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Is this an unusual choice. When compared with other Hitchcock works such as Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rear Window and many more...It may well be. I'll cut to the chase and explain the reasons for my choice.
For me, a thriller that deserves to be labeled extraordinary must have the following qualitys. It has to be daring, ahead of its time, original, deeply unsettling and of course must involve a great villain.
In the case of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN most of the originality comes from Robert Walkers superb portrayal of the insane 'Bruno Anthony'.
In 1951 the cryptic nature of the main character profiles effected by the great script and acting almost certainly went over the heads of most of the cinema going public. Untill then they knew exactly where they were and what to expect from the good and bad guys. In the years when subtlety was not a word that moviemakers knew, this classic thriller was downright daring and vastly underated.
Being ahead of his time was not always optimum for box office results but was indeed one of the factors for Hitchcocks greatness.
Although William Holden was Hitchcocks original choice for the 'Guy Haines' character, Farley Granger ended up playing the innocent 'lacadaisical' good guy.
Many feel that his 'Movie Idol' profile actually worked better for the movie than Hitch could ever hope for because under those good looks you would never tell that there also lurked something quite sinister.
Guy Haines, the tennis pro with a hatefull urge to get rid of the obstacle that was his wife, played by Laura Elliot was almost as intriguing a character as the quite mad Bruno.
Guy who looked like he would never step on an ant even by accident had a dark side.
And it was this dark side that was almost unconsciously sent out to do his dirty work for him in the shape of Bruno and his criss cross murder plan.
What Guy did not count on was the sheer unpredictabilty of this psycho.
Camp, confidant, charming but at the same time nervous, unstable, and highly volotile, Bruno was a nightmare character who scored a 10/10 in the creep school of madness.
When Bruno follows Guy down those dark steps of his house after the planned break in, audiences were unsure whether Bruno would pull the trigger of the gun that was pointing at Guys back. Particularly when it was made obvious to Bruno that Guy wanted no part in killing Mr Anthony senior.
Instead, what happens?, the fear level gets tightened up a notch further with Bruno saying in his creepy but almost warm voice, "Dont worry Guy, I'm not going to shoot you. I'm much more clever than that. I'll think of something"
You are left in no doubt that you must fear the worst from this psuedo bisexual phsycopath who only has fits of nervous laughter and bouts of blood curdling rage as his main communiction skills. When dealing with Bruno, its obvious that Guy feels, that at best,you dont know where you stand with him, and at worst, you are a dead man!
Bruno Anthony, surely one of the most frightening villains in cinema history.
Alfred Hitchcocks Strangers on a Train...Quite possibly, the master at his best!
[This message has been edited by uncle eric (edited 07-10-2001).]
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