Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, the plot to Strangers On A Train is delightfully straightforward and quickly revealed.
Professional tennis player Guy Haines (Farley Granger) meets playboy Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) on a train – as the film’s title announces – and their idle conversation eventually turns to the subject of murder.
Guy would like to get rid of his estranged, cheating wife Miriam (Kasey Rogers) – their marital problems have been well reported in the press – so he can be with his beautiful Washington DC girlfriend, Anne Morton (Ruth Roman). She’s a Senator’s eldest daughter, and Guy wants a career in politics.
Bruno, meanwhile, wants someone to murder his domineering, disapproving father, a wealthy local aristocrat.
They agree (hypothetically) that performing each other’s murder would be a good plan, as – with prior knowledge of the crime – both could establish an airtight alibi and never be linked to the crime.
The trouble is . . . Guy is just kidding but Bruno isn’t and he murders Guy’s wife. He then shadows Guy trying to force him to fulfil his side of their “agreement”.
Walker is a splendid villain – smooth, creepy and amoral, and at times it is hard not to identify more with Bruno than with the weaker Guy.
Strangers On A Train is not one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces but nonetheless a gripping film with a climactic carousel scene that leaves audiences gasping. It’s a jarring finale to what is largely an internalised film about madness, blackmail, and guilt, yet Hitchcock pulls it off brilliantly.
His use of lighting and camera work is outstanding and adds to the atmosphere and suspense. In particular, Bruno’s un-moving face in a sea of tennis spectators, all turning their heads back and forth in unison is wonderful, as is the reflection of the murder in his victim’s glasses.
Leo G. Carroll
Miriam Joyce Haines
Police Captain Turley
Howard St. John
Detective Leslie Hennessey