Strangers on a Train/A,B+

Warner/1951/101m,103m/FS 1.33

          A cab pulls up to a train station.  The camera focuses on  the opening door, exposing only passengers feet as he departs. He's wearing flashy black and whites. Another cab, another pair of feet  clad in nondescript shoes . A glimpse of tennis rackets being carried amongst the baggage. Director Alfred Hitchcock follows the feet, alternating between those of the two passengers through the station and past the gates. A close shot of train tracks from the point of view of the train. The feet again, now on the train, finding seats, a crossed leg. The nondescript shoe accidentally kicks one black and white. A conversation begins an inevitable nightmare ride on a carousel that doesn't want to stop. The economy of the opening is sheer brilliance. Strangers on a Train is a showcase of devious delight for Hitchcock.

Aren't you Guy Haines? ©Warner

      The two men on the train are Guy Haines, a top ranked tennis star, and Bruno Antony, insidious dandy who is altogether too familiar with Haines' career and private life. Antony hypothetically  proposes a diabolical solution to resolve their individual problems: an exchange of murders. Haines is appalled, but Anthony does not let go. 
     This ranks with the very best of Hitchcock. It is the most direct of the great director's plot lines with most of the unexpressed  convolutions going on in the twisted mind of Bruno Antony. Every aspect of the production has been polished and refined with astounding care.  Hitchcock had a script done by Raymond Chandler, with a polish from the "Ben Hecht factory."  Based on the Patricia Highsmith novel, it  is thoroughly elegant in execution; a brilliant map to guide perfect  Hitchcock to journey with nary a false turn.
     Farley Granger is well cast in the role of Guy Haines, turning an excellent  performance.  Granger evokes the confusion and desperation of the  hero. Still,  it is Robert Walker  in the role of Bruno Antony who dominates this film. He  creates a sly, compelling, horrifying villain. Walker is just  great.  Every gesture serves to advance the portrait of Antony. He's the perfect psychopath. Even when he is not on screen, his celluloid ghost casts a faint shadow over every frame.       
     The atmospheric black and white photography of Robert Burks is simply flawless, in this the first of eleven films he shot for Hitchcock. The lighting and camera set-ups serve to consistently heighten the suspense. Dimitri Tiomkin has written a wonderful score, twisting playful elements into the macabre.
     Hitchcock has never made a movie with more intense editing. Each cut is a building block to a skyscraper of colossal tension that topples in a entertaining finish. Strangers on a Train  made in 1951 is an example of a great director at the height of his powers.
     Watching black and white films on DVD through a component connection brings out the best in the stunning gray scale images. Strangers on a Train is no exception. There's no bothersome cross-color induced by intricate fabric patterns. Warner provides two versions on the flip sides of the DVD. The U.S. release version is not quite as clean as the slightly altered British version. Still, both prints are quite good. Sharp DVD  detail permitting every nuance of Hitchcock's meticulous direction to be observed. And all the sinister shadows of Hitchcock's vision come to beautiful life with excellent contrast and shadow detail. The mono sound is serviceable. 

The Feature Archive has articles ranging from John Ford to Blonde Bimbos, The Heistmasters and Frank Darabont.

Click on the image above for as original view of Akira Kurosawa's work. 
Check out the  Movie Poster   Archive for short bios and images of Susan Hayward, Kirk Douglas, Katharine Hepburn and many more. This month's featured star is  Clark Gable.

Imaging Science Foundation
The Imaging Science Foundation promotes proper standards in home theater viewing. ISF trained technicians offer monitor calibration services to consumers. The difference in a  properly calibrated monitor can be astounding. Click on the image to find an ISF member near you.

National Preservation Film Board
Learn about what this organization is doing to preserve our film heritage. Want to know the guidelines for proper handling of film? This is the place.

Home Theater Reference Reviewing System

When you read a DVD review it's of utmost importance to know what equipment is being used to evaluate quality. Click on the projectors to find out more.