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On June 30, 1951, Alfred Hitchcock unveiled the suspense thriller Strangers on a Train in theaters. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
Strangers on a Train is an admirable demonstration of Alfred Hitchcock’s virtuosity in the area of suspense dramas. Given an imaginative plot idea from which to build his shocker, Hitchcock proceeds in characteristic manner — using commonplace incidents and the long arm of coincidence as details by which he keeps the onlooker glued to his seat.
Curiously contrasted characters and locales play their parts in the Hitchcock strategy, making for an enormously entertaining show. Hitchcock generally avoids long action scenes. His inclusion of a humdinger as the finale is surprising and effective; a sequence in which the heavy is caught against an amusement park background on a crazily careening merry-go-round whose operator has been downed by a bullet.
The story is extremely well cast, and Robert Walker comes through with flying colors in the role of a cunning but obvious psychopath. The part is filled with subtle undertones, and Walker fulfills them strikingly. Farley Granger is splendid as the youth caught up in an unholy scheme to commit murder, and Ruth Roman’s attractiveness adds beauty to her sympathetic characterization of the society girl in love with Granger. Leo G. Carroll is splendid as her father, and Patricia Hitchcock is a chip off the old block in her part contributing toward making the proceedings as sinister as possible.
Laura Elliott, in the exacting assignment of Granger’s shrewdish young wife, is brilliant. Marion Lorne, fluttery and silly; Jonathan Hale, properly dignified, are outstanding as Walker’s parents. Howard St. John, as a detective, heads the exceptional support casting including John Brown, Norma Varden, Robert Gist and John Doucette.
The story begins with the meeting of Walker and Granger on a train between New York and Washington. In the course of a friendly conversation, Walker, knowing Granger’s reputation as a tennis star and of his domestic troubles, suggests that he (Walker) will kill Granger’s wife if the boy will dispose of Walker’s father — thus getting rid of two unwanted people in their lives. Walker, obstinately, goes through with his part of the idea; then, badgers Granger into fulfilling the other end. Eventually Ruth Roman learns what is troubling her young lover. Against the panorama of a big tennis tournament, social functions, queries by police, the two join forces to unmask Walker as the pathetic monster he is.
Robert Burks’ sharp camera work adds impetus to the Hitchcock technique. Ted Haworth’s art direction vividly contrasts the several places of action. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is in the eerie mood of the drama and batoned expertly by Ray Heindorf. The excellent editing is by William Ziegler. — originally published on June 14, 1951.