Thursday, December 22, 2011

Strangers On A Train (1951)

Strangers On A Train ★★★★★ 5/5

This is a fantastic movie and rightfully belongs on the list of movies to see. The black and white imagery is flawless and translates on the screen smoothly. While the film boasts no major Hollywood star power, the acting is superb and believable. This is one of Hitchcock's classic movies and all the elements one would expect are there. The manipulation of an innocent character, intense emotion in the most mundane of places, and beloved national Monuments holding court to the unthinkable.

In this film two complete strangers meet on a train. Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a professional tennis player who meets Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) on a train. Haines is a well known professional tennis player whose life is publicly followed in the society pages. He is amidst a divorce with wife Miriam (Laura Elliott), and publicly seeing a Senator's daughter, Anne Morton (Ruth Roman). Anthony knows the divorce is not going smoothly and suggests to Haines that it might be easier to continue his life if Miriam is murdered. Anthony then goes on to explain the best way to murder someone is to have a stranger do it. He then explains how he himself has someone who he would like to have murdered . . . his Father. So before leaving the train, he outlines the perfect murder, explaining how he could kill Miriam in exchange for Haines killing his Father. Haines blows the conversation off as small talk, but Anthony seems to think that a deal has been made. The scene ends and the two men go their separate ways.

The movie takes off pretty quick with Anthony pursuing Miriam to an amusement park. In typical Hitchcock style, the unthinkable happens, and like any other Hitchcock film it is done with suspense and anticipation. With Miriam dead, Anthony seeks out Haines to tell him the news and direct him as to how it was now his turn to fulfill the murder of Anthony's Father. Naturally Haines is taken back by what has happened and intends to bring the attention of the murder to the police. But that would be too simple.

My first thought in knowing the plot line was how ridiculous. What could possibly prevent him from telling the authorities what happened. But Anthony has the logic and blackmail to stop Haines from talking. Haines carries on with his life. At all costs he avoids Anthony. Anthony persists to follow and harass Haines in an attempt for him to carry out the murder of his Father. Anthony infiltrates Haines' life. He works his way into social parties, shows up at Haines' tennis matches, and appears at outings in town.

It is at a social gathering when Anne and Barbara Morton (Patricia Hitchcock) realize something is not right with Anthony. Anne makes the connection that Anthony is in fact the murderer and Haines tells her what has happened. Together, along with sister Barbara, they devise a way to put an end to the situation.

In the end, Hitchcock places the key players together on a runaway merry go round.

The plot twists are suspenseful. Hitchcock works wonders when matching a score to a picture. He knows where to place the high notes and the low notes. The music drives the movie. This holds so true in the final scene with the runaway merry go round. This scene in itself is a masterpiece. A simple contraption built to entertain becomes a nightmare. Children become victims, innocent girls are set spinning in a frenzy, a fight ensues and the merry go round spins. Carousal horses become weapons, an old man trying to stop the merry go round crawls underneath it to stop the chaos. He moves at a snails pace in contrast to the dizzying speed of the action inches above him. There is no scene I can think of like it.

The actors are supberb. Everyone carries their role out with splendor. Farley Granger plays the innocent victim as well, if not better the Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart in other Hitchcock movies. Robert Walker exemplifies a psychopath and makes the role believable. He is a strange mix of likeable and loath able. Ruth Roman is glamorous and beautiful. She plays the loving girlfriend without being over dramatic. She is very reminiscent of Doris Day or Grace Kelly. Hitchcock cast this film perfectly and the characters play their parts right on cue. However if there is one actor that really steals the film it would have to be Patricia Hitchcock. She brings humor to the film with witty one liners and breaks up the dramatic pieces. In one particular scene however her acting shines. This is the scene where she realizes that Anthony is the murderer. It is an under rated performance and a true highlight to the film.

This movie belongs on the list and is worth seeing.

No comments:

Post a Comment