Beefing on Hitchcock
Strangers On A Train
Strangers On A Train stars Farley Granger as Guy Haines, a young tennis player who, although already married, is in love with a senator's daughter, Anne Morton, played by Ruth Roman. A chance meeting on a train with a fan named Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) leads to a murderous misunderstanding. Anthony believes that Haines has agreed to a shared murder plot, Haines killing Anthony's mother and Anthony killing Haines' wife... and until Anthony has fulfilled his half of the supposed bargain, Haines had thought nothing of this bizarre encounter or the odd stranger.
This whole situation leaves Haines to frantically cover up any of his own perceived involvement in his wife's death, while simultaneously conflicted about whether or not to fulfill his end of the agreement, even though he never actually agreed to it.
In this movie, Alfred Hitchcock ties in many of the plot and story elements found throughout his pictures leading all the way back to his first silent films. Not only are the elements of the "wrong man" devices, but there's blackmail, chance encounters gone wrong, strangers injecting themselves into a lead's family life, moral conflict of what's right and wrong, and the list only goes on from there.
This particular kind of story is one that has always intrigued and discomforted me. A person you don't know, who seems to know all about you, easily turns your entire world upside-down, from which there appears to be no escape. One of my all-time favorite movies, Misery, practically has the exact same ending as the American version of this movie, while Throw Momma From The Train has nearly the same plot. There is just something universally terrifying about how much an unknown person can effect your life.
While I'm not sure I would classify this one amongst my personal favorites of his catalog, it's still easily one of his strongest films, and you see a lot of experimentation with angles and reflections as well as a lot of specific set, prop, and costume details that really make these movies work.
With this film, Hitchcock began to invest himself deeper into the minute details of production than he had in decades, even going so far as to pick out character's ties and what foods they ate. After years of working for Hollywood moguls and fighting over everything from story to casting, we find him taking more and more control over his pictures. This shift is what would eventually cement his legacy as "The Master of Suspense" - master being the key word.