Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith. Taken separately, they’re two of the defining artists of
the post-World War 2 era, matching pulp thrills with biting satire and gut-wrenching depravity.
Put them together, and it’s a match made in heaven for chronicling yuppy suburban hell.
The final film in The Byrd’s May Alfred Hitchcock series is the Hitchcock’s 1951 adaptation of
Highsmith’s groundbreaking novel Strangers on a Train. Following the story of a deranged
socialite who embroils a tennis phenom in a murderous plot, Strangers on a Train stands almost
outside of time, maintaining all of its lurid menace now 70 years after its release.
Featuring one of the great villainous film performances of all time from Robert Walker, the film
is perhaps Hitchcock’s most technically accomplished, evoking a sense of haunted anguish that
is almost unheard of for its era. Also starring Farley Granger, Ruth Roman and an unforgettable
Kasey Rogers, Strangers on a Train reflects 1950s cultural understanding in all the ways
nostalgia would like us to forget.
While Strangers on a Train remains a beloved classic, it is perhaps the most complexly
remembered of the Hitchcock masterpieces given its potentially homophobic subtext between
Granger and Walker, fueling the film’s violent narrative. But, upon closer inspection,
Hitchcock’s intensely biting critique is of the societal structure of the 1950s setting, a time of
sexual repression, stunted adolescence and banality run amok.
Largely shunned by awards bodies of the time, as often was the case with Hitchcock’s films,
Strangers on a Train did receive a single Academy Award nomination for Cinematographer
Robert Burks. The attention for Burks is well deserved, as his shooting of the amusement park
sequence alone conjures as much ethereal dread as any horror movie can aspire to.
A transcendent article of film history, Strangers on a Train remains influential to this day,
leaving its mark on films as varied as Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction to Jordan Peele’s Us. A
fitting end to The Byrd’s May series of Hitchcock classics, please join us for Strangers on a
Train on Saturday, May 28th at 7:00 pm. Tickets