This week’s selection in Take Up Production’s “First, You Need a Crime” series was Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, which I’d never seen. It’s one of his earlier films, in black and white, and before his penchant for tormenting icy blonds turned into a fetish. Farley Granger is Guy Haines, a handsome, famous young tennis player approached by the garrulous Bruno on a train. Haines has marriage trouble; Bruno has some deep and abiding father issues and tells Haines he’d like to swap murders with him. Haines is understandably put off, and politely hurries away. Bruno, though, won’t be dissuaded.
The movie is full of fascinating, funny, creepy and disturbing stuff. Raymond Chandler worked on the screenplay, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia is Barbara, who has some of the best lines and takes on the role of girl detective.
Senator Morton: Poor unfortunate girl.
Barbara Morton: She was a tramp.
Senator Morton: She was a human being. Let me remind you that even the most unworthy of us has a right to life and the pursuit of happiness.
Barbara Morton: From what I hear she pursued it in all directions.
Girls who wear glasses don’t have a good time of it, though. There are several iconic images, such as one of the crowd at a tennis match, a reflection in eyeglasses, and a merry-go-round scene that makes my eyes widen and jaw drop even in memory. There’s subtext on social and political power, and of homosexuality. This is a great Hitchcock film, and one I’m glad I got to see on film in a theater.
IMDB lists a remake slated for 2011, but a Google search turned up paltry evidence, so let’s hope it just goes away.