6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Seen 5 Times or More and Always Find It Superb,
This review is from: Strangers on a Train (DVD)
This may be Alfred Hithcock's masterwork. It is seamlessly perfect from start to finish. The brilliant character actor Robert Walker, who specialized in villainous roles before his own early death, played Bruno Antony, the villain of this piece. I've read that it is the villain that makes a movie like this work and that is certainly true here. His is the loose cannon of a character throughout the film. One question that is never answered that is worth thinking about is whether Bruno has arranged to meet Guy Haines (Farley Granger), the tennis star, on the train or whether it is the coincidence that it appears to be. The more times I've seen it, the more I'm convinced that Bruno set it up. I don't think anything just happens with Bruno. The two men meet on the train and Bruno proposes that each of them kill the problem person in the other's life. In Guy's case, this is his wife so he can go forward and marry a US senator's daughter and in Bruno's case this is his wealthy father who would like to institutionalize him.
Guy "sort of" turns Bruno's proposal down but there may be a Freudian desire to accept Bruno that he also communicates. It is clear that Bruno would also like to propose more to Guy, that he is homoerotically attracted to Guy. Guy, in turn, may be attracted to Bruno too but his homoerotic tendencies are more ruthlessly sublimated and repressed by him (yet watch him tenderly straighten Bruno's tie and jacket after Bruno passes out at a party). Certainly Bruno is a more fascinating, mesmerizing person than either Guy's sluttish wife or vapid girlfriend. Bruno proceeds to cement their "deal" and Guy finds himself with Bruno on his hands as a nightmare that only keeps escalating. There are so many great scenes in this movie, so many great bit parts, that a viewer could get dizzy listing all of them.
Suffice to say that some fabulous moments include the following. (1) Bruno's viewing his mother's "outsider" painting and equating it to his father, when she sees St. Francis as the subject(it is clear that the acorn did not fall far from the tree in this family); (2) the carousel scene which is the climax of the movie, including the old duffer who crawls underneath it to stop it; (3) The woman whose car is taken over by the police to chase Guy, who rather than being frightened is absolutely thrilled to be chasing a desperate man. (4) The little boy who comes up to pester Bruno at the amusement park who Bruno sets down instead by puncturing his balloon with his cigar. I could keep going, the scenes are that good. Notice the use of hands throughout this film too, from the strangulation they use as a killing method to lighting cigarettes with the crucial lighter to playing tennis to pulling valuables out of grates. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you are missing one of the all time great film thrillers. That it contained the novelistic skills of Patricia Highsmith, the screenwriting skills of Raymond Chandler and the directing/storytelling skills of Alfred Hitchcock virtually guaranteed its becoming an instant classic.
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