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Bruno: It's so simple, too. A couple of fellows meet accidentally, like you and me. No connection between them at all. Never saw each other before. Each of them has somebody he'd like to get rid of, but he can't murder the person he wants to get rid of. He'll get caught. So they swap murders.Bruno: For example, your wife, my father. Criss-cross.
Guy: Swap murders?
Bruno: Each fellow does the other fellow's murder. Then there is nothing to connect them. The one who had the motive isn't there. Each fellow murders a total stranger. Like you do my murder and I do yours.
Guy: We're coming into my station.
—Strangers on a Train
A 1951 Alfred Hitchcock thriller starring Farley Granger and Robert Walker. Guy Haines (Granger), an amateur tennis star, meets the eccentric Bruno Antony (Walker)on a train. Bruno has read about Guy's romantic troubles in the paper, and suggests that he might want to...dispose of his wife, the unfaithful Mrs. Miriam Joyce Haines (Kasey Rogers under the alias "Laura Elliot"), so he can marry Anne Morton (Ruth Roman), the daughter of a U.S. Senator. Bruno tells Guy of his own unhappiness with his father, and outlines his plot for the perfect murder: two strangers who both have someone they want dead "exchange murders". Guy laughs the whole thing off and gets off the train but, as he learns a few days later, Bruno wasn't joking.
The movie was based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (of Ripliad fame) and had a screenplay originally written by Raymond Chandler (before he was fired and replaced). The book and the movie are the Trope Namer, Trope Maker, and Trope Codifier for Strangers on a Train Plot Murder, although there's a lot more to the story than just that one trope. The 1987 comedy Throw Momma from the Train is part parody, part remake and part homage of this film.
This film provides examples of:
- Absent-Minded Professor: Collins, the drunken mathematician on the train. It's his forgetfulness that kills Guy's alibi.
- Affably Evil: Bruno, at least until he shows his true colors.
- Amusement Park: The scene of Miriam's murder and of the film's climax.
- Angry Guard Dog: Subverted. After sneaking into the Anthony house late at night to find Bruno's father and warn him, Guy encounters a growling Great Dane on the stairs. However, as he gets closer the dog comes up and licks his hand.
- Asshole Victim: Miriam Haines
- Ax Crazy: Bruno
- Badass Bystander: The random Cool Old Guy who volunteers to stop the speeding carousel...by crawling underneath it to get to the mechanism at the center.
- Book Ends: In the final scene, a stranger -- a clergyman -- recognizes Guy on a train and tries to strike up a conversation with him. He and Ann respond by getting up and moving to another car.
- Clutching Hand Trap: Bruno, a remorseless murderer, gets his arm stuck in a drainage hole by the sidewalk. This is played for suspense, as it helps buy time for Guy to finish his scheduled tennis match ( Bruno arrives at the tennis match anyway), though it does have Alfred Hitchcock\'s trademark dark humor.
- Creator Cameo: Hitchcock appears lugging around an upright bass the first time Guy gets off the train.
- Feet First Introduction: For both Bruno and Guy, the first of many times the movie contrasts the two.
- Foe Yay: Bruno's plan would have worked - had he not been so interested in Guy.
- Foil: Bruno and Guy, very intentional (see Numerological Motif below).
- Hey, It's That Lady: Bruno's mother is Aunt Clara.
- And that's Hitch's daughter Patricia, well before Psycho.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: The cops at the end shoot at Guy (when he's running into a crowd of children, no less) instead of just chasing after him. Nobody seems to care that one of the shots hits and kills the merry-go-round attendant.
- Probably because they're too busy caring about the merry-go-round full of people that's going at a dangerous speed and can't be stopped now that its attendant is gone.
- Identical Stranger: Barbara Morton and Miriam Joyce Haines. Not quite identical, but similar enough that it becomes a plot point.
- MacGuffin: Guy's lighter.
- Meganekko: Ann's younger sister, Barbara "Babs" Morton (played by Hitchcock's daughter Patricia).
- Mommy Issues: Bruno
- My God, You Are Serious: Guy's reaction when he learns about Bruno killing his wife.
- Numerological Motif: The number two and the concepts of doubles and doppelgangers are both important in this movie.
- The theme of crosses and double crossing could fit under here as well.
- Oedipus Complex: Bruno wants to kill his father and is very... close with his mother. Need we say more?
- The Perfect Crime
- Reflective Eyes: Or Reflective Eyeglasses, anyway; we see Bruno strangle Miriam in them after they're knocked to the ground.
- Psychological Horror: Not as much compared to some Hitchcock movies, but it's certainly there. While he's kind of funny most of the time, there are moments when Bruno is terrifying.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Bruno.
- Sissy Villain: Bruno
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Miriam's murder is accompanied by jaunty carousel music in the background.
- During Mirian's murder, the music goes twice as fast as it does in the rest of the amusement park scenes.
- Strangers on a Train Plot Murder: Trope Namer
- Villain Ball: Bruno all but outright tells Anne what he's going to do to frame Guy, just to rub Guy's nose in it, even though it gives Guy a chance to stop him.
- Washington DC: Setting for most of the film. One memorable scene was done on location at the Jefferson Memorial.
- What Could Have Been: Not for the film itself, but Robert Walker's performance was hailed by many as the birth of a new superstar. Sadly, he died shortly after the film's release.