100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 91: STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

by Laurent Kelly

Strangers on a train (1951) –  Director:  Alfred Hitchcock   Screenplay:  Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde  Starring:  Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Leo.G.Carroll, Ruth Roman, Patricia Hitchcock   OSCAR COUNT (0)

Alfred Hitchcock was a master at not only creating suspense and horror in the most minimal fashion but also in developing gripping stories which arise from seemingly harmless incidents. Such is the case when two strangers meet on a train. One is a tennis star undergoing a nasty divorce. The other is a charming but unstable gentleman who has a bitter hatred for his father. These two stories become interlinked just through a simple sarcastic agreement to a deadly plan.

The plotting in this film is perhaps Hitchcock’s finest as he is able to arouse intrigue and terror whilst never making a moment of his audacious story feel too contrived or far-fetched. Characters react and act as one would expect and the film makes a solid effort to  make you empathise with the film’s antagonist as opposed to just creating a one dimensional world of good and evil. Robert Walker puts in a spellbinding performance as the film’s psychopath who has a ruthless viciousness hidden inside a calm and exciteable exterior. His outgoing facade makes his character all the more unsettling and as such his presence more sinister and threatening as a result.

Strangers on a train also excels in its execution of set-pieces with locations brilliantly utilised to heighten the tension and excitement of key turning points in the film. Whilst time has not been kind to the film’s frantic finale at the carousel, the rest of the film stands up extremely well as an engaging and character driven thriller.

  DID YOU KNOW? Raymond Chandler received top billing for writing credits despite the fact that second billed  author Czenzi Ormonde did the majority of the work. I’m sure many writers around the country can empathise with this feeling….

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