by Brad Nelson
Not one of Hitchcock’s best efforts but certainly very watchable. Strangers on a Train is about a young tennis star (played by Farley Granger) and a mentally corkscrewed momma’s boy (Robert Walker) meeting on a train and striking up an ill-fated conversation.
Robert Walker, who is no doubt a first cousin of Misery’s Kathy Bates, is exquisite in the role of the wickedly enthusiastic and obnoxiously bent conversationalist. He sidles up to Granger on a train and won’t let go, eventually inserting himself into Granger’s life with disastrous consequences. They don’t explicitly make a deal to trade murders, but in Walker’s mind things are, of course, crystal-queer.
Granger is suitably mannequinishly plastic which probably suits Hitchcock’s directorial style of manipulating events. He’s a prop. But Walker is the one to watch in this film. It’s a nice and dark performance. The rest of the cast is okay, nothing special, although Ruth Roman is good and believable in the role of future-wife-in-waiting.
Where this movie loses at least a whole star is in the stupid ending involving cheesy special effects which amount to little more than just speeding up the film. It’s sort of tough to create a menacing carousel, what with all those nice colorful ponies. And Hitchcock, usually the master of such things, isn’t able to do so. He actually drew unintentionally laughter from me at one point, which isn’t a good sign.
But overall the movie flows along nicely, even if does inexplicably take time off for a tennis match. And no doubt the Senator in this one is a Democrat because he doesn’t seem the least concerned about avoiding scandal. Anyway, I’ll give this one 2.9 drunk math professors out of 5. This movie is generally rated much higher by the public and by professional reviewers. But I find it a tad over-rated. Still, it’s a fun popcorn type of movie.
Here’s the entire movie, The Lady Vanishes (1938), in 720p on YouTube. It’s also a train movie.