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|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)
|Running Time||Side A: 96:40 minutes
Side B: 98:45 minutes
Warner Home Video
Leo G Carroll
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192
French (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||No|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
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.
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.
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.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
26th May, 2001.
|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|