Strangers on A Train Blu-ray Review (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Review Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
With the advent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Masterpiece Collection arriving soon on Blu-ray (October 30th see article here), many fans will be making the upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray. The master auteur is more than worth it and that collection looks to be the perfect corner stone to any film library. Yet, Alfred Hitchcock did not limit himself to one studio. Nor did he limit himself to one country for that fact, either. The more one watches Hitchcock’s work, the more one starts to see a division in Hitchcock’s British pictures, Hitchcock in Hollywood, and even Hitchcock’s remakes (of his own films, mind you). One cannot escape the MacGuffin either. The MacGuffin was Hitchcock’s word for the plot device. It could be anything from a simple piece of music to a wad of cash wrapped in a newspaper. What drives any fan of Hitchcock crazy is how the master auteur plays with you when you watch one his films for the first time. The same could be said for me in the case of Strangers on A Train.
The plot is simple enough and the title almost spells it all out for you. Two men meet on train, Guy Haines (Farley Granger) and Bruno Antony (Robert Walker). Bruno recognizes Guy as the up and coming Tennis Player that is in all the society papers. By circumstance, and Bruno’s instance, the two men kill some time on the train and have a private lunch. Bruno discusses his thoughts on what would be a perfect murder. Two men meet as complete strangers to one another, but each has someone he would like to get rid of. Nothing would tie one to the other and they would simply get away with it. Guy humors Bruno and states that it is a fine idea. Simple enough, except Guy has no clue what he has jokingly agreed to. Bruno takes it to the next step and decides to take care of Guy’s problem person, thinking that Guy will then take care of his.
Immediately, we don’t trust Bruno. He comes on too strong. This is a shady man and it seems as if Bruno has other motives. He recognized Guy, he initiated first contact, and he insisted on having lunch. Is this Hitchcock’s MacGuffin? Are they really strangers or is Bruno just trying to set up Guy? Hitchcock is quick to dispense Bruno after Guy’s problem, his cheating wife Miriam (Kasey Rogers). Bruno is smooth in his hunt of Miriam at a local fair. He charms her all the way so he gets her totally alone. Bruno is quick and literally gets away clean.
When it becomes Guy’s turn is when the plot of Strangers on a Train really begins to turn around. Guy learns of his wife’s death from Bruno. Minutes later, he has to put on a face of shock when his girlfriend and her family informs him that the police are looking for him. All Guy has to do is report Bruno and he’s off the hook. That’s all he would have to do if Guy wouldn’t have left a certain lighter in Bruno’s private train car. With this little item (the true MacGuffin) Bruno has Guy over a barrel and keeps twisting him to do his will.
A lot of the perspectives of Strangers on a Train come from Bruno’s character. Hitchcock allows us into the villain’s mind and, in essence, allows us to be him for the duration of the film. Never do we think of Bruno as evil, but as man with a plan who wants to see it through. He’s twisted, but even in the short glimpses of his home life, we see him as a product of his environment.
Strangers on a Train twists and turns in a few more directions so much that ones begins to wonder where Hitchcock will go. He shoots an unarmed man, he puts children at risk, and makes an old man crawl under a run away freight train. There really is nothing that the master auteur wouldn’t put us through... all in the name of entertainment.
Mania Grade: A
Starring: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Caroll, Patricia Hitchcock, Kasey Rogers
Written By: Raymond Chandler (screen play), Czenzi Ormonde (screen play)
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Original Year of Release: 1951
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Special Features: Commentary, Preview Version, Making of Documentary, 3 Featurettes, Trailer