“I actually watched this over a week ago (longer by the time this future dated entry posts), and I’ve flip flopped the whole time about whether or not I’m going to write it up. The intention was to do so, but I was too lazy to do it in real time. Then I was just lazy.
So I actually sought out this old Hitchcock classic because I’d just finished reading the book a few weeks prior. The book is by Patricia Highsmith, who’s also responsible for The Talented Mr Ripley series. It’s not every day you come across a female writer who’s capable of such dark and twisted (for the time at least) stories. I realize as I say this that I’ve been reading some Gillian Flynn, who is a female writer capable of incredibly dark and twisted stories (Gone Girl anyone?).
Strangers on a Train deals with two men, Guy and Bruno, who meet on a train (Oh I get it now!). In the course of conversation, Guy talks about his wife who is being difficult about getting a divorce while Bruno talks about his controlling and unbearable father. Bruno proposes that he kill Guy’s wife, and in return Guy kills Bruno’s father. The lack of known connection between the two men would make it nearly impossible for anyone to solve. Guy doesn’t take the suggestion seriously, but is just enough weirded out by Bruno to try and stay away from him. Bruno goes ahead and kills Guy’s wife anyways. And this is the point when the movie which had been closely following the book (minus details like altered names, locations, and occupations), deviates in its own direction.
Am I allowed to give spoilers on a film and book that are both over 50 years old? In the book, once Bruno kills Guy’s wife, he hounds him and threatens him until Guy eventually gives in and murders Bruno’s father. The two men are now tied together, and Guy is unable to escape the guilt, especially as Bruno embeds himself deeper in Guy’s life. In the film, Guy goes to warn Bruno’s father, but is caught by Bruno. Bruno then hounds guy, threatening to implicate him in the murder. So in both cases, the suspense is built around Guy, coming from Bruno, but with different intentions. The book was more of an internal conflict and dove deeper into exploring that, shades of gray abound. The black and white film goes more black and white with the characters, painting Bruno as the unequivocal villain. Personally, I think Bruno’s just not the brightest guy (in both instances). Especially in the book, he makes it a habit to hang around and become part of Guy’s life, which negates the perfect alibi he’d hoped to establish. Still, by changing things around, Hitchcock is able to present a more streamlined suspense, that does play better on screen, even if it felt a bit thin as someone who had read the novel”