movie: Strangers on a Train (1951)

I recently corralled Husband for a movie and found this one, which has been on my list. You will recall that I quite enjoyed the book, by Patricia Highsmith. And the film has a pedigree: besides Highsmith’s novel as inspiration, the screenplay was written by Raymond Chandler, and it’s directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Farley Granger is Guy Haines; Ruth Roman is Anne Morton; and Robert Walker is Bruno Anthony.

Bruno and Guy, on the train

Bruno and Guy, on the train

The mood of the novel is preserved here. Bruno is creepy, all the more so because he has an upbeat patter in his first meeting with Guy that belies his insanity; Guy doesn’t even notice what he has “agreed” to in Bruno’s good spirits, although Guy clearly does see that there’s something a little wrong with his new acquaintance.

There were – as there always are – many changes from novel to screen. I enjoyed the character of Anne’s little sister, who was not present in the book; she added something to the plot and was a likeable divergence. Bruno becomes more genteel and Guy becomes a tennis player rather than an architect; these changes worked just fine for me. I was a little more nonplussed at the major plot variation involving the second murder – I’ll say no more, in case there are innocents among my readers today who may still want to enjoy book, movie, or both. But the movie still worked, and my upset was not so great that it ruined it for me (as it sometimes does!) so I guess I can be forgiving.

My main criticism would be in the final scene involving a merry-go-round. Maybe it worked better at the time of the film’s release, in 1951; but in 2013, Husband and I laughed and laughed at a scene that should have had us biting our fingernails. It was ridiculous. Again, I’ll leave it at that.

For atmosphere, this movie nails it, both as an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel and as a standalone. For plot and engaging the viewer, it works quite well until the final laughable action scene. I’m not sorry I spent an hour and 40 minutes on it.

Rating: 5 lighters.

One Response

  1. […] his long list of films, and noted a few that I’d like to see (and realized I have seen one, Strangers on a Train). The Birds made my list; so I thought I’d read it, first. I got my full-text version here […]

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