Saturday, March 20, 2021

Movie Reviews: Strangers On A Train

Strangers On A Train
directed by Alfred Hitchcock

I was only familiar with this film via the later spoof Throw Momma From The Train which starred Danny Devito and Billy Crystal. So when I had an opportunity to watch the original I decided to check it out. It wasn't a dark comedy like the DeVito film. 
This was a serious noir film. It was based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote the novels The Talented Mr. Ripley and its sequels. 
Many of these books were also adapted into films. Highsmith was a lesbian. This would not be relevant but for the fact that Strangers On A Train seems to contain some gay subtext. The viewer can decide on that for himself/herself. I haven't read the novel to see if Hitchcock turned up this subtext or if it was present in the book. I suspect that it was exaggerated in the film. 
Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is an up and coming tennis star with women problems. Big ones. He's married to a woman Miriam (Kasey Rogers, later seen in the tv series Bewitched) who not only gets around with anyone and everyone, she's pregnant. 
And Guy is definitely not the Daddy. Guy is, as you might suspect, a bit bummed out by this development. He wants to get a divorce so he can marry his own sidepiece, Anne Morton (Ruth Roman), the daughter of a US Senator. 
But Miriam isn't going for that. No. No can do. She's carrying another man's child but she'll be doggone if she gets divorced before Guy hits the big bucks. As in most states, then or now, any child born in wedlock is legally the husband's child and thus his financial responsibility. Advantage Miriam. Miriam thinks she's holding all the cards. Guy will just have to grin and bear whatever Miriam dishes out. 
On a train ride, Guy shares some of this story with a fan who recognizes him, Bruno Antony (Robert Walker). Bruno is creepy.  He often has a big cheese eating grin plastered on his face. He's touchy feely. He sits too close to Guy.  I think that Bruno comes across less as a fan and more as a would be Stan. Bruno is sympathetic to Guy's predicament. Bruno has guessed a lot of what Guy didn't share. Bruno follows the social pages, you see.
Bruno has his own family issues. Bruno says that his father doesn't understand or accept Bruno's (ahem) "lifestyle". Okay. Bruno is also a mama's boy with a taste for luxurious clothing. Bruno has decided that he can't live his life as he sees fit as long as his Daddy is there to judge him and control his money. Bruno has an idea. 
If Bruno eliminated Guy's wife and Guy eliminated Bruno's father, the police would never be able to convict either man. Each man would have an airtight alibi. What does Guy say? 
Guy pretends to find the idea amusing but is clearly doing what people do when facing rabid dogs. He's backing away slowly and looking for a stick. 
After another argument with Miriam, Guy gets on a train back to Washington to see Anne. During that trip Bruno murders Miriam. Bruno thinks Guy needs to hold up his end of the "deal". The police think that Guy is guilty. The Senator doesn't want himself or his daughter Anne mixed up in any scandal. And Bruno is getting impatient.
The lighting and framing choices that Hitchcock made in this film are among the best I've seen in the genre. The viewer can feel Guy's increasing desperation as he tries to stay out of jail, turn the tables on Bruno, and convince Anne that he's innocent. Give this film a chance won't you?
blog comments powered by Disqus