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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for can be found here.
Tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) meets total stranger Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) while on the Washington-to-New York train. Bruno has this crazy idea of swapping murders, i.e., 'I'll kill your wife and you kill my father,' and discusses it at length. Guy dismisses it as a joke and leaves the train but is horrified when, several days later, his estranged wife Miriam (Kasey Rogers) is found strangled at an amusement park. Guy becomes the prime suspect, which threatens his tennis career, his romance with U.S. senator's daughter Anne Morton (Ruth Roman), and his hopes for a political career. When Bruno keeps pressing Guy to keep up his end of the scheme, Guy and Anne try to find a way to stop the psychotic stranger.
Strangers on a Train is a 1950 thriller novel written by American writer Patricia Highsmith. The novel was adapted for the film by screenwriters Whitfield Cook, Czenzi Ormonde, and Raymond Chandler.
The park employee succeeds in stopping the out-of-control carousel, but the belt breaks and the carousel begins to fall apart, some of the heavy rubble falling on Bruno, trapping him. As Bruno lays dying, Guy attempts to talk him into giving up the lighter, but Bruno insists that he doesn't have it. Guy asks to be able to search his pockets, but the police won't let him. When Bruno finally expires, however, his hand opens up to reveal Guy's lighter. Finally convinced that Guy is innocent, the police let him go on the condition that he appear at the station in the morning to give his statement. The next thing Guy does is to telephone Anne to let her know he's all right and to ask her to bring him a few things. In the final scene, Guy and Anne are returning home on the train. Seated in their compartment is a clergyman who recognizes Guy and asks, '...aren't you Guy Haines?' Wordlessly, Guy and Anne get up and leave. The clergyman shrugs and goes back to reading the paper.
Famous for placing himself in a cameo in almost every one of his movies, Alfred Hitchcock's cameo in Strangers on a Train occurs 10 minutes into the film. He can be seen carrying a double bass as he gets onto the train. A photo of the scene can be viewed here.
Strangers on a Train has the classic, and probably first genuine, murder swap story, but there have been many imitations. They include: (1) Columbo: A Friend in Deed (#3.8) (1974) in which a police commissioner covers up the murder of his friend's wife. In exchange, he expects this friend to cover up his own murder. (2) In Throw Momma from the Train (1987). Owen (Danny DeVito) wants his mother dead and, inspired by Strangers on a Train, offers to swap murders with Larry (Billy Crystal). (3) In Horrible Bosses (2011), the characters, also directly inspired by this movie, decide to kill each others' bosses.
There is NOT a British version of this movie that is different from the U.S. version. The truth of the matter is that the version found in England was shipped there after a preview in Pacific Palisades, CA in 1951. At the screening, Jack Warner (head of the studio) suggested to Hitch to film a more upbeat, tongue-in-cheek ending and trim some of the "food talk" between Guy and Bruno to keep the film close to the original running time. All of this info can be verified on the new 2-DVD version recently released by Warner Home Video. Early in the film, on the train, when Guy and Bruno are ordering food, the details are spelled out in the "British" version. The ending is simple and does not include a, "Aren't you Guy Haines"? A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.
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