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Strangers on a Train

September 9, 2010

Strangers on a Train (1951)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Actors: Farley Grainger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman

Synopsis: Guy Haines (Farley Grainger) finds himself framed for the murder of his wife, when a casual acquaintance on a train (Robert Walker) becomes too keen on winning Haines’ attention….

Review: I wouldn’t place this in the upper pantheon of Hitchcock’s work but I would certainly classify it as “archetypal” Hitchcock – perhaps a film I would use when introducing an outsider to his body of work. The film certainly finds Hitchcock at his most virtuoso, gorging on extreme expressionistic gestures to go with the spicy and melodramatic subject matter. From startling camera angles, to gorgeous use of chiaroscuro and montage, Hitchcock loads the story with a heavy rhetorical artillery. This lends the first half of the film an irrepressible energy as the narrative travels at a breakneck speed through its machinations of murder and blackmail. What starts off as compelling (in particular the first, amazing fairground sequence), does become somewhat ripe and excessive in the second half of the movie – particularly the heavily-edited sequences that almost reminded me of Eisenstein in their pulverising attempt to communicate subtext. Overall though, the film’s inherent confidence prevails over those few prosaic moments. (January 2008)

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