Today! Because I may be old-fashioned, but I thought murder was against the law –
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (x4)
Starring Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Laura Elliott, Leo G. Carroll (x3), Patricia Hitchcock, Jonathan Hale, Marion Lorne, Harry Hines, Norma Varden, Robert Gist, Howard St. John
#241 sees our final Hitchcock list film, even as he becomes the first Four-Timer director. Sorry, Psycho fans! Take your Rear Window complaints elsewhere! Sure, Vertigo is great, but what, you looove Vertigo? Get out of here! Come at me about my lack of Rebecca and okay, I’ll listen to that argument, but if you’re going to complain that The Birds got left in the coop, I’ll tell you where to get off!
So yes, my favorite Hitchcock movie, featuring the single greatest display of human bravery in the history of cinema, Strangers on a Train! Farley Granger’s tennis pro Guy wants a divorce from his terrible wife Miriam (Laura Elliott), while fellow train passenger Bruno (Robert Walker) hates his father, and hatches a scheme where they swap murders. Guy brushes Bruno off as a bit of humorous crackpot, and things spiral wildly out of control from there.
My first familiarity with this movie was almost certainly Throw Momma From the Train, which borrows liberally from the plot, mentions it extensively, and even features clips. It wouldn’t have been until college probably, when I finally got on a Hitchcock kick, when I would’ve seen the film itself. It’s a solid, intriguing thriller that caroms along from complication to complication to outright lie to murder and deception to thrilling carnival finale. Walker is excellent as the psychotic, damaged villain, and not enough credit is given to Elliott (who later appeared on Bewitched under her birth name, Kasey Rogers) as Guy’s thoroughly hateable, scheming wife. I can objectively recognize that Hitch made better movies, but this one still resonates higher than the others with me. So, again, the most credit here may actually belong to Danny DeVito.
And yes, it features the Best Display of Human Bravery ever captured on screen. An unnamed character, played by the unbilled Harry Hines, takes it on himself during the film’s climax to crawl underneath the out-of-control carousel to attempt to disable it. It’s not even the focus of the scene – as Guy and Bruno battle it out amid the plastic horses above – but it is nonetheless nerve jangling greatness.
Leo G. Carroll joins the Three-Timers acting branch, following his roles in #298 A Christmas Carol and #316 North by Northwest, but it is Hitchcock himself in the spotlight as he ratchets the director’s club up to Four-Timer status. #370 Notorious, #327 The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, and Strangers on a Train. Sorry, Dial M for Murder aficionados!