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.