Strangers On A Train DVD Review

Written by Peter West

DVD released by Warner Brothers

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Writing credits: Raymond Chandler, Whitfield Cook

Starring:
Farley Granger as Guy Haines
Ruth Roman as Anne Morton
Robert Walker as Bruno Anthony
Leo G. Carroll as Sen. Morton
Patricia Hitchcock as Barbara Morton
Laura Elliot as Miriam Joyce Haines

Movie:

While taking a train home, tennis pro Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is recognized by another passenger Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) who at first flatters Haines. After a few minutes of uncomfortable conversation for Haines, Bruno then switches the subject to that of murder. In a hypothetical manner Bruno theorizes the perfect murder being performed by two complete strangers who switch victims. Bruno then brings up a very public messy divorce that Guy is currently involved in, then offers his own situation with a domineering father as his example of who he would like to kill. "Criss-cross" as Bruno describes it. Haines thinking the stranger to be disturbed exits the train and gives the conversation no further thought.

However when Guy's estranged wife Miriam turns up strangled, Guy is then contacted by Bruno who is expecting Guy to fulfill his end of the deal and kill Bruno's father. After calling Bruno insane, Guy is stalked by Anthony who attempts to blackmail him by telling him if he does not kill his father he will make sure the police have evidence that Guy killed Miriam.

One of Hitchcock's most underrated films, Strangers on a Train is a fast paced thrill ride into the mind of a madman.

Review:

Prior to reviewing this DVD, I was only moderately aware of Hitchcock's earlier works. Mostly I had seen his films of the '60s and '70s. Only the big name films of the '50s like Rear Window, Vertigo and The Man Who Knew Too Much was I really familiar with. Much to my surprise Strangers on a Train is every bit deserving to be in that category. The tongue in cheek remake Throw Mama From The Train really does the original no justice. This is a masterpiece by Hitchcock! Told in the perspective of the killer Bruno, we explore the depraved thought process of a true madman. Robert Walker in absolutely brilliant in his role. Hitchcock's visual style is mesmerizing in the depiction of Miriam's death. Her slow death at the hands of Bruno is landmark in cinematography.

There are some works that through time lose their impact, Strangers on a Train is an exception. You can just switch the background of the chance meeting on a train and substitute a plane and it really makes you think about who that stranger is that you're making small talk with while traveling. I do a bit of flying for work and pleasure and for one am going to think twice before sharing any personal details with a stranger.

You don't have to be a fan of Hitchcock to appreciate Strangers on a Train. The film may though make you one if you're not already! Whether you buy this DVD by itself or as part of the Hitchcock Signature Collection, this is one film you must have in your collection.

Video and Audio:

Presented in a full frame 1.37:1 aspect ratio, Strangers on a Train is remarkably preserved. Warner has done a excellent job in restoring this B&W gem. There are two versions of the film, a theatrical and "preview" version with the preview version being 3 minutes longer.

Strangers on a Train has a Dolby Digital mono soundtrack. It's very clear and free of distortion. Original music by Dimitri Tiomkin is powerful and complements the story well.

Special Features:

  • Commentary by several Hitckcock colleagues, aficionados, and family members including Peter Boganovich, Joseph Stefano, and an archival interview with Hitckcock (on final version only)
  • Contains the 101 minute final release version and the 103 minute preview version
  • New making-of documentary "A Hitchcock Classic"
  • 3 featurettes: 'The Hitchcock's on Hitch," "The Victim POV," "An Appreciation by M. Night Shyamalan
  • Vintage newsreel
  • Trailers

Warner has really outdone itself in this re-release of the DVD. I spent over six hours going through everything. Strangers on a train sets the example on how a classic film should be released to DVD. The commentary is interesting and informative. The featurette "The Hitchcock's on Hitch" shows a side of Hitchcock the public never saw while he was alive. While some DVDs have extras that are more fluff than substance, every one of these are well worth viewing.

Grades:

Movie: 5 Stars
Video: 4.5 Stars
Audio: 4 Stars
Features: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars

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