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  • Full Frame
  • Dual Sided
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Romanian, Bulgarian
  Extras
  • Additional footage - Entire UK cut of the film
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - Newsreel footage

Strangers on a Train

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . M . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Good eeeeeeeeeeeeeevening...

This week our tale revolves around two men, tennis star Guy Haines and playboy-type Bruno Anthony, and their chance meeting on a train bound for New York. Bruno is quite the overfriendly chatty type, and being up with the latest goss knows all about Guy's situation with his estranged wife Miriam and current lover, Ann Morton (the daughter of a senator), and he isnít afraid to bring it up in conversation. On and on he rabbits, until gradually bringing the conversation rather creepily around to his rich father, how much he hates him, and how he makes him so sore that he could kill him. This leads to his divulging his plan for the perfect murder - he wants to get rid of his father, he assumes Guy wishes to get rid of his wife. Hey, why not swap murders? If they each bump off total strangers there will be nothing to connect them, will there? Criss cross...

"What is a life or two? Some people are better off dead."

Guy humours Bruno until arriving at his hometown stop of Metcalf. He's off to see Miriam to finalise their divorce, no doubt under the belief that he wonít hear from this strange Bruno Anthony nutter again. He visits the bespectacled Miriam in her job at a music store, and quite the heated argument ensues as convinced that she's on a cash cow with Guy's success, and craving the world of the Washington socialite, she refuses to grant a divorce. If this isn't bad enough the little floosie is pregnant with somebody else's baby, but as she points out nobody else knows it isnít Guy's. Needless to say the tennis champ is rather incensed at this extortion, and in a telephone call to his sweetie Ann his anger spills into him confessing that he could quite happily strangle his wife.

Now, this Bruno Anthony guy - whilst Haines may be thinking he's gone, we know better, donít we? He sets off for Metcalf, where he looks up Miriam's address, and sits patiently outside it until she emerges - with not one but two guys on her arms, and bound by bus for the fairground. Bruno follows, and does quite the sinister little stalker number on Miriam, who seems quite flattered by the attention. This is of course until he coldly strangles her on an island and makes good his escape - pausing to help a blind man cross the road on his way, mind you.

Guy hears the news of his wife's demise, and is naturally rather thrown. When Bruno makes his return, demanding that he make good his side of their "deal", Guy's world is thrown into chaos, with even Ann wondering of her beau's innocence after their phone conversation, and the inability of the only witness to his being on a train at the time of the murder to remember anything as he was a touch too sozzled. Realising he canít exactly go to the police with the story, Guy is left to work out just what to do to prove his innocence. Adding to his dilemma are a constant police tail, and an increasingly deranged Bruno who starts virtually stalking him. Damn, now where did he leave his cigarette lighter?

Strangers on a Train is quite rightfully regarded by many as one of Hitchcock's finest moments, and this is indeed a credit to him when you consider factors he had to deal with such as some often rather under-par, almost camp dialogue (and this after quite a number of writers had been let loose on the script), and two leads that were foisted upon him by Warner Brothers - the extremely cardboard Farley Granger (Guy) and the rather out-of-place Ruth Roman (Ann). Luckily for Hitch he had superb support from the wonderfully creepy (and incredibly Bill Murray-like) Robert Walker (who tragically passed away the following year), the super-bitchy Laura Elliot (Miriam) and even his daughter Patricia (Ann's sister Babs), whose resemblance to the character of Miriam comes in rather handy plot-wise, not to mention the fact that she's given a fabulous, spunky character to play. Even Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) from Bewitched pops up as Bruno's also-fruitcake-like mother.

This film is a fine example of why Hitchcock's style has been plagiarised ever so much over the years, his incredible visual inventiveness in evidence from the opening moments of the film, where all we see are the feet of the two main men until they actually bump into each other on board the train. Added to this is his ability to imbue creepiness where others would be unable, through brilliant use of red herrings, shadows, ahead-of-his-time camera shots and most importantly his unrivalled skill in knowing that true suspense is often best served by leaving things to the viewer's imagination rather than showing the blatantly obvious, something nobody has ever succeeded at better.

  Video
Contract

Fact: This film dates back to 1951, so as of the time of writing it is fifty years old. Fact: It is full frame, and horror of horrors is in black and white. Fact: The visual presentation features many film artefacts and scratches, graininess, a smidgeon of aliasing at times and has a tendency to slightly wobble a bit quite often. Question: If you expected much better than this then how is life in Cloudcuckooland?

In rating video for films such as this I feel you have to take into consideration their age, and often their perceived importance both at the time of making and through subsequent years. Strangers on a Train came after quite the lean time for Hitch, in that he had endured four box-office flops previously. Whilst succeeding quite admirably box-office-wise where these previous four films had failed, Strangers didnít have the budget thrown at it that many earlier, and indeed later, Hitchcock filmic journeys did. So in the end regardless of the flaws listed above this is still an incredibly watchable presentation, and it looks infinitely better than my cruddy old VHS copy.

  Audio
Contract

Well, as you may have suspected it's in mono. Not being canonised as much as other Hitchcock masterpieces such as North by Northwest, Vertigo or even Rear Window, all of which have received stereo remastering work in recent years, the DVD of Strangers on a Train has retained it's original sound, but doesn't suffer too much for it. I found the dialogue to be clear at all times, well synched and free of annoying crackles and other audio detritus that I have experienced on other DVD transfers of other rather old films.

There are also French and Italian soundtracks included, which I mention simply as the French one seems to be EQed on some strange Martian frequency, and I am insanely curious as to why there is a lengthy voiceover in the opening sequences of the Italian version. If anybody that's reading this is fluent in the latter language then I'd dearly love to know what is being said!

There are scores and there are scores. When it comes to a Hitchcock film the music tends to take on much more importance than in many other types, simply as it can make or break the suspenseful elements. Happily Dimitri Tiomkin's effort here is quite superb, working hand in hand with the visual elements of the film to enhance, and often even create something from nothing, in the edge of your seat, hands over eyes department.

  Extras
Contract

Some static and silent, but suitable, menus featuring stills from the film lead us into the extras section, such that it is. At the first station a Cast and Crew section awaits which, feeble in the extreme, lists four principal cast members and their roles in the film, the director (duh) and the screenwriters. They are entirely non-interactive in that there is no further information included at all - a pretty shoddy "effort". Next stop, the Alfred Hitchcock "historical" meeting newsreel. In fairly good shape, this is just over one minute of rather peculiar footage in that it is entirely silent (there's no music, there's no nothing) which actually makes a scene which is basically just Hitch smiling and schmoozing various people before hopping a train just that extra little bit creepier. Finally there's a Theatrical Trailer, a two and a half minute affair that is a wonder to take in, when it comes to campy this makes John Waters look like Al Pacino, and as such is highly recommended. It is in pretty good condition for something that's fifty years old, although the same criticisms (if you could call them that) of the main presentation's vision apply.

Now here's where it gets tricky. There are actually two versions of the movie included on this disc, the US release, and the two-minute longer UK cut - depending upon which way up you pop the disc into your player. Whilst the differences in the two cuts are negligible, and most likely would only be noticed by more rabid fans of the film, this is an absolutely wonderful inclusion. I guess this should be classed as an additional feature, so please bear in mind that my 'Extras' mark reflects this.

  Overall  
Contract

There is a very good reason as to why most every movie you see nowadays has at least one scene that can be traced back to Hitchcock in some way, and that is because the man was one of those incredibly rare, phenomenally talented, truly imaginative and visionary artists. Strangers on a Train is no exception to this artistry, and to be honest if it had been placed in a lesser director's hands the film quite easily could have been a massive failure.

I implore anybody at all that is even vaguely interested in the difference a particular director's flair can make to a film, in particular one in the suspense/thriller genre, to rush out and see this classic. Indeed if you are after a fabulously stylish, and often extremely creepy, watch, and you are able to get over the visual limitations on offer in these days where we are spoiled by over-the-top theatrical whiz-bangery, then in getting a hold of this disc you are in for nothing less than a veritable cinematic treat.


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      And I quote...
    "A fabulously stylish and often extremely creepy watch - and nothing less than a cinematic treat..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Home Built
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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