Farley Granger (left) and Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train

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Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train is a film released in 1951 by Warner Bros. The film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film starred Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Carroll, Kasey Rogers and Patricia Hitchcock. more...

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The movie was based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley. Detective novelist Raymond Chandler wrote an early draft of the screenplay.

The plot

Tennis star Guy Haines (Granger) wants to divorce his unfaithful wife in order to marry the woman he loves, Anne Morton (Roman). Haines meets the unstable and psychotic Bruno Anthony (Walker) on a train and Bruno tells Guy about his idea to exchange murders: Bruno would kill Guy's wife if Guy kills Bruno's father, and then both of them would be 'free' to do whatever they want. Guy doesn't take Bruno seriously, but Bruno kills Guy's wife and then demands that Guy honors his part of the bargain. Because of the obvious motives he had, Guy is immediately suspected by the police and now he must prove himself innocent. However, it becomes more and more difficult as Bruno makes more appearances to remind Guy about the murder and slowly more people get involved.

The motif of the double

Like Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train is one of many Hitchcock films to explore the doppelgänger theme. The film employs a number of puns and visual metaphors to suggest the motif of double-crossing and crossing one's double.

A few examples:

  • Bruno orders two double drinks on the train in the beginning of the film.
  • Guy's lighter, which plays an important role in the film, features two crossed tennis rackets.
  • A murder committed early in the film is seen doubly reflected in both lenses of the victim's glasses.
  • Hitchcock's cameo comes early in the film, as he carries a double-bass -- the physical double for the rotund director.

"Isn't it a fascinating design?" Hitchcock is reputed to have said; "You could study it forever."

Alternate versions

An early preview edit of the film, sometimes erroneously labeled the "British" version (in fact it was never released in Britain or anywhere else), includes some different scenes than the film as released. Both versions are currently available on DVD.

Parodies

Hitchcock's film was the basis for the comedy Throw Momma From the Train (1987), starring Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito.

This method of comitting murder has been referenced in several television series. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, in the episode A Night at the Movies, investigated a crime similar to, the plot of Strangers on a Train. The idea itself for the crime came from Strangers on a Train. In the episode, two women meet at an arthouse movie theater, one has a sexual abuse suit against a dentist, the other has a suit against her boss. The two apparently agree to "solve each others problems." One of the women kills the dentist that sexually abused the woman, but the other woman doesn't hold up her end of the bargain.

Read more at Wikipedia.org


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