Strangers On A Train

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Details At A Glance

Category Thriller Listing - Cast and Crew
Featurette - Alfred Hitchcock "Historical" Meeting Newsreel (1:06)
Theatrical Trailer - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 1.0 (2:27)
Year Released 1951
Running Time Side A: 96:40 minutes
Side B: 98:45 minutes
RSDL/Flipper Dual Sided
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Alfred Hitchcock
Warner Bros
Warner Home Video
Starring Farley Granger
Ruth Roman
Robert Walker
Leo G Carroll
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio No
16x9 Enhancement No
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    And so we get to the third of the recent classic films issued by Warner Home Video, and I suppose that it was somewhat unreasonable to expect that we would continue to dodge the age barrier as far as transfers were concerned. However, more of that anon.

    After reviewing arguably the maestro's greatest film, it does seem only reasonable to return to another of Alfred Hitchcock's other great films, albeit one that does not often immediately spring to mind as one of his greats. Whilst certainly not in the class of North By Northwest, Strangers On A Train is nonetheless another example of how much better Hitch was than anyone else in the thriller/suspense film genre and it does score a very solid rating in the Internet Movie Database Top 250 films of all time, currently standing at number 101. In some respects this is a sort of sleeper amongst Hitch's finest, as it seems to be the sort of film that hardly rates amongst the immediate choices for fine examples of his work. It sort of gets tacked onto the end of the list if anything, and I have to confess that I am indeed guilty of such actions at times, but after watching the entire film for the first time I am quite willing to admit that I was wrong about this film and that I shall not henceforth be understating its value ever again.

    Like so many of Alfred Hitchcock's films, the story is all based around a rather simple premise - and the title pretty well describes the entire setting of the core of the story. Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a tennis player currently going through marital problems, in that his wife has been playing around and divorce is supposedly on the cards, and these are preventing his marriage to lovely Anne Morton (Ruth Roman). On a train he meets Bruno Antony (Robert Walker), a man of no real means it seems but with some rather strange ideas, to go with the little problem he has with his father. He knows an awful lot about Mr Haines, and makes a rather intriguing suggestion that Mr Haines obviously takes with a pinch of salt. However, when Mr Antony actually does follow through with his suggestion, Mr Haines gets most of his immediate desires. He also gets loads of problems, for of course the deed perpetrated by Mr Antony makes Mr Haines the immediate suspect - and the result is intense police scrutiny from which he needs to escape in order to be able to clear his name. In other words, a classic Hitchcock scenario of an ordinary man being placed into an extraordinary situation from which he has to extricate himself. Of course we know that he does, because that too is a Hitchcock trait, but the journey he takes to get there is interesting. But it does go to prove that not only should we not talk to strangers but we should definitely never talk to Strangers On A Train!

    Yes, it is classic Hitchcock and that is what makes it so great. You don't need to know anything else but just go along for the ride, as everything will become clear and all will be solved eventually. In this instance, perhaps the ending is a little bit over-the-top as it really is a most unlikely setup, but what the heck. All those little glances and knowing looks eventually work everything out for the police. As far as the film goes, this is quite small as it really does revolve around the two lead characters - the rest are simply there to flesh out the film a little. Farley Granger is hardly a household name today and I know little about the man. He is hardly the greatest actor out but does a sufficiently decent job as the poor stooge. On the other hand, Robert Walker (in what I believe was his last completed role before his untimely death) is quite terrific as the slightly unhinged Bruno Antony. He gives a portrayal of a man just on or beyond the edge of insanity - you never really know whether to believe him or not when he speaks. Ruth Roman does a decent enough job as the love interest but nothing spectacular. The seemingly fixtured Leo G Carroll makes yet another appearance in a Hitchcock film - he seems to be in just about all of his films! The film copped an Oscar nomination in 1952 for Cinematography (Black and White) which is a fair indication of the quality of the filming seen here. Worthy stuff, but I would suggest that the Oscar nomination was a bit over-the-top.

    Whilst this is an underestimated film in general, there is no doubt that Strangers On A Train is yet another classic film from the master of suspense. It is not amongst his absolute gems but is not that far behind.

Transfer Quality


    Well after a couple of fine transfers of some superb, classic films, a dip in quality was perhaps a little inevitable and that is exactly what we get here - a noticeably poorer transfer. The overall quality of the transfer is unfortunately not on a par with nearly all the previous transfers I have seen of classic films from Warners, and therefore I would suggest that most of the issue is with the source materials.

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format, the usual close approximation of the Academy ratio in which it was first presented. The transfer is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    In many respects this demonstrates many characteristics of poorer transfers. The most notable of these is the fact that the definition is not exactly the greatest I have ever seen. The transfer is a little dark and the shadow detail really is quite poor at times - which results in significant loss of detail, sometimes at quite crucial times. The other notable characteristic is the presence of grain in the transfer, which at times is a little wearing. The overall clarity is not great as a result, but is by no means the worst transfer I have ever seen. There is also plenty of suggestion of some low level noise in the transfer, but this may of course be just intense grain at inopportune times.

    The black and white is also not the best, and there is not a really wonderful collection of grey tones at all. There is not much in the way of lighter tones here, and the blacks tend more toward greys. Visually, this is not a really easy-on-the-eyes type of transfer. There is also a somewhat variable depth to the tones. It should be noted that colour-wise and grain-wise, the period from 59:00 to 68:00 on Side A is especially poor in most respects.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are a few film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, but nothing really serious. A bit of aliasing is noticeable and there are a few indications of wobble that may not necessarily be telecine wobble but rather inherent in the source material. There are quite a few film artefacts in the transfer, with some sections quite noticeably affected by snow storms. None of the issues were bad enough to distract significantly from the overall transfer.

    This is a Dual Sided DVD: on Side A is the US theatrical release of the film whilst on Side B is a slightly longer British pre-release version of the film. There is not a huge amount of difference between the two versions: they comprise mainly some additional footage and dialogue during the train scene (Chapter 3), a lack of dog snarling (Chapter 21) and a different ending (Chapter 33) in the British versions. Even though they are two different source prints, they are reasonably consistent in the transfers, which suggests that many of the problems such as shadow detail are actually inherent in the source material, and are not transfer related.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three soundtracks on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack. I stuck with the English soundtrack only. It should be noted that all three soundtracks are options on Side A whilst only the English soundtrack is an option on Side B.

    The dialogue comes up very well in the soundtrack, quite clear and easy to understand, if just a tad strident. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer. Note that the volume level on the two sides is different and Side B is transferred at a noticeably lower volume level.

    The original musical score comes from Dimitri Tiomkin and makes a decent contribution to the film, even though it is not in the league of say Bernard Herrmann's scores.

    There is definitely nothing especially memorable about the soundtrack. On the other hand, there is nothing inherently wrong with the soundtrack, which is free of distortion and any noticeable hiss. Once again, you can forget a fancy speaker system here for there is nothing in the way of surround and bass channel use at all. The soundscape is quite frontal as is to be expected with such a basic sound setup.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is an extremely minimal extras package on offer here, but certainly this is more in accordance with what I would expect from a film that is fifty years old. The same extras are presented on both sides of the DVD. Of course the biggest extra on the DVD is the second version of the film.


    Remember those early Warner Bros releases where the menus were a WB logo over which were placed those nice bars with the menu choices superimposed on them? Well, they're back! As a matter of fact, I find them quite decent, especially if we are not going to have any audio or animation enhancement.

Listing - Cast and Crew

Featurette - Alfred Hitchcock "Historical" Meeting Newsreel (1:06)

    This is something of a puzzle, as it not at all clear exactly what this is all about - and there is no audio that allows us to understand what is being said. Now if your lip reading is way, way better than mine, then you might know what is being said. As it is, this has little meaning or context and therefore borders on being useless. Presented in a Full Frame format, which is not 16x9 enhanced, it is decent enough from a technical point of view.

Theatrical Trailer (2:27)

    Another gripping example of film promotion of the 1950s, with some rather grating plays on the title of the film! Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced, and comes with Dolby Digital 1.0 sound. Whilst there are plenty of film artefacts floating around, the overall quality is not too bad at all.


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    As far as we can ascertain, there appears to be no significant difference between the Region 1 release and the Region 4 release. Given that this is not the best transfer under the sun, I would say there is no compelling reason to choose one over the other.


    Strangers On A Train is another classic film in the filmography of the great Alfred Hitchcock, but it is somewhat let down by the transfer. I would not argue over the lack of extras since in effect the additional version is the ultimate extra. However, the lack of serious quality in the transfer does prevent a wholehearted recommendation here.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
26th May, 2001.

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL