Readers Recommendations: “Strangers on a Train”

strangers_on_a_trainHey everyone, it’s Friday, time for another entry in the Reader Recommendations series!

The Reader Recommendation series is intended to help me formally pursue all the great films that commenters bring up each week in discussion which I’ve never seen. If there’s a movie that comes up that I haven’t seen, but you think I should, email me @ fogsmoviereviews@gmail.com or let me know in the comments that you’d like to participate!
 
This time up, our movie recommendation comes from Melissa HunterMelissa profile of The Soul of the Plot! Melissa’s selected a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie for us, 1951’s “Strangers on a Train”!
 
I’m a big fan of Hitchcock, and have seen many of his films. But somehow this one has eluded me until now, so I’m all too happy that Melissa gave me the opportunity to formally check it out!
 
Click through to see what we had to say!
 

 
 
 

My questions in bold. Melissa′s answers below.

 
1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?
 
Yeah, I got the DVD as a gift for my birthday; this would have been two or three years ago. It wasn’t the first Hitchcock film I had seen, but it was pretty close, probably the third or fourth. Though I loved it the first time, I have since grown to love it even more because I seem to find something new every time I watch it.

 
2) Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?
 
Strangers on a Train is one of Hitchcock’s best films, and it really shows a lot of the things that he’s known for. It’s very suspenseful, there’s a great murder scene, his classic innocent man wrongly accused plot, an intense climax, and a creepily friendly antagonist.
 
3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?
 
I think Strangers on a Train is fairly represented. It’s not as well-known as Psycho, The Birds, or probably even Vertigo but it was one that I had at least heard of before I really looked into Hitchcock’s films. The plot of two strangers switching murders is used on a lot of crime shows; I know for a fact NCIS and Castle have done it but I would not be surprised if it has showed up elsewhere as well.
 
4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?
 
Well, if you’re a Hitchcock fan, you should see this movie. Period. I remember you saying you hadn’t seen this one, and also saying that you were a Hitchcock fan, so I thought it would be a good fit for this.

 
5) Have you written about the movie yourself? (Insert plug here! LOL )
 
I did write a review of Strangers on a Train last December as part of my Hitchcock marathon:
 
 

Thanks, Melissa! My review is below!

 

When a famous tennis player, Guy Haines (Farley Granger), meets a nosy fan on a train, he gets sucked into conversation with the man. Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) has followed Haines’ exploits and personal life through the society pages of the newspapers. Over drinks and lunch, Antony brings up a series of crazy ideas he’s had… from driving a car blindfolded, to going to the moon. Eventually, though, he brings up an idea for the perfect murder. Two men – complete strangers – commit murders for each other. With no motive, neither would be tied to their actual crimes. And with the opportunity to create a perfect alibi, neither would be proven guilty of the murder they actually wished for. 

Haines has plenty of reason to want someone murdered. His wife has cheated on him, and is pregnant with another man’s child, yet she refuses to grant him a divorce. She’s also threatening to reveal an affair he’s been having with a Senator’s daughter. Bruno, for his part, wants his domineering father killed. He wants it done so badly he’s willing to present his plan to a complete stranger.

Haines is dismissive, however. It’s just crazy talk, from a crazy man. But when Bruno carries through on his end of the bargain unbidden, Haines is caught in a precarious situation. He protests, and refuses to commit his murder. But Bruno isn’t about to give up. He’s killed a woman, and can claim that Haines put him up to it.

The question becomes can Haines get out of following through with his side of things? Or will everything unravel, and the two men get caught?

As with all Hitchcock movies, story is paramount, and suspense abounds. Bruno slowly follows Haines’ wife through a carnival before strangling her. He stalks Haines after the deed is done, and even infiltrates his social circles. The tension mounts as Bruno gets uncomfortably close to Haines and boorishly talks about murder in public. Hitchcock creates numerous anxious situations for the audience to squirm through, in the way that only he can.

The film also a number of Hitchcock’s trademark memorable shots, such as when Bruno watches Haines play tennis, and the crowds’ heads turn left and right as tennis fans will do, yet Bruno stays fixated on Haines, or when Bruno recalls the murder he committed by seeing a reflection in a woman’s glasses. He’s able to combine remarkable camera work, a perfect score, and a great story to create a nail-biting film.

I’ve yet to see a Hitchcock film I didn’t like, and “Strangers on a Train” is no exception. Hitchcock is so good, he can (and does) make a tennis match seem suspenseful. I think that “Strangers” may indeed, be one of his best, potentially top five! Thank you, Melissa, for giving me the opportunity to write it up!

A+

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61 thoughts on “Readers Recommendations: “Strangers on a Train”

  1. This is one of those films a person just knows, even if they haven’t seen it. It is part of the American collective consiousness in some ways. Like Moby Dick. Everyone can outline the story and the message even thought they haven’t read the book. It is so prevelant in our understanding of the world.

    The plot for Strangers on a Train has been used repeatedly in episodic television shows and in other movies. I’m pretty sure I saw a version of it with Sam Neill. Neill’s character meets a woman on a train and they make the same bargan. The woman kills someone close to him and starts stalking and threatening him when he does not kill her target. Only I can’t remember the name of that film. I even looked at his filmography list and I can’t identify it. So maybe it was someone else.

    • Maybe… not ringing a bell, for me.

      But yeah, this IS one of those classic plots, I wonder if the novel it was based on was the first ever to think of it. Probably, right? Anyways, though, one of Hitchcock’s best, without a doubt, and definitely a part of the collective pop culture.

    • Yeah, that was insanely cool, wasn’t it? :D

      I have to fill some of the other major gaps in my Hitchcock watching resume and then I’ll do a top ten and hammer it out for myself. It wont top Vertigo or Psycho for the top two spots, but it could challenge Rear Window and NBNW for the top five, sure. :D

  2. Raymond Chandler is all over this one. Even though he’s co-credited for the screen play, it smacks of his style. I heard it was a big improvement over the Highsmith novel. He has a big thing for trains, e.g.”Double Indemnity”, some kind of symbolism there. Too bad it’s his last movie screenplay.
    For the movie itself, that carnival scene has to be one of the greatest in cinema. Even CGI couldn’t improve that.

    • I couldnt tell you if its better than the book or not, but it certainly IS well written.

      I know, right? That ending was really pretty madhouse, I wasn’t expecting it. LOL :D It was fun though, for sure, everything certainly got out of hand on that merry go round. Ha!

    • Yeah, well, I’m old too, hoser.

      LOL. I dont know… this one had just evaded me. Not sure how. I took care of it though. Now its all wrapped up!

      I’m wondering where it’ll land on my list… I’m going to try to do a Hitchcock top ten before the year’s ou. ;) Got some watching to do though, still!

  3. Kudos, Melissa!

    Very neat, concise job, Fogs.

    “Strangers on a Train” is solid, clever Hitchcock through and through. From its opening shots where all you see is cuffs breaking atop shoes. To the meeting and later hatching of the plot. To the tennis match where everyone’s head and gaze and bouncing back and forth. And only Robert Walker is creepily focused on Farley Granger.

    High marks to Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Chandler and Hitch for creating such an effete, iconic and endearing bad guy in Walker’s balloon popping Bruno Anthony!

    • Thanks Jack!

      Yeah, you’re right about that opening shot of the shoes. When I was watching it, I was thinking, “I’ve got to mention this in the write up” and then, I didnt. :( Thankfully, you’ve got my back! :D

      I love that scene where he pops the kid’s balloon, too. LOL Says it all, doesn’t it? ;)

  4. I’m so glad you liked the film, and glad I could bring it to your attention!
    Defintely one of my favorite Hitchcocks; I have it fourth at the moment. Lot of great stuff here, as you said in your excellent review. Thanks for letting me participate in this!

    • Yup, great job, Hunter. Thank YOU for participating! Awesome recommendation AND I get to scratch another Hitchcock off of my “To See List” :D

      I really am curious as to whether this could crack my top five or not. Maybe I need to rewatch a few of the “big ones” and see if they’re as good as I recall, because that’s a damn good movie, right there! :D

      • You’re welcome :)
        Can’t wait for your Hitch top ten, whenever you get to it.
        Exactly which of his have you seen? (just wondering)

      • Oh geez. Ok, in no particular order…

        Rope
        Torn Curtain
        Strangers on a Train
        The Birds
        Rear Window
        Psycho
        North By Northwest
        Vertigo
        The Man Who Knew Too Much (Stewart version)
        To Catch a Thief
        Dial M for Murder
        Shadow of a Doubt
        The Lady Vanishes
        Suspicion

        I guess that’s it, not as many as I thought. I do have that box set with the 15 blu rays, though, I need to knock some more of those off…

      • Oooh, you’ve got two great ones with the great Ingrid Bergman to look at: Spellbound and Notorious (which may be my favorite). And Rebecca. Kind of his early sleek, I’ve just moved to Hollywood stuff. I just saw the movie Hitchcock on the plane. Really enjoyed it. And now I need to see Psycho again. And I hope you will check out Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety, which is very, very funny. But see Spellbound first.

      • Yeah, Jan, I definitely have to see those. I got beat up a bit a while back for never having seen Rebecca :roll: and I made some promises to people that so far I havent kept. LOL :D I will though, just gotta find the time! I’ve definitely seen High Anxiety though, but its been awhile :(

        “Hitchcock” meanwhile was ok, but I wish it had focused more on the making of Psycho!

  5. Pingback: Hey! Look over there! | The Soul of the Plot

  6. Excellent choice. I don’t love everything that Hitchcock does – but this is a classic.

    And as a nomination for the next Reader Recommends, I watched Primer again last week – if you somehow haven’t seen it then you really need to.

    • Welllllll… it wouldn’t be the next one, Mark. I’ve got a backlog that I’m working through at the moment. But if you’d like to champion that movie, hell yeah. I’ve seen many people praise it, but I’ve never seen it, so that would be a great choice!

      If you dont mind waiting a bit, I’d be happy to add that to the list, just say the word!

      • That’s cool with me… I’ll hang on till you’ve cleared your backlog… just let me know. It’s not a movie that everyone gets or likes… but it’s very, very cool.

  7. Great review of a great Hitchcock film (but most of Hitchcock’s films are worthy of being considered great in my book). Makes me want to rewatch this one over the weekend!

    Happy Friday!

    • Annnnnd Happy Friday to YOU Lori! :D

      Yeah, I swear, I would think that he made ONE bad movie along the way. He was very prolific over a long career, too. But I’ve really really liked every movie I’ve ever watched of his, and I have seen quite a few in spite of this one having escaped me til now !

  8. Unfortunately, I saw this for a ‘Film Appreciation” class, which, of course, guaranteed I wouldn’t appreciate it very much.

    May be time to give it a fresh viewing, 20 years having passed and all.

    • The horror… the horror…

      Well, I’m sure an adult mindset would help. Being more patient and whatnot. And yeah, not having SCHOOL involved is always a plus. :D

      Its really good man. Rock solid. I thought it was great.

  9. I’m going to have to make sure to watch this one soon myself… it was on the list, of course, but reading your summary makes it a little more pressing. See, I recently acquired a DVD of Throw Momma From the Train, which I saw when I was younger but only vaguely remember. But it’s pretty clear that it’s a comedic take on the film (with Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito as the “strangers”) — so I should see the original first, no?

    • Hahaha. LOL. They’re so far apart from each other that it won’t matter. :D

      After college I had a friend named Owen that I used to torment with my impersonation of how Anne Ramsey says that name. LOL. :D Good times, good times.

  10. Watch the climax at the fair, on the carousel and tell me Spielberg didn’t learn everything he knows about suspense from the master. This is definitely an A+.

    • I guess I’m not rawing the connection, but obviously all Directors owe Hitchcock a debt of gratitude. I’m sure he’s well represented in every film school curiculum there is! :D

      Glad you have my back on the grade, nice!

      • Maybe it’s just me then, lol. I think he’s extremely over-the-top, even if we consider the era he acted in. I think I’ve seen him in about three films, including Strangers and another Hitchcock, Rope.

  11. Nice to see some Hitchcock being recommended! This is one I still need to see, and it seems to get overlooked a lot when discussing his best work. Gonna have to queue this one up next after Rebecca then. I know you don’t give out A+’s very often. ;)

    • HAA! HAHAH!! LOL Turnabout is fair play, eh, brother? Hell… I give out A+s left and right. :D Good times man, good times.

      Meanwhile, Rebecca is one of the ones I have up next. I gotta keep working my way through his filmography, too!

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