Suppose two men each have someone they’d like to get rid of. Suppose one of them proposes they switch murders -- each has no motive to kill the other’s victim, and each can supply the other with an airtight alibi. That’s the intriguing premise of Strangers on a Train, and the fun comes in watching the whole thing unravel.
Guy promptly heads off to argue publicly and violently with his wife. This proves unfortunate when Bruno arrives later that same day to do away with her, and fulfill his half of the bargain. Guy falls under suspicion immediately, and has to deal with both police inquiries and Bruno’s increasingly threatening and invasive demands that Guy murder his father.
Spellbinding from start to finish, Strangers on a Train contains some of the most famous scenes ever filmed. There’s a great fake-out and an insanely dangerous stunt with a spinning carnival carousel which could have killed the stunt man -- a chance Hitchcock said he would never take again.
The Cast of 'Strangers on a Train'
Hitchcock reportedly wanted William Holden for the tennis player, but later said Granger was well cast. His Guy is just weak enough to be half-tempted, half-repelled by Bruno’s overture. He’s not the typical, strong leading man, and there’s more than a suggestion that he’s using the Senator’s daughter (Ruth Roman) to improve his lot in life, all of which adds to the film‘s depth. For an innocent hero, he’s hard to like.
In fact, there’s nobody much to cheer for in this film, unless it’s Hitchcock’s own daughter Patricia, cast as Barbara, the blunt-spoken younger daughter of the Senator. A cheerful fan of murder mysteries and the macabre, Barbara looks like the deceased Mrs. Haines, right down to her eyeglasses -- which causes a tense and revelatory scene when Bruno crashes a party at the Senator’s house. It’s a creepy bit of casting, right up Hitchcock’s alley.
"Strangers on a Train' -the Bottom Line
Recommended for YouIf you liked Strangers on a Train, you may like other Alfred Hitchcock films, or such film noir mysteries as The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon.
'Strangers on a Train' at a Glance:Year: 1951, Black and white
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Running Time: 101 minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers