‘Strangers on a Train'
Robert Burk's Oscar-nominated black-and-white cinematography never looked sharper, moodier or more visually inventive than it does in the new Blu-ray edition of “Strangers on a Train” (1951), which remains right on track as one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest psychological thrillers.
Robert Walker gives the finest performance of his short career as rich ne'er-do-well Bruno Anthony, a psychopathic mama's boy who hates his father enough to kill him. Farley Granger plays amateur tennis champ Guy Haines, who wants to marry a U.S. senator's daughter (Ruth Roman) but can't get his shamelessly unfaithful wife, Miriam, (Laura Elliott) to give him a divorce.
The two men chance to meet on a train and Bruno, being forward and talkative, recognizes Guy and strikes up a conversation, attempting to regale the athlete with his screwball theories and philosophies on life. “I have a theory that you should do everything before you die,” he declares.
Like driving a car at 150 mph — blindfolded. Riding in a jet plane (which relatively few people had done at that time). Reserving a seat on the first rocket to the moon. And getting rid of someone you hate ... permanently.
Bruno knows of Guy's dilemma from reading the society pages, and cheerfully puts forth an idea — “I do your murder, you do mine. Cross-cross.” In other words, Bruno kills Guy's wife in exchange for Guy bumping off Bruno's father. With proper alibis in place, no one can establish a motive or even a connection between killer and victim in either case.
Guy humors Bruno, thinking it's all a joke, but Bruno thinks Guy has agreed with the plan, and Miriam soon turns up dead, strangled in one of the most imaginatively photographed murder scenes in screen history, seen in a reflection from the victim's fallen eyeglasses.
When a horrified Guy learns what has occurred, and that Bruno now expects him to reciprocate, the cat-and-mouse begins as Bruno threatens to plant evidence that points to Guy as the killer.
A runaway merry-go-round climax in an amusement park is the knuckle-biting reward for sitting through 101 minutes of wickedly black humor and delicious suspense, and gifted character actress Marion Lorne is the hilarious bonus as Bruno's doting dingbat of a mother.
Based on a Patricia Highsmith novel and coscripted by Raymond Chandler, Ben Hecht assistant Czenzi Ormonde (because Hecht was unavailable) and an uncredited Barbara Keon, Hitchcock's associate producer, and Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville, it's ranked No. 32 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Most Thrilling Films, and for very good reason.
Extras include commentary from Peter Bogdanovich, Joseph Stefano, Hitchcock's daughter Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell (who co-stars in the film), and Hitchcock himself, among many others; the longer preview version of the film, and the featurettes “Strangers on a Train: A Hitchcock Classic,” “The Hitchcocks on Hitch,” “The Victim's P.O.V.,” and an appreciation by M. Night Shyamalan.”
— Gene Triplett