For the last six years, I have debated the work of Alfred Hitchcock many times on this blog. I am famously not a huge fan of this man, who many believe to be the greatest film director of all time. But I do like some of his films a lot, and when they are good, they are very good indeed.
This is one of those.
The story got my interest immediately, for its unusual premise. Two men meet on a train. One (Farley Granger) is a professional tennis player, the other (Robert Walker) a strange character who appears to be a little deranged. During their conversation, Guy the tennis player tells Bruno that he wants to get away from his unfaithful wife, so he can be with the woman he truly loves. Bruno responds by saying how much he hates his father, and wants to be rid of him. As they continue to talk, Bruno suggests a plan, the perfect murder. He will kill Guy’s wife, and Guy will kill his father. He reasons that neither man will ever be suspected of the murders, as they would apparently be motiveless. Guy realises that what he thought was just a chat with a stranger has been taken seriously, and becomes concerned. He pretends to be amused by the exchange, and gets away as soon as he can, leaving his distinctive lighter behind.
Sure enough, Bruno carries out his side of the bargain, by following Guy’s wife to a funfair, and strangling her. Guy is shocked to hear the news, and also finds himself a prime suspect in the murder, as his possible alibi is flawed. But Bruno intends to make Guy keep his side too, and wants him to kill his father, which he is convinced was agreed. He sends Guy a parcel containing a gun, keys to his father’s house, and a map showing the location. But Guy encounters Bruno in the house, tells him he will not carry out the murder, and says Bruno should see a psychiatrist. Enraged, Bruno decides to implicate Guy in his wife’s murder, by using the missing lighter as a clue.
The thrilling climax takes place in the same funfair, set around a madly-spinning carousel ride.
I have seen this film more than once, and despite knowing the ending, and every detail of the plot, I can enjoy it time and again. This is mainly due to the wonderful Robert Walker, who is completely believable in the role of the unstable Bruno. The rest of the cast (including the reliable Ruth Roman) all put up a good show, but Walker steals the film.