|'The build up of that plot begins in earnest with arguably one of Hitchcock's finest ever sequences, as Antony stalks Miriam (Kasey Rogers) through the fairground.'|
There's a lot that looks familiar in Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 offering, Strangers On A Train, as the director warms up to his triumphal 1950s outings; Dial M For Murder, Rear Window, Vertigo and North By Northwest. The imprint of noir-ish, inky, psychosis is all over Robert Walker's Shakespearean Bruno Antony, for example, as he involves the largely unwitting 'hero' Guy Haines (Farley Granger) in a plot full of layered neuroses and bleak motivations.
The build up of that plot begins in earnest with arguably one of Hitchcock's finest ever sequences, as Antony stalks Miriam (Kasey Rogers) through the fairground. It's tense and bleakly comic, giving Walker the chance to lend Antony a roguishly attractive side, much to the shock of the audience, whose bubble of remaining goodwill is monumentally punctured seconds later. The depths of Antony's lunacy are made clear to us by Hitchcock moments before this act, with a megalomaniac camera angle which puts him in the centre when convention dictates it should be his parents, glimpsed arguing topically in the background.
Parents, relationships and lineage play a key part in the film, which has surprisingly modern attitudes to the ideas of divorce and correct partners. The miss-match of Haines and Miriam leads only to unhappiness and death. Ditto the pairing of Antony's sympathetic Mother and domineering Father. Meanwhile, suggestions of future redemption are held by Haines' extra-marital activity with Anne (Ruth Roman), whose father (the erstwhile Leo G. Carroll) seems to endorse the affair. The incredibly annoying Babs (Patricia Hitchcock) functions, on occasion, solely on fluttering eyelashes.
When Babs is not fluttering her eyelashes she is busy being the single worst plot component, Hitchcock miss-casting his own daughter in a role which seems to be of ill-defined age and character. Her part in the badly plotted 'light bulb moment' for Anne is mainly passive - so no blame can be directly assigned - but her presence at such a key point seems the sole reason for the character to exist.
Elsewhere, this is as polished as Granger's hair and as slick as his voice (like a baser, firmer, Keanu Reeves), his baritone pulling Hitchcock's thriller along to surprisingly satisfying finale.
Strangers On A Train was available to watch on Lovefilm Instant.
'Lesson Learned: Hitchcock can make even tennis exciting.' - Movie Cynics, 10/10