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Warner Home Video presents
Strangers on a Train (1951)

"My theory is that everyone is a potential murderer."
- Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: September 09, 2004

Stars: Farley Granger, Robert Walker
Other Stars: Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock, Kasey Rogers, Marion Lorne, Jonathan Hale, Howard St. John
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (tense moments)
Run Time: 01h:40m:40s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 085393981426
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-B+ A-

DVD Review

Playboy/tennis player Guy Haines (Farley Granger) casually reads while riding a train to his hometown in preparation for a big match. This day appears similiar to many others, but everything changes when he randomly meets the overly friendly Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker). This handsome but creepy guy sits down close to Guy and treats him like an old pal, even inviting him to lunch. Everything still appears harmless, but the conversation takes an odd turn when Bruno starts talking about murders. He describes an ingenious plan where two random people exchange murders, ensure fullproof alibis, and have nothing to tie them to each other.

Guy is currently facing difficulties in divorcing his adulterous wife, and Bruno despises his overbearing father. He treats this discussion hypothetically and uses it as a way to pass the time with the eccentric Bruno, but doesn't actually believe it will happen. However, when his wife, Miriam (Kasey Rogers), winds up dead, events become extremely complicated, and this supposedly chance meeting might not be so random. Guy's made a very obsessive friend, and his life will only become more complicated. When Bruno expects him to pick up the tab and complete the deal, their connection could lead to more tragic results.

Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train represents one of the classic director's most engaging films and provides almost a countless stream of suspenseful moments. He clearly is at the top of his game for this one, and the result will leave you chilled throughout the film. Based on the first novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley), this story explores the true nature of guilt and its existence even when the person has done nothing wrong. Guy didn't think twice about his conversation with Bruno, but he still feels guilty when his wife is dead. Hitchcock loves to present tales of the innocent man falsely accused, and this is one of his best creations. When Bruno begins stalking Guy and following him everywhere, the hero realizes he's trapped in a corner and might have to commit the unthinkable to escape from this dilemma.

It is impossible to discuss this film without mentioning the stunning performance of Robert Walker as the psychopathic Bruno. He dominates every scene he enters and easily steals the movie from the weaker Farley Granger, who was cast specifically for this reason. Bruno's relationship with his mother is especially eerie, and Walker plays the doting boy perfectly. He's equally handsome and disturbing, and the initially charmed socialites quickly want nothing to do with the strange fellow. Sadly, Walker died only months later following an accidental overdoes of tranquilizers. He rarely played villains until shortly before this movie, and had barely scratched the surface of his acting promise.

Strangers on a Train also contains an impressive collection of other actors who add significant depth to possibly one-note roles. Granger may not be a strong protagonist, but this element increases the story's suspense. Kasey Rogers makes the fun-loving Miriam a stark contrast to the proper Guy and his fiancée Ann Morton, played by the stunning Ruth Roman. Comic relief is provided by the constantly chatting Patricia Hitchcock as Ruth's sister Barbara, but she also does well in one chilling scene. Marion Lorne hits the right notes as Bruno's mother, who refuses to accept any fault in her troubled son. This supporting cast ranks among the top tier of Hitchcock's lengthy directing career.

This film also features a large collection of unforgettable scenes that remain with you long after each viewing. One of the best involves a tennis practice where everyone in the audience follows each movement of the ball with their heads, with the exception of one guy—Bruno. The murder scene is also very effective, with the shot reflected in the concave lens of a pair of eyeglasses. The finale is especially stunning for a film released in 1951, as it presents an out-of-control carousel moving at breakneck speed. Hitchcock also generates considerable suspense with lights and shadow, as well as with extreme long shots of the villain's silhouette. His ingenuity raises this compelling thriller above its genre and into the ranks of classic cinema.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Strangers on a Train utilizes its original full-frame format and offers a clear, impressive black-and-white picture. There are a few minor defects here and there, but they are expected considering the film's significant age. The numerous inventive visuals work especially well and lead to a top-notch presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: This release provides a digitally remastered version of the original mono track, and the audio springs well from the front speakers. Hitchcock was a master of creating abundant suspense with a minimum of sounds, and this track helps him to generate spellbinding cinema. Bruno's stalking of Miriam at the carnival provides a perfect example of this effect. Although not perfect, this mono transfer effectively helps in creating an entertaining atmosphere.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 33 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peter Bogdonavich, Joseph Stefano, Andrew Wilson, and More
Packaging: generic plastic two-disc keepc
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Preview version of film (1:42:49)
  2. Historical Meeting Vintage Newsreel
Extras Review: This two-disc special edition contains an impressive collection of extra features. I've split my discussion by disc to make your reading easier:

Disc 1
Along with the Hollywood release of the film, this disc provides the original theatrical trailer, which uses the typical over-the-top method of the time period. Plenty of words cover the screen, and far too many of the major moments are presented.

The essential element is a feature-length commentary track, which offers a wealth of information about the picture. Narrated by the DVD producer, this collection of statements often does not relate directly to the scenes presented, but it should please Hitchcock fans. The speakers include director Peter Bogdonavich, Highsmith biographer Andrew Wilson, and even comments from Hitchcock himself. This track provides some compelling information, but many elements are repeated in the documentary.

Disc 2
A British preview version of Strangers on a Train was discovered in 1986, and it was released theatrically several years later. The changes are fairly minimal, with about two minutes added, but there are a few significant differences. The initial meeting between Guy and Bruno contains more homosexual overtones, and the ending is different (and less effective). This version should excite film buffs, but it probably is only mildly interesting for typical viewers.

This release's best feature is the new documentary, Strangers on a Train: A Hitchcock Classic, which runs for about 36 minutes and provides an excellent overview. Interviews with Bogdonavich, Wilson, Farley Granger, Patricia Hitchcock, and others offer considerable details about the production. A special bonus is the appearance of Robert Walker, Jr., who discusses both his father's talent and drinking problems. This piece also discusses the memorable scenes and the effective score.

Three unique featurettes also appear and provide some worthwhile moments. Strangers on a Train: An Appreciation by M.Night Shyamalan includes praise and insights from the esteemed modern director, who adores Hitchcock's work. It is interesting to hear his point of view, but it falls short of anything fascinating. More enjoyable is Strangers on a Train: The Victim's P.O.V., which provides a seven-minute interview with Kasey Rogers, who played Guy's wife Miriam. She discusses her experiences in making the film and working with Robert Walker. It's intriguing to note that the memorable glasses worn by her character made her almost totally blind. The last featurette is The Hitchcocks on Hitch—a collection of home movies and pictures with commentary from his granddaughter. This piece presents another side to the imposing director rarely seen during interviews. The only remaining supplement is a small bit of newsreel footage involving Hitchcock that runs for about a minute.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

As the primary release in the new Alfred Hitchcock DVD Collection, Strangers on a Train delivers the goods and deserves a new look from today's younger movie audiences. This two-disc special edition includes plenty of worthwhile extras that make this release a "must-buy" for cinema lovers looking to explore great suspense films of the past.

 


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