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Strangers on a Train Strangers On A Train
Reviewer: Richard Tara
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock, Kasey Rogers, Marion Lorne

This movie has been remade in different formats, mostly for TV, several times. None come even close to the original. This tense drama is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best. Unlike many of his movies such as North by North West and The Birds, it actually has a plausible plot line.

Two men meet on a train, a tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) and Psychopath Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker.) Guy Haines, who is married, is having an affair with a Senator’s daughter Anne Morton (Ruth Roman.) He is married to Miriam, a bitch, who refuses to give him a divorce. Bruno, on the other hand, hates his father and is looking for a way to murder him without implicating himself. They jokingly make a pact to execute two perfect murders by getting rid of each other’s problem. Except Bruno takes it seriously and kills Farley’s promiscuous wife at an amusement park and demands that Farley kill his father in return or else. Guy is a simpleton, but he is no killer, and finds himself as the prime suspect for the murder of his wife. Bruno decides to frame Guy by planting incriminating evidence at the scene of the crime.

Hitchcock chose Farley Granger to play Guy Haines, a simple minded sportsman who is easily manipulated, a patsy in other words. He chose Robert Walker to play the smooth debonair psychopath who does not feel any guilt about murder. Robert Walker was a natural as Bruno. According to Alfred Hitchcock’s wife, he was a loony character in real life. Ruth Roman played Anne Morton. Ruth was a woman of distinctive beauty. She did not look like any other actress then or now. She had a distinguishing loveliness that put her in a different class, all by herself. This was probably one of her best roles. Also, appearing were Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia as Ruth Roman’s sister (Barbara) and Laura Elliott as Guy’s wife Miriam.

In the 40’s and 50’s, many movies were made in black and white because the studios did not have the budget for color stock and saved their money for epics such as The Ten Commandments and Quo Vadis. Strangers on a Train is a dark story of shadows and bright lights and a night on a dark island in an amusement park. In short the mood is best captured by a skillful cinematographer, Robert Burks, who knew about angles and intensity of light. As mentioned earlier, the story was original and believable. Consider North by Northwest, one of Hitchcock’s most successful movies. It really was more comical than dramatic. Cary Grant attacked by a crop duster and then hit by a truck and surviving? Or what about Cary Grant climbing the face of Mount Rushmore? As for The Birds; a collective intelligence of birds deciding to attack humans? Strangers on a Train is based on a mutual murder pact, something realistic. In the hands of the master, it becomes a masterpiece classic.

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