Two very different men meet on a train: Guy is a talented, but unhappily married, tennis player; Bruno, a total nutcase. Each of them wants to be rid of some annoying person in their life. The loony Bruno suggests that he kill Guy’s wife and, in exchange, Guy will off the psycho’s horrible dad.
When Guy laughs it off, little does he know that Bruno doesn’t understand the concept of being humored. In fact, Bruno decides that Guy must like the idea. Even people who aren’t nuts tend to hear what they want to hear.
So Bruno does the deed, then insists that Guy do his part. A sticky situation for Guy, especially since the police suspect him of doing in his wife.
Robert Walker seems to relish playing the role of psycho killer Bruno. Farley Granger exudes a haunted air as the tennis player who finds himself in over his head. The director, Alfred Hitchcock, noted that they played their parts to perfection.
As Bruno puts increasing pressure on Guy, the stakes rise considerably until it seems almost inevitable that he’ll be framed like a Picasso for his wife’s death.
The tension mounts quickly as Guy tries to wriggle out from under Bruno’s set up, leading up to a climactic scene involving a merry-go-round that spins out of control as the two play cat-and-mouse. To say the ending is explosive is understating matters. The carousel scene is a stunning visual metaphor for the increasingly chaotic state of Guy’s life.
With a solid supporting cast (including Hitchcock favorite, Leo G. Carroll), a magnificent score by Dimitri Tiomkin, and the noirish cinematography of Robert Burks, Strangers on a Train explores the themes of the danger that lurks in random encounters and how circumstantial evidence can point to all the wrong answers.
A brilliant psychological thriller and film noir, this movie gets two thumbs up!