Film Review – STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951, USA, 101m, PG) ****½
Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller
dist. Warner Bros.; pr co. Warner Bros.; d. Alfred Hitchcock; w. Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde, Whitfield Cook (based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith); pr. Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited); ph. Robert Burks (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Dimitri Tiomkin; ed. William H. Ziegler; ad. Ted Haworth.
cast: Farley Granger (Guy Haines), Ruth Roman (Anne Morton), Robert Walker (Bruno Antony), Leo G. Carroll (Sen. Morton), Patricia Hitchcock (Barbara Morton), Kasey Rogers (Miriam Joyce Haines (as Laura Elliott)), Marion Lorne (Mrs. Antony), Jonathan Hale (Mr. Antony), Howard St. John (Police Capt. Turley), John Brown (Prof. Collins), Norma Varden (Mrs. Cunningham), Robert Gist (Det. Leslie Hennessey).
Patricia Highsmith’s thriller is expertly adapted for the big screen by Hitchcock from a script by Chandler, Ormonde and Cook. Tennis star Granger is enraged by his estranged wife’s (Rogers) refusal to sign their divorce papers so he can marry senator Carroll’s daughter (Roman). On a train journey, he strikes up a conversation with stranger Walker and unwittingly sets in motion the killing of his wife by the psychopathic Walker. Walker then urges Granger to reciprocate by killing Walker’s father. Granger, who is now the police prime suspect in the killing of his wife, is caught in a conundrum. Whilst the premise may be a conceit, the story creates considerable suspense, all beautifully captured by Burks’ shadowy photography and emphasised by Tiomkin’s complimentary score. Walker gives an expert performance, mixing menace and charm and the pacing of the story is perfect, with key moments expertly edited by Ziegler for maximum tension.
AAN: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Robert Burks)

Film Review – SUSPICION (1941)

SUSPICION (1941, USA) ****
Mystery, Thriller
dist. RKO Radio Pictures; pr co. RKO Radio Pictures; d. Alfred Hitchcock; w. Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville (based on the novel “Before the Fact” by Anthony Berkeley (as Francis Iles)); pr. Harry E. Edington; ph. Harry Stradling (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Franz Waxman; ed. William Hamilton; ad. Van Nest Polglase; rel. 9 November 1941 (USA), December 1941 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 99m.
cast: Cary Grant (Johnnie), Joan Fontaine (Lina), Cedric Hardwicke (General McLaidlaw), Nigel Bruce (Beaky), May Whitty (Mrs. McLaidlaw), Isabel Jeans (Mrs. Newsham), Heather Angel (Ethel [Maid]), Auriol Lee (Isobel Sedbusk), Reginald Sheffield (Reggie Wetherby), Leo G. Carroll (Captain Melbeck).
Grant plays the charming scoundrel Johnnie Aysgarth and woos the wealthy but plain Lina McLaidlaw (Fontaine), who elopes with him despite the warnings of her disapproving father (Hardwicke). After their marriage, Johnnie’s risky financial ventures cause Lina to suspect he’s becoming involved in unscrupulous dealings. When his dear friend and business partner, Beaky (Bruce), dies under suspicious circumstances on a business trip, she fears her husband might kill her for her inheritance. Hitchcock deftly manages the light and dark tones of the story, as does Waxman’s score and Stradling’s photography. Grant is perfect for his role and convincing in portraying the ambiguity of the character. Fontaine’s performance may seem mannered today, but it was enough to win her a best actress Oscar. A good support cast is headed by the stern Hardwicke and the bumbling Bruce. Lee also scores as an Agatha Christie-styled mystery writer. The film builds in suspense toward its rushed climax, which the studio notoriously interfered in. Remade as a TV Movie in 1987.
AA: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Joan Fontaine)
AAN: Best Picture; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture (Franz Waxman)