While riding on a train, amateur tennis star and aspiring politician Guy Haines (Granger) is befriended by forward stranger Bruno Anthony (Walker). Both have problems, as Guy’s life is being complicated by a cheating wife who won’t divorce him, while Bruno wants his own rich father out of the picture. Bruno, however, believes that he has the perfect solution to both problems, and proposes that they exchange murders so as to avoid being caught on motive…
While some argue that Strangers On A Train was Alfred Hitchcock’s attempt at a crowd-pleasing hit after a run of preceding pictures which weren’t as well received as he was used to, it remains one of his most popular and enduring works. Restoring his status as the Master Of Suspense, the acclaimed filmmaker adapted Patricia Highsmith’s novel (via some help from a hired-and-then-fired Raymond Chandler) and infused it with his own themes, imagery and distinctive style. As is often the case with Hitchcock you could poke holes in the logic (why doesn’t Guy go to the police at any point?), but the man was always more concerned with effect than air-tight plausibility. And effect it has in spades. There are a number of memorable Hitchcockian moments sprinkled throughout (most notably, the infamous shot where Guy spots Bruno staring straight at him in amongst all the other tennis spectators who are following the ball), but the movie belongs to Robert Walker. While Farley Granger (who Hitch famously didn’t want for the part) is a tad stilted as Guy, Walker creates one of the most chilling stalkers in all of film with Bruno, a polite and softly-spoken mother’s boy who provides the movie with homoerotic undertones and an unnerving sense of menace whenever he’s on screen.
While some argue that Strangers On A Train was Alfred Hitchcock’s attempt at a crowd-pleasing hit after a run of preceding pictures which weren’t as well received as he was used to, it remains one of his most popular and enduring works.