A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.
Bruno Anthony thinks he has the perfect plot to rid himself of his hated father and when he meets tennis player Guy Haines on a train, he thinks he's found the partner he needs to pull it off. His plan is relatively simple. Two strangers each agree to kill someone the other person wants disposed of. For example, Guy could kill his father and he could get rid of Guy's wife Miriam, freeing him to marry Anne Morton, the beautiful daughter of a U.S. Senator. Guy dismisses it all out of hand but but Bruno goes ahead with his half of the 'bargain' and disposes of Miriam. When Guy balks, Bruno makes it quite clear that he will plant evidence to implicate Guy in her murder if he doesn't get rid of his father. Guy had also made some unfortunate statements about Miriam after she had refused him a divorce. It all leads the police to believe Guy is responsible for the murder, forcing him to deal with Bruno's mad ravings. Written by
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"Strangers on a Train" is a brilliant example of what Hitchcock could do best, continually develop his plot and characters in an atmosphere both creepy and humorous. The film has great dialogue, superb characters, good acting, and naturally superb direction from the master of suspense who is truly at his best here. Robert Walker's Bruno Anthony is a character few will forget; he is creepy, psychopathic, and as M. Night Shyamalan says on one of the DVD's special features it is the fact that he has moral standards, however unconventional and disturbed they may be, that makes him such a dangerous man.
Strangers is a truly involving film, one that takes you on a ride you won't forget anytime soon, it has one of the best examples of buildup you could find on film, and as soon as it ends the film takes you on a journey that entertains and terrifies and even makes you laugh. This is a truly brilliant example of film-making, every shot is drenched in suspense, every cut is masterful, every detail important, every second exciting, it never lets go till the very end, and what an ending that is, a delicious bit of humor that is perfectly in tone with the rest of this delightful masterpiece.
Some have criticized Farley Granger's performance as Guy Haines, but it really is quite perfect; he delivered all his lines well and makes us feel honestly sympathetic towards him. Robert Walker is simply genius as Bruno Anthony, a great character that wouldn't have been nearly as memorable without Robert Walker's devilishly evil portrayal of him. The supporting cast are good, Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll, Kasey Rogers, Howard St. John and Patricia Hitchcock all deliver good performances that enhance what was already a good film and make it a great film. Alfred Hitchcock's direction is, as always, sublime.
What makes "Strangers" so good is the simple plot. It isn't a complicated story, two strangers meet on a train, and one comes up with a crazy plot: "You do my murder, I do yours." One takes it as a joke and shrugs it off, but the other takes himself seriously and goes on to commit the murder he offered to, getting the 'good guy' into huge trouble. The script is adapted superbly well by Whitfield Cook from a novel by Patricia Highsmith.
This is really one of Hitchcock's most interesting films from a technical perspective while also providing more than enough laughs, suspense, and thrills to keep just about anybody engaged.
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