XL Popcorn – Strangers on a Train

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 831/1007Title: Strangers on a Train
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Year: 1951
Country: USA

Well this is it, the penultimate Hitchcock film on the list. It’s going to be a long time before I see his final entry on the list – Blackmail – but I thankfully have a lot of his other films on DVD in case I suddenly get the itch. Or I could just introduce my husband to the wonders of Joan Fontaine via a Rebecca/Suspicion double bill.

The conceit of the film is an interesting one. In a time before DNA and the related databases, could two men commit a murder on behalf of the other and get away with it. This is the central idea that draws you in, but sadly it’s not the film. Instead you have a film where, drunk on his own idea and on the idea of having his father murdered, a psychotic man kills the troublesome wife of a famous tennis player in order to force the other man to reciprocate of face being framed for a murder he didn’t commit.

Actually, when I think about this bait and switch, this is still an amazing idea for a film. The problem is that the actual murder in this film happens too early in the film’s runtime. What then unfolds is a slower paced blackmail scheme where the rather milquetoast protagonist lacks the presence to fully lead this story. I actually wish this had followed the novel more because that would have made for the better film and not had the almost perfunctory happy ending.

Not the best of his films to initiate a Hitchcock drought with, but between the framing of the strangulation and the amazing final confrontation on an out of control carousel I cannot see myself not throwing on another of his films in the mean time. Such a shame about Robert Walker’s untimely death – I was so prepared to find more of his films after his tour de force performance as the psychotic plan hatcher that finding out that he died in the same year that this film was released was a real blow.

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