Saturday, October 11, 2014

Strangers on a Train

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train is the story of a tennis player who meets a charming psychopath where they conspire to kill someone where things eventually become troubling when one isn’t unable to fulfill the deed. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and screenplay by Raymond Chandler, Whitfield Cook, and Czenzi Ormonde, the film is an exploration into a deal two men make where one fulfills the duty and the other doesn’t that leads to an exploration of guilt. Starring Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, and Robert Walker. Strangers on a Train is a very dark yet extremely fun film from Alfred Hitchcock.

The film revolves around two different men who meet at a train station where they have a conversation as a tennis pro isn’t convinced that the man he talked to will kill his wife for him. Instead, the pro finds himself in trouble when he learns that the psychopath he met has done the dead and wants him to kill his father in return. It’s a film that plays into the idea of deals that are made as the tennis pro Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is trying to get a divorce yet things become complicated when his estranged wife refuses to the divorce proceedings because of money. After another conversation with this man named Bruno (Robert Walker), Guy realizes what he got himself into as he becomes a murder suspect as he’s also being pulled to fulfill the deal for Bruno who wants his father killed so he can get his inheritance.

The film’s screenplay starts off innocently where Guy meets Bruno on a train to his hometown where Guy is meeting his estranged wife Miriam (Kasey Rogers) to finalize the divorce proceedings. Yet, the film then becomes this question of guilt as well as the need to fulfill a favor for someone as Guy finds himself in trouble as he’s being watched by the police as well as Bruno who wants him to kill his father. There isn’t just a sense of guilt that roams around Guy but also the sense of fear over the fact that he’s a suspect and has a debt that needs to be fulfilled where things get more troubling when Bruno starts to appear in Guy’s own world. Especially where things in the third act has Guy realizing that his fiancee Anne (Ruth Roman) and her family whose father is a U.S. Senator are in danger where Anne would even make realizations of what is going as she tries to help out.

Alfred Hitchcock’s direction is truly exhilarating for the way he creates the air of suspense while playing around with its rhythms in order to keep the audience in their toes and to see what is happening. Though it starts off in a very nice way where Guy and Bruno meet on a train while it is followed by Guy’s meeting with Miriam that doesn’t go very well as it suggests that Guy might go along with what Bruno is suggesting. The sequence in the fair where Bruno does his job is one that is very slow-building in the way the suspense plays out. Hitchcock takes his time in using medium shots and close-ups to play into the sense of terror along with some nifty visual effects.

It adds to the element of terror while Hitchcock would also amp up the drama for scenes where Guy is with Anne’s family as it includes a tennis match that is very engaging in the film’s third act. The sense of drama is at times light-hearted but also discomforting once Bruno appears in Guy’s world including a party scene that is very chilling when he frightens Anne’s sister Barbara (Patricia Hitchcock). All of which would lead to Anne to play a key part into the mystery as she knows what happened as she becomes a danger to herself. There’s also some MacGuffins that are used in the film such as a lighter that Guy has which does play as a unique plot device that would drive the third act that involves this terrifying confrontation between Guy and Bruno. Overall, Hitchcock creates a very sensational and gripping film about a man who makes a bad bargain with a psychopath.

Cinematographer Robert Burks does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to create some unique moods in the lighting and its use of shadows for the scenes set at night as well as a very straightforward yet entrancing look to the daytime scenes. Editor William H. Ziegler does excellent work with the editing in creating some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense as it is one of the film‘s major highlights. Art director Ted Haworth and set decorator George James Hopkins do superb work with the set pieces such as the train and the look of the fair as well as the homes that the characters live in.

The special effects work of Hans F. Koenekamp is amazing for some of the things that occur such as a pair of glasses reflecting on a murder and the scenes set in the merry-go-round. The sound work of Dolph Thomas is fantastic for the way the sound plays into the suspense such as the screams and voices for characters off-screen as well as some of the moments that goes on in the fair. The film’s music by Dmitri Tiomkin is wonderful for its orchestral-driven score where it’s upbeat early on and then it gets darker with some brooding string arrangements to play into the film’s suspense.

The film’s phenomenal cast as it features some notable small roles from Norma Varden as a party guest that Bruno charms, John Brown as a professor Guy meets on a train who could’ve been his alibi, Robert Gist as a detective hired to follow Guy, Marion Lorne as Bruno’s eccentric mother, Jonathan Hale as Bruno’s father whom Bruno wants dead, and Leo G. Carroll as Anne’s Senator father who tries to help Guy through his own connections. Patricia Hitchcock is terrific as Anne’s younger sister Barbara who also helps in the investigation as she becomes a key figure in uncovering Bruno as the killer while Kasey Rogers, in her Laura Elliott pseudonym, is excellent as Guy’s estranged wife Miriam who takes advantage of Guy’s money as she decides not to divorce him as she angers Guy.

Ruth Roman is amazing as Guy’s girlfriend Anne who is worried about the murder as she realizes why Guy might be involved upon meeting Bruno as it’s a very well-written and smart role that could’ve been very typical but Roman makes the character so engaging to watch. Farley Granger is brilliant as Guy Haines as a tennis pro who is dealing with a marriage that went wrong as he finds himself in a bad situation that has him feeling guilty and scared. Finally, there’s Robert Walker in an incredible performance as Bruno as this very charming man who can talk his way through anything and always maintain a sense of control while being someone can drive Guy to despair as it’s really one of the finest villains in film.

Strangers on a Train is a remarkable film from Alfred Hitchcock. Armed with a great cast as well as an intriguing story on guilt and deals gone wrong, it’s a film that explores a man who unknowingly makes a deal with the devil as it’s one of Hitchcock’s most entertaining films. In the end, Strangers on a Train is a spectacular film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Films: (Number 13) - (The Pleasure Garden) - (The Blackguard) - (The Mountain Eagle) - (The Lodger) - (A Story of the London Fog) - (The Ring) - (Downhill) - (The Farmer’s Wife) - (Easy Virtue) - (Champagne) - (The Manxman) - (Blackmail) - (Juno and the Paycock) - (Murder!) - (The Skin Game) - (Mary) - (Lord Camber’s Ladies) - (Rich and Strange) - (Number Seventeen) - (Waltzes from Vienna) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film)) - The 39 Steps - (Secret Agent) - (Sabotage) - (Young and Innocent) - The Lady Vanishes - (Jamaica Inn) - (Rebecca) - (Foreign Correspondent) - (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) - Suspicion - (Saboteur) - (Shadow of a Doubt) - Bon Voyage - Lifeboat - (Spellbound) - (Notorious) - (The Paradine Cage) - Rope - (Under Capricorn) - (Stage Fright) - I Confess - Dial M for Murder - Rear Window - To Catch a Thief - (The Trouble with Harry) - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 film) - (The Wrong Man) - Vertigo - North by Northwest - Psycho - The Birds - Marnie - (Torn Curtain) - (Topaz) - (Frenzy) - (Family Plot)

© thevoid99 2014


Roman J. Martel said...

This is one of my favorite Hitchcock films, and not one I see to many people talk about when they discuss his work. As you pointed it out, it has some amazing sequences of suspense, and some of the dialogue is black humor at its best.

thevoid99 said...

I think it is one of his best as there's a lot of films of Hitchcock I'm sure that isn't talked about very much as this one needs to get more attention. I enjoyed the hell out of it.