Review: Strangers on a Train (1951)

This is the British version, with a different ending, just so that all are aware.

Screenplay By: Raymond Chandler & Czenzi Ormonde
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

On its surface Strangers on a Train is quite preposterous. Not the set-up, not the acting, nothing with the movie itself, but the idea in general behind the murder. Robert Walker makes it so that we completely forget that the murder plot is so farfetched and out there. Mr. Walker commands the screen the moment he enters, there is a clear homosexual nature to his character, but he hides it beneath layers of officiousness. There isn’t a part of his brain that is normal, but he hides this fact under the trappings of a stately manner. It doesn’t matter that the rest of the cast isn’t up to Mr. Walker’s level. Mr. Walker carries them along and propels the movie with his every action. That’s not to say any of the other performances were bad, but in a year full of top level performances none can hold up to Mr. Walker’s.

More than anything like most Alfred Hitchcock efforts Strangers on a Train is big on tone and atmosphere. This is accomplished through beautiful lighting, camera work and neat little touches that you would be less likely to see were this movie helmed by someone other than Sir Hitchcock. Guy Haines takes a step towards Bruno to hide from the cops, and by doing so he enters the dark shadows and doesn’t leave again until Bruno has been disposed of. The knocking together of shoes being a powerful memory for Guy. The death of Miriam as shown through her own glasses is one of the finest camera shots I have ever seen. The shadows in the tunnel of love changing our perceptions of what is really going on. Finally you come to the impossible, a tennis match used as a plot device and a tremendous one at that. Yes, the end carousel scene is full of suspense, but Sir Hitchcock took a tennis match and created an intensity between the match and Bruno’s quest to get the lighter back through a wonderful job of editing. Sir Hitchcock made a tennis match suspenseful and full of intrigue, no small feat I assure you.

I know I’m not the only one to think this and I won’t be the last, but Alfred Hitchcock is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Why it has taken me this long to get around to so many of his classic films I don’t know. But, I am now experiencing them and greatly enjoying them. Strangers on a Train can be added to that list and is a movie that I would strongly recommend for anyone that is into great movies period.



Bill Thompson

4 responses to “Review: Strangers on a Train (1951)

  1. Pingback: Director’s Chair 11… Day One |

  2. Wait, this film has two different endings? Guess it’s time to revisit this one.

    There are a lot of fantastic sequences in this film, especially the tennis match, and while I like a lot of this film overall, it’s not the caliber of my favorite Hitchcock films.

  3. I can’t name a specific reason, but this one really grabbed me. It’s not the best Hitchcock, but I would place it near the top of his catalog.

  4. Pingback: This Week In Cinema: December 01-07, 2013 | Bill's Movie Emporium

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