Plot – A psychopath forces a tennis star to comply with his theory that two strangers can get away with murder – Strangers on a Train.
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Released – 1951
When you ask people for their favourite Alfred Hitchcock movies, Strangers on a Train is sure to be one of those mentioned, right up there with the likes of North by Northwest, Psycho or The Birds for artistry and entertainment. Though few will be able to top it when it comes to the macabre, tense, darkly humorous plot featuring one of Hitchcock’s most memorable villains.
Very few of Hitchcock’s antagonists are as wonderfully entertaining as Bruno. A father-hating and mother-fixated psychopath with clear homosexual urges for our lead Guy Haines (Granger). It’s his disturbing performance that makes the movie, as he charms and worms his way into Guy’s life and starts off a sordid web of crime and murder.
This character feels rather progressive for the time, not only because he is clearly gay but also because of how developed the character is. Straddling a fine line between deranged and hapless throughout, you can’t help but feel some level of pity towards this clearly unstable man, unlike Guy’s estranged wife Miriam Joyce Haines (Laura Elliott), who is never developed to more than a promiscuous woman and nothing else.
Strangers on a Train also boasts some wonderful pieces of technical skill, my favourite of which is how the audience witnesses the murder of Miriam through the reflection in her shattered glasses, while the game of tennis while the police wait to arrest Guy is a wonderful way of producing tension similar to the singing competition in Sound of Music. The use of a fairground as a place of murder and foul occurrences is also rather enjoyable, it’s clear Hitchcock took inspiration from the equally enjoyable The Third Man.
Overall, Strangers on a Train is one of Hitchcock’s most entertaining works worthy of repeat viewings. Constantly building up the plot in a suspenseful and dramatic manner, while keeping the humorous touches that Hitchcock’s best films are known for, with a plot and characters that feel ahead of their time.
If you liked: Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, To Catch a Thief