In the vast library of Alfred Hitchcock films rests a thriller unlike any other. To this day Strangers on a Train remains one of the creepiest and well-shot Hitchcock films ever made, yet it rarely gets brought up in conversation. Warner Bros. is planning to change that with this newly released Blu-Ray that looks downright gorgeous in black-and-white and comes loaded with bonus content, including the final version of the film and a preview version that runs a little longer and shows you what a rougher cut of the film looks like.
Guy Haines (Farley Granger) and Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) collide innocently on a train ride. They chat up simple subjects over drinks and smokes, but eventually the conversation takes a turn for the creepy when Bruno jokingly mentions wanting to kill his father. Guy, not wanting to be rude, makes a remark about wanting his wife dead, so that he can pursue his new relationship.
Bruno takes this remark seriously and sets off to kills Guy’s wife, hoping that Guy will return the favor and off his dad. Guy tries explaining that it was all just a misunderstanding and that Bruno is a lunatic, but Bruno doesn’t take lightly to that, starting up another Hitchcock game of cat-and-mouse as Bruno starts to stalk Guy and the people close to him.
Strangers on a Train is classic Hitchcock and by that I mean it features clean and innovative cinematography and lengthy, but well-structured pacing. Hitchcock likes to start things slow and Strangers on a Train benefits from that even tempo. The meat of the story is found in the opening exchanges between Guy and Bruno. Actors Farley Granger and Robert Walker have weird chemistry that constantly makes the characters clash whenever near.
The two on-screen come together like explosives that shouldn’t be tampered with. Guy is a hot-shot tennis player trying to move on with his life and close past roads, while Bruno is a creepy and mysterious figure that likes to cling onto the nearest listener and not let go until things become deadly.
Robert Walker’s Bruno is a smooth fellow that can work his way into any crowd and it’s that sneakiness that makes Bruno such a dangerous man. To everyone else he’s simply a friend of a friend, but to Guy he’s the most combustible element in the room. Watching Bruno toy with Guy’s emotions and sanity is sadistically fun and morally wrong. Hitchcock’s clever use of comedy in the most non-comedic moments is featured heavily and it only helps make this one another timeless classic that will hold up for decades to come.
Strangers on a Train is one of those Hitchcock films that general movie-goers will want to discover, because it’s such a solid piece of work. Hitchcock’s legacy lives on in this deeply pleasing film-noir.
This one comes to Blu-Ray with a 1080p black-and-white video transfer that is crisp, deep and filmic in nature. I’m usually not one for colorless cinema, but this one is truly a beauty to look at. The black levels are deep and rich and the whites are consistently bright and rarely damaged. I noticed only a few real problems with the transfer, with the occasional scratch or mark coming up from time-to-time, but aside from those expected blemishes this one is a real winner. Detail and lighting is impeccable.
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix is a somewhat empty experience. Dialogue is mostly easy to understand, but the detail is hollow and lacking any major impression. The score has no problem filming the film with the proper mood, despite it sounding completely off from the film’s actual intentions. Why is everything so cheery and up-beat all of the time? This is still a good-sounding track, just not as great as other Hitchcock titles.
Here’s a list of the bonus content found on the disc:
- Audio Commentary: This is such a crowded, yet informative track. Alfred Hitchcock himself is featured, plus tons of other notable names that I’ll withhold from listing. Listen to this one and discover it for yourself.
- Strangers on a Train: Preview Version (SD): This is a rougher “British” cut of the film that runs two minutes longer. It contains alternate takes, but isn’t all that different from the final cut. I’d say watch it if you want to view a Hitchcock film before it received its final polishing.
- Strangers on a Train: A Hitchcock Classic (SD): A discussion piece about the film and where it fits on Hitchcock’s massive list of directed films.
- Strangers on a Train: The Victim’s P.O.V. (SD): A look at the famous killing of Laura.
- Strangers on a Train: An Appreciation by M. Night Shyamalan (SD): The controversial director discusses his admiration for Hitch.
- The Hitchcocks on Hitch (SD): Hitchcock’s daughter and granddaughter talk about the legendary filmmaker.
- Alfred Hitchcock’s Historical Meeting (SD): A weird soundless clip featuring Hitch and historical characters.
It’s such a great thing revisiting an Alfred Hitchcock film on Blu-Ray. It’s even better watching one for the very first time. Strangers on a Train was something I’ve never fully seen until now and I can’t believe it. It easily jumps up the charts as one of my favorite films by Hitch. He’s yet again managed to merge his trademark suspense storytelling with remarkable camerawork that moves the film along and slowly reveals a bizarre tale of crisscross and confusion.
Warner’s Blu-Ray looks and sounds better than the also recently Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder and it comes with a hefty amount of supplements, making it another must-own title that you should add to your collection immediately.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.
Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train is an expertly made thriller with fluid camera work, dark humor and enough cliff-hanging build up to keep you biting your nails until there's nothing left. Easily one of Hitch's most underrated films.