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Author Topic: Strangers on a Train (1951)  (Read 1777 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« on: February 22, 2012, 08:35:48 PM »

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044079/

Just saw Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" (1951). I'd rate it a 7/10.

It's a terrific plot as far as ingenious crimes go, and there is some great work on individual scenes -- especially the carnival scenes, and in particular, the spectacular merry go round scene at the end. But IMO the film is missing a little something. It seems to me that after establishing an ingenious idea for a crime ("crisscross"), the film wasn't done very well overall. It was difficult to maintain focus as some parts seemed to drag.



Warner forced Hitchcock to use Farley Granger as Guy; Hitchcock preferred William Holden, saying Holden was "stronger."
Roger  Ebert believes "Holden would have been all wrong -- too sturdy, too put off by Bruno (despite the way Holden allowed an aging actress to manipulate him in "Sunset Boulevard)." I certainly would have preferred Holden. I did not like Granger. I don't think that Robert Walker (as Bruno) was spectacular, but he gave a much better performance than did Granger, and certainly gave the impression of being unhinged -- I read in Roger Ebert's review that Walker actually was institutionalized after having a nervous breakdown shortly after filming completed.



According to Wikipedia, Guy is a sexually ambiguous character http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strangers_on_a_Train_%28film%29#Political_subtext
 but IMO, Bruno is the one who may be queer (or maybe just plain crazy).


SPOILER ALERT

I'd be interested to see a film involving the same ingenious idea of how to commit a crime, but where both parties actually go ahead with the plan. I think it would be fascinating to see a movie in which this "crisscross" plot is actually implemented. (This movie was sort of a letdown in that sense -- how we get so excited over this brilliant plan, but it is never implemented so we can't actually see whether it can work). Sure, you may argue that that's the genius of it -- that we think they'll both go through with it, but they don't. But I would really be interested in a movie in which this plot is actually implemented.

« Last Edit: October 03, 2012, 10:37:21 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2012, 07:08:41 AM »

There is a Law And Order episode where two women have planned and executed "crisscross" murders--of course, since it is discovered only after the fact by the investigators we don't see the story unfold as it does in the Hitchcock film. But I think there are other examples of this kind of plot out there.

Given that Guy never intended to go through with his side of the "arrangement"--indeed, he never took the conversation with Bruno seriously at the time--I think the plot in Strangers works pretty well. It would be hard to believe that Guy could be manipulated into doing something he didn't want to do. Also, he doesn't really want Bruno to get away with his crime--Guy may have hated his ex-wife, but she was a human being, after all. And Bruno is clearly dangerous. So Guy's most pressing concerns are 1) not getting blamed for his wife's death; and 2) getting rid of Bruno. Killing Bruno's father doesn't really help him with either of those, it just increases his culpability and opens him to further hazzard.

I like the way, though, that Hitchcock uses a bit of his famous mis-direction to show Guy going to the house as if he's going to make good on his "obligation." Then, of course, we find he's just gone to warn Bruno's father. Then, in a nice twist,we find that the man in the dark he warns turns out to be Bruno instead.
You could argue that the scene isn't very plausible--why not just write Bruno's dad a letter?--but the plausibile way of doing things, as AH knew well, doesn't provide much in the  way of interesting cinema.

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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2012, 02:42:21 PM »



Given that Guy never intended to go through with his side of the "arrangement"--indeed, he never took the conversation with Bruno seriously at the time--I think the plot in Strangers works pretty well. It would be hard to believe that Guy could be manipulated into doing something he didn't want to do. Also, he doesn't really want Bruno to get away with his crime--Guy may have hated his ex-wife, but she was a human being, after all. And Bruno is clearly dangerous. So Guy's most pressing concerns are 1) not getting blamed for his wife's death; and 2) getting rid of Bruno. Killing Bruno's father doesn't really help him with either of those, it just increases his culpability and opens him to further hazzard.



Some have argued that Guy never flatly rejects Bruno -- he seems somewhat repulsed by him, yet doesn't eg. switch cars on the train. So deep down there is some flicker of curiosity on Guy's part.

Getting rid of Bruno's father would certainly help to get Bruno off his back. Unless you believe that Bruno was a queer stalker who had some interest in Guy beyond this crisscross crime. btw, Ebert says he believes that Brunio may have planned the meeting on the train. I don't think so; it works better as a chance encounter (not to mention the title).

Once you are discussing plausibility, I'll argue that the real implausibility is that Guy doesn't call the police the moment Bruno tells him he killed his wife. That only causes a downward spiral.

Finally, I don't see what the scene where Bruno loses the lighter down the drain accomplishes. So he gets it back and goes his merry way. So for a moment, we wonder if his plan will fail before it starts. That's it?


p.s. How do I break up a quote to reply to each sentence separately? I've seen many posts like that here but don't know how to do it  Smiley

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« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2012, 03:28:42 PM »

This was for a time my favorite Hitchcock film; I have a long and illegible review somewhere on my blog. I think the plot wears a bit thin on rewatches but the big setpieces (especially the murder scene) hold up perfectly. Robert Walker is one of the creepiest bad guys in movie history.

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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2012, 02:35:56 AM »

Somehow not one of my personal favourites of Al, but yes, doubtless a great Hitcher. 9/10

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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2012, 06:15:17 AM »

Some have argued that Guy never flatly rejects Bruno -- he seems somewhat repulsed by him, yet doesn't eg. switch cars on the train. So deep down there is some flicker of curiosity on Guy's part.
I call B.S. on this. You've never been buttonholed by a nut and end up wasting too much time before shaking him off?

Quote
Getting rid of Bruno's father would certainly help to get Bruno off his back. Unless you believe that Bruno was a queer stalker who had some interest in Guy beyond this crisscross crime. btw, Ebert says he believes that Brunio may have planned the meeting on the train. I don't think so; it works better as a chance encounter (not to mention the title).
There's no guarantee that killing Bruno's father will free Guy of Bruno. Bruno may decide Guy is his best friend in the world and start stalking him. And yeah--if the encounter on the train isn't chance, then a lot of what makes the story interesting dissipates.
Quote
Once you are discussing plausibility, I'll argue that the real implausibility is that Guy doesn't call the police the moment Bruno tells him he killed his wife. That only causes a downward spiral.
Very true. Of course, if he did that, the film would be over.
Quote
Finally, I don't see what the scene where Bruno loses the lighter down the drain accomplishes. So he gets it back and goes his merry way. So for a moment, we wonder if his plan will fail before it starts. That's it?

You're supposed to savor the suspense.

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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2012, 07:26:07 AM »

p.s. How do I break up a quote to reply to each sentence separately? I've seen many posts like that here but don't know how to do it  Smiley
One of our shrewdest legal minds! Hey, here's an idea: reverse engineer it. Use the insert quote command, then look at the codes it uses, then reproduce those codes as necessary. What a concept!

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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2012, 11:26:42 AM »

One of our shrewdest legal minds! Hey, here's an idea: reverse engineer it. Use the insert quote command, then look at the codes it uses, then reproduce those codes as necessary. What a concept!

I have no idea what you said. (And I am the least shrewd computer mind  Wink )

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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2012, 01:36:01 PM »

Hit the "Reply" button. Type some text in the message field. Use the cursor and select the typed text. Hit the "Insert Quote" button. This will apply a code at the beginning of the selected text, and a code at the end of the text. Look at the code used at the beginning of text (bracket + word quote+ closing bracket); look at the code used at the end of the text (bracket +slash+ word quote + closing bracket). Start using the codes.

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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2017, 04:40:23 PM »

Now, this is how you make a movie.  I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Let me get right to it:

Cinematography.  A gorgeous film.  The set pieces, the scenery. The lighting and shadows.  It was excellent. 

Script.  Very good.  Everytime the script would venture off into the implausible or silly, it would rescue itself.

Acting.  Robert Walker was fantastic.  Farley Granger was hit and miss.

Musical Score.  It was ok. It would build the tension perfectly when needed, and set a lighter mood as needed.

Overall.  Very good film by Alfred Hitchcock.  I saw this on Turner Classics. I will be ordering the Blu Ray or DVD. 

I rate this a solid 8 out of 10...

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« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2017, 04:50:25 PM »

You have good taste, my friend.  Afro

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« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2017, 06:22:25 AM »

I'm not so sure that Farley Granger was a bad choice for this movie. Although I don't generally like him I don't think anyone could have done the tennis match scenes like him.

Bruno is indisputably the standout character. It is a toss up between him and Uncle Charlie in 'Shadow Of A Doubt' as to who is my favourite Hitchcock villain. And the movie has probably the most grotesque movie mother ever in Bruno's mom. She is brilliant.

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« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2017, 10:03:49 AM »

Bruno is indisputably the standout character. It is a toss up between him and Uncle Charlie in 'Shadow Of A Doubt' as to who is my favourite Hitchcock villain.
For my money, the #1 Hitchcock villain is Ray Milland in Dial M.

Hitchcock has several films where the villain is pretty much the whole show. He has a lot of films with conventional male heroes--39 Steps, Rear Window, NxNW--but several that keep the focus pretty much on the baddies: Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Strangers, Dial M. So much so that the good guys tend to be pretty bland. Frenzy attempts a kind of balance, I guess, but the hero is so annoying I end up rooting against him. Family Plot may be the most successful in terms of balancing the forces of good and bad: I have equal empathy for Devane & Black and Dern & Harris.

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« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2017, 10:35:11 AM »

 I saw this movie once, a while ago.

 It played on TCM recently, I started watching it and shut it off in middle. Not one one of Hitchcock's best IMO. Or, it could just be that I cannot stand Farley Granger.

I may have liked him in one movie - They Live by Night. Otherwise, I could never stand the guy.

BTW, re: TLBN: I thought Cathy O'Donnell was great in TLBN. And I recall that that movie opens with a helicopter shot - a Good helicopter shot, of the getaway car. My criticisms of helicopter shots are about the helicopters flying over landscapes or seascapes, which look like travelogues. TLBN is an example of a good helicopter shot.

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« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2017, 11:32:19 AM »

TDBY may have had one of the first helicopter shots

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