Saturday, August 4, 2007

Strangers on a Train (1951)

The time has come for me to come to terms with this movie. My first viewing happened during a very difficult time in my life, in which I was struggling with the impending deaths of two loved ones. I was emotionally raw and exposed to the full brunt of anything even remotely unsettling. In hindsight, I should have stayed away from films such as this, but with my other experiences with pre-Psycho Hitchcock, I probably thought I was relatively safe with this film. Boy, was I wrong.

I must give kudos to the great Alfred Hitchcock for creating a film that was truly scary indeed. I remember it was a sunny afternoon, on a seemingly innocent day, when I popped the DVD of this film into the player. As engrossing as Hitchcock films often are, I was swept into the story immediately. Then, sometime into the film, came the scene that harshly struck the chord that twanged and sent disonant reverberations right through me.

It was the party scene with Robert Walker as Bruno, a man who had trapped Guy, played by Farley Granger, into a sordid deal; a murder for a murder. With a nervous Guy in the background, Bruno carried on a conversatin with two older ladies about murder and how one would successfully suffocate another person. Bruno, to my utter dismay, proceeds to demonstrate the correct technique one of the ladies' throats. He tightens his grip on her windpipe, then freezes when he sees Barbara, played by Hitchock's daughter Patricia, in the background. All the while staring at her, he is still choking the little old lady. He cannot bring himself to let go and has to be pulled off of her.

At that moment, I started to hyperventilate. I could not catch my breath. I stopped the movie immediately and ran out of the room gasping for air. I must have been so terrified during the scene that I had just stopped breathing altogether, as though Bruno was choking me! Quite traumatized by the experience, it took me a full week before I could watch the remaining length of the movie (careful, of course, to avoid the scene that, literally, took my breath away).

I am a firm believer that what you get from a film depends on what point you are in your life when you see it. Right now, I'm in a good place and feel that I could watch it again. So on Monday, I will watch Strangers on a Train (1951), properly, in an actual theatre, in the dark and I won't be scared.

I hope...


  1. Make sure to get an aisle seat!

    I don't watch Strangers nearly as often as I watch some of the other Hitchcocks, but I do feel that it's a very powerful film. I always find Robert Walker a little unsettling -- even when he's supposed to be the young innocent "aw shucks" boy. His Bruno is truly a loathsome, scary creature -- right up there with Joseph Cotten's Uncle Charlie in Shadow Of A Doubt.

    Right now, I'm picturing Bruno's white and black cap toe shoes ... and shuddering.

  2. Okay, I wasn't crazy about this film. Bruno didn't convince me that he was man to be hated, even though he committed a murder. Guy was a much better character, although this is not Hitchcock's best.

  3. Strangers on a Train is probably one of his best in my opinion, the merry go around scene is memorable as it takes us back to where the movie started and it's a metaphor for the movie, when you watch it you feel like your on an out of control merry go around. It's one of his best, one of my other favorites is North by Northwest.

  4. Strangers on a train is an excellent slice of mystery and suspense cinema, and one of Hitchcock's best. Great review!
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