Strangers on a Train: 2 Disc Special Edition (1951)

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Released 16-Nov-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Audio Commentary-Peter Bogdanovich, Joseph Stefano, Andrew Wilson & More
Theatrical Trailer
Alternative Version-Preview Version
Featurette-Strangers On A Train: A Hitchcock Classic
Featurette-Strangers On A Train: An Appreciation By M. Night Shyamalan
Featurette-Strangers On A Train: The Victim's P.O.V.
Featurette-The Hitchcock's On Hitch
Featurette-Alfred Hitchcock's Historical Meeting
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1951
Running Time 96:38
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (42:45)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Farley Granger
Ruth Roman
Robert Walker
Leo G. Carroll
Patricia Hitchcock
Kasey Rogers
Marion Lorne
Jonathan Hale
Howard St. John
John Brown
Norma Varden
Robert Gist
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Strangers on a Train is a classic Hitchcock film, which has previously been released on DVD in Region 4. The review of that version can be found here.  Although it has been released by Warner Home Video it is not included in the recently released box set of Hitchcock films from Warners. Strangely, it is included in the equivalent box set in Region 1. Leaving all that aside, this version is a significant improvement over the previous version in a number of ways, which are:

    The only item which is not included on this new set (which was on the original one) is a one page text list of cast and crew, which will not be missed.

    Now, on to the movie itself...

    This movie captures your imagination from the opening sequence, where you see two people getting out of cabs and heading for a train. That sounds fairly straightforward, but the way this was filmed immediately makes you wonder about the people. Instead of seeing their faces and upper bodies (as most directors would do) you see only their shoes, trousers and luggage. Immediately you notice differences between the two men (as you quickly work out they are), such as their style of dress and the way they speak to the porter. Instead of immediately letting you look at these two characters, Hitchcock forces you to think who they might be for yourself based upon small details. Once they are seated in the carriage and their feet touch, the perspective moves to their faces. At this point you are properly introduced to the two main characters of the story. One, Bruno Antony (Robert Walter), is a flashy dresser as you noticed from his wingtip shoes in the opening sequence. His monogrammed tie clip and well-cut suit also betray his arrogance and wealth. We soon learn that he is the son of a wealthy man who thinks his son should get a job and a woman (Marion Lorne) who dotes on him. He also quickly reveals himself to be fairly amoral and possibly psychotic despite also being quite likeable and suave. The other man is tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger), who although being obviously the more decent man (even based solely on his more sober shoes and trousers), also reveals some skeletons such as his wife from whom he wants a divorce, Miriam (Laura Elliott). He wants to marry Ann Morton (Ruth Roman), the daughter of a Senator (Leo G. Carroll).

     Bruno recognises Guy and engages him in conversation and despite Guy's reluctance invites him back to his room for lunch where Bruno suggests a solution to both their problems. Bruno is aware of Guy's wife from the gossip columns. Bruno suggests that they should do a 'murder swap', where each one does the other one's murder so that neither can be implicated since they are complete strangers (hence the title). Bruno suggests that he will kill Guy's wife in exchange for Guy killing his father. This is obviously a plan he has been working on for some time, but you are left to ponder whether the meeting on the train was planned by Bruno or completely accidental. Guy thinks he is joking and fobs him off when they arrive at his destination, Metcalf, his home town. Bruno, on the other hand, believes that they have reached an agreement and proceeds to commence the plan...

    I will not spoil the plot for those who have not seen the film, but suffice it to say that very shortly Guy has a very serious situation on his hands involving murder, stalking and the police.

    This film has some wonderful Hitchcock moments and sequences, such as the opening sequence mentioned above, the first carnival sequence (which includes fantastic eye contact and expressions, along with a great 'red herring'), the use of Miriam's and Barbara Morton's (Patricia Hitchcock) glasses, the first tennis match (a justifiably famous sequence where all heads are following the ball except one) and the final sequence, which although slightly preposterous is certainly impressive to watch, especially considering the lack of special effects available at the time. Additionally there is great use of camera angles and shadows as is expected in a Hitchcock film. The story itself is based upon the debut novel of Patricia Highsmith, who went on to write the Tom Ripley books, upon which the recent films have been based. The story includes themes such as guilt and the transference of guilt onto the innocent, the nature of amorality, mother/son relationships and also includes some homosexual overtones between the two main protagonists. This is part of the original novel and was confirmed by Hitchcock in a later interview.

    The acting is very good by all, however, two performances really stand out, Robert Walker as the psychopathic Bruno is wonderful, a brilliant mixture of threat and likeability and Marion Lorne as his completely unhinged mother. Unfortunately, Robert Walker died shortly after the film was made due to an unfortunate medical bungle. Patricia Hitchcock is also surprisingly good as the young Barbara Morton.

    So, a classic Hitchcock film, given an excellent treatment on DVD.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is excellent for a film of this age and is a significant improvement over the previous version.

    The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

    The picture was surprisingly clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. This is one area which is a significant improvement over the previous version. I own a copy of the previous release and the difference is obvious. There is much more clarity and definition in the picture on the new version. The previous one was not bad for an older film, however, this new version is a big jump forward. The level of grain was also better than on the previous version, although was still present. The shadow detail was very good for a film of this age.

    The movie is in black & white and the contrast between the blacks, various shades of grey and white are very good. Again this is an area of improvement over the original version.

    Artefacts are still present in this transfer but have been significantly improved from the previous version. I did notice a few lines and hairs (one noticeable line occurred at 2:14 vertically across the screen) and small white specks of film artefact are fairly common. Additionally, I noticed some mild aliasing on the train lines at 2:02 and some macro-blocking on Ann Morton's chest at 50:40. The film jumped at 58:08 as if it were missing a frame but this would be a source issue. Generally speaking the artefacts on show in this version are greatly improved from the previous one.

    There are subtitles in 6 languages including English plus English & Italian for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read and very close to the spoken word.

    The layer change occurs at 42:45 and was well placed in a section of black.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is very good and in the original mono.

    This DVD contains three audio options, an English Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in French and Italian. Generally speaking, I found this audio transfer to be clearer than the previous version, with less music distortion.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by Dimitri Tiomkin is very good. Personally, I would have preferred to see this film scored by Bernard Hermann as I believe he is the composer that worked best with Hitchcock's films. Tiomkin's score does the job well but it does not add that something extra which a Hermann score can, such as in The Wrong Man, where the score is one of the highlights.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    I will mark new extra features, as compared to the previous Region 4 release with **NEW**.

Menus

    The menus include stills, and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles. They are 16x9 enhanced and incorporate a nice motif of cigarette lighters and other symbols from the film.

Feature Commentary (Disc 1) **NEW**

    This is not really a commentary track so much as a collection of interview snippets, combined together and hosted by the DVD producer, Laurent Bousereau. Despite this it is certainly much better than other tracks of this type I have heard. A significant effort has been made to make the interviews used relevant, timely in terms of where in the film they are used and interesting. Laurent also ensures that every speaker in introduced so you know who you are listening to. The speakers include various film historians; the author of Patricia Highsmith's biography, Andrew Wilson; the actress who plays Guy's wife Miriam; Joseph Stefano, the screenwriter of Psycho; Whitfield Cook, a friend and collaborator of Hitchcock's who also was involved in the adaptation of the novel for this film; Richard Franklin, the director of Psycho 2 and Alfred Hitchcock himself. Topics covered include the subversive casting, differences between the book and the movie, problems during the adaptation involving Raymond Chandler, shooting and various interesting anecdotes. Well worthwhile although there is some crossover with the featurettes.

Theatrical Trailer (2:31) (Disc 1)

    A slightly odd trailer which has a voiceover which directs questions at the characters directly. Interesting.

Preview Version of the film (98:44) (Disc 2)

    This is the same alternate version which was included in the previous Region 4 release of the film, although it was then referred to as the British version. It would seem that this is actually a version shown twice to Warner executives prior to the release of the film, following which changes were made, some at the direction of Jack Warner. According to information within the featurettes it was never shown theatrically anywhere, including Britain. It would seem that it was mislabelled as that in the Warner archives. The differences are not huge, really only affecting three scenes. The opening scene on the train is longer and contains more overt homosexual advances by Bruno. The scene of Guy sneaking out of his apartment to get away from the policeman is slightly lengthened and the ending is different (although not as good as the final release version). So, an interesting extra but not really essential viewing except for film buffs and Hitchcock completists. From a transfer quality perspective, this version has also been significantly improved for this new version of the DVD.

Strangers on a Train : A Hitchcock Classic (36:41) (Disc 2) **NEW**

    A newly made and fascinating documentary on the film. There are lots of interesting facts about the making of the film and views on its importance included in the documentary which also includes some behind the scenes footage. Interviews are included with a number of film historians such as Peter Bogdanovich and also cast members such as Farley Granger, Patricia Hitchcock and Robert Walker's son, Robert Walker Jr. This covers a lot of ground and is highly recommended.

Strangers on a Train : An appreciation by M. Night Shyamalan (12:44) **NEW**

    The director of The Sixth Sense discusses what he likes so much about Hitchcock and this film in particular using examples from the film. I found this interesting, especially his admiration for the way Hitchcock was able to advance both plot and character development at the same time, avoiding extended exposition. Worth watching.

Strangers on a Train : The Victim's P.O.V (7:19) **NEW**

    Kasey Rogers (AKA Laura Elliott) who played Miriam talks about her experiences of being cast, working with Hitchcock and making the film. Includes some interesting insights into how the movie business worked at the time, with actors being contracted to studios. Interesting.

The Hitchcocks on Hitch (11:19) **NEW**

    A more personal look at Alfred Hitchcock the man, rather than the director, based on interviews with his daughter Patricia and her three daughters, Mary, Tere & Katie. Includes reminiscences, anecdotes and information on Hitch's fastidiousness, love of travel, relationship with Alma and the house they lived in.

Alfred Hitchcock's Historical Meeting (1:05)

    What the hell is this all about? Short, silent newsreel footage of Hitchcock meeting somebody dressed as Thomas Jefferson. Que? No explanation is given!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This new Special Edition version of Strangers on a Train is being released in the same format in Regions 1, 2 & 4. For a comparison to the previous Region 4 version see above. I will recommend the Region 4 version on the basis of a PAL transfer and availability. It is worth noting however that in Region 1 it is included in a 9 movie (10 disc) box set of Hitchcock's films for Warner but is not included in the equivalent 4 movie set here in Region 4. For this movie alone you may as well buy Region 4. If you want all nine, carefully consider the Region 1 box set which is available at a reasonable price.

Summary

    A classic Hitchcock movie which includes many justifiably famous sequences and moments. It is worth considering upgrading from the previous Region 4 version if you are a fan of this film.

    The video quality is very good and a significant improvement over the previous version.

    The audio quality is very good and an improvement over the previous version.

    The set has a good selection of interesting extras including an alternate version of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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