We’ve done Hitchcock here before (and here and here, and probably in other places I can’t remember off the top of my head). He pops up with a certain regularity on the 1001 movies list, which is unsurprising. In fact, the version of the book that I’m using has a still of Psycho on the cover.
Some of the films are extremely well known, and some aren’t. In my opinion, the subject of today’s post should be much more famous than it is.
Strangers on a Train (1951) deserves to be a household name in motion pictures because of the way it both tangles and untangles the plot. This is truly a tense film (and that’s not the first time we’ve used that word in the title of a post about a Hitchcock movie) which has the audiences dreading what might happen to the protagonist for most of it.
But the end is so spectacularly well done that it makes the suffering worthwhile. It’s the best of the Hitchcock endings I’ve seen so far, and it brings the whole movie up as a result.
But it’s not the ending that makes this one a classic, but the setup. The sheer perverse ideation of the crime in the film makes one admire Patricia Highsmith (of Ripley fame, who originally cooked it up) while, at the same time worrying about her mental state. This one is really diabolical and worth the price of entry by itself.
A mild spoiler and a word about the murder victim: few times have I been so happy to see a non-antagonist character die in a film. The little piece of slime who was killed is one of cinema’s truly unpleasant characters, extraordinarily well played by Laura Elliott.
Interesting notes here are that Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter Pat (who is alive as of this writing) played a very convincing role as the love interest’s younger daughter, and there was an Argentinian actor in this, too: Barry Norton. Always interesting to see my countrymen in American films.
In conclusion, watch this one. The suspense truly is nail-biting, but it all comes together really well in the end.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer from Argentina whose own thriller is entitled Timeless. You can check the book out here.