.  The minute he brought up murder plots, I would become extremely concerned.  And furthermore, if that same man ever actually killed, thinking he was doing me a favor, I would go straight to the police.  No, they wouldn't pin it on me simply because a "stranger" did it.  Law enforcement doesn't work that way.  So what if they saw me fighting with the victim shortly beforehand?  Silly Guy.

Miriam is so perfectly evil.  I mean, we practically have to hate her as soon as she starts toying with Guy in her first scene.  I guess Bruno does some good after all...  Speaking of that crazy Bruno, Robert Walker does a really good job of creating this creepy, annoying, eccentric character.  Bruno is so irksome, so irritating- so crazy.  Kudos to him.

I was a huge fan of Ruth Roman in the role of Anne Morton, the strong and beautiful daughter of the Senator.  She was a perfect, dedicated love interest for Guy, staying true to him even after learning about the situation in which he has become entangled.  I feel like all these old Hollywood movies have some beautiful starlet tucked into the cast.

Lastly, I was Team Guy from the first scene on the train.  Granger plays him expertly as a likable, honest character.  There was something very innocent, very human about this performance.  It seemed effortless, like Guy was a real, well, guy that you or I might know.  Obviously Horror Buff spends his free time swinging with a young tennis crowd in Southampton.  Back to Farley/ Guy, it's easy to sympathize with him, and that being said, I am pretty happy with how things work out.

My one problem, however, is that, based solely on how he reacts to the whole situation, Guy is clearly guilty in this movie.  The minutes he becomes aware that Bruno has committed a murder, and the second he decides not to go to the police, he becomes a criminal in my book.


So like, sure, maybe everything ends all fine and dandy for him- but he's a criminal.  There's no other way around it.  Sure I'm no law student, but I don't think he should be off the hook at the end of the movie.  And these are the characters we have going into politics...

My favorite scene was probably the one on the carousel towards the end of the movie.  I think they did a nice job of building up the tension here, and I liked the effects.  Also, I appreciated that the whole thing sort of crashed, sending innocent people off in various directions.  It's nice when actual things happen harming random characters, making the film more realistic than if they had spared them in some stupid way.  The train scenes were also enjoyable and interesting.

Final critique:  You should see this movie.  It shouldn't scare you (it gets a C+ for effort), but, as always, Hitch does a nice job of making us sweat.  Again, the plot isn't too realistic, but the story is presented in an attractive manner that we can really get hooked on.  It's the type of movie that reminds me why I love Hitchcock and why I love old movies.  There is some honest, human acting here that gets the job done without being over the top.  Plus, there's a lot more to the film than meets the eyes, or so I felt, regarding various subtexts of society and inward/outward appearances.  If anything, it might make you think again before striking up a conversation with a stranger on a train or subway.