Filmsite Movie Review
Strangers on a Train (1951)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Bruno took the train to Metcalf, and located Miriam's address (at 2420 Metcalf) in the nearby station's phone-booth's phonebook. That same evening, from a bus stop bench across the residential street, Bruno kept an intense watch on Miriam's plain, small house, when suddenly, the bespectacled Miriam and two boyfriends, Tom (Tommy Farrell) and George (Roland Morris) were laughing and joking as they burst out of the front door onto the porch and rushed across the street to catch a Metcalf Transit Lines bus at the bus stop where Bruno was sitting.

Bruno closely followed behind them, hopped onto the bus, and rode with them to the local carnival-amusement park. There, he pursued the threesome for a night of food stands, enjoyable side shows, games of chance hawked by barkers, and carnival rides (the merry-go-round and a boat ride). At the entrance to the park, Bruno lit a cigarette with Guy's lighter (a reminder of Guy).

[Note: This was the first of two fateful visits to the park.]

There were many strikingly visual and auditory scenes in the subsequent amusement park stalking and murder sequence. As Bruno observed, the group bought ice cream cones at a frozen custard stand. The two teased Miriam about her "craving" and ravenous hunger, not knowing that she was pregnant or blackmailing her estranged husband Guy. Miriam first noticed Bruno watching them as he attempted to non-chalantly pursue them. As a come-on, she loudly announced so that the dangerous-looking stranger would hear: "Hey, are we goin' to the TunneI of Love?" as she dragged the two boys along with her - looking back to make sure they were being followed.

While trailing behind, Bruno became annoyed at a young kid (Louis Lettieri) who pointed a toy gun and him and said: "Bang! Bang!"

[Note: With the simple gesture, the boy was subliminally pointing out that Bruno had been outed and was about to commit a heinous murder. A second young boy also played a role in the film's conclusion.]

To respond in kind, Bruno maliciously popped his balloon, bursting it with his lighted cigarette and causing another loud "Pop!"

At a strong-man, "Test Your Strength" sledge hammer bell-ringing contest, both of Miriam's weak beaus only scored 1,600 and 1,700 and failed to win the prize of a kewpie doll for Miriam. Bruno stepped up next to the disdainful Miriam, momentarily surprising and flirting with her before he entered the competition. He glanced down at his clenched hands before he grabbed the mallet, and easily rang the bell at the top with one swing ("Why, he's broken the thing!"). During their mutual seduction of each other, Miriam was unaware that he was showing his proposed victim the murder weapon - his strong hands!

The next stop was the amusement park's central ride, the merry-go-round, where Bruno sat on one of the bobbing, prancing horses behind Miriam. [Note: This was the first of two sequences aboard the carousel.]

[Note: There were thematic connections between the record store with circular objects, the round carousel, and the vicious circular trap that Guy found himself in with Miriam. Eventually, in the film's conclusion, when the merry-go-round ceased to whirl around and broke into pieces, so ended the metaphorical cycle of madness and death (personified by Bruno) that was haunting Guy.]

She flirted more openly with him, as the trio of lovebirds sang: "(And) The Band Played On" played on the calliope. When the carousel stopped, Miriam again loudly proclaimed: "Let's go for a boat ride."

At the Tunnel-of-Love boat ride, a Boat Man (Murray Alper) at the landing dock helped popcorn-munching Bruno into a second boat (labeled PLUTO) that followed behind Miriam's boat (labeled SKIPPY). [Note: Appropriately, in classical mythology, Pluto was the god or ruler of the underworld, a place of death. And Bruno represented a force of murder.]

Inside the actual river-cave tunnel, Bruno watched as she was groped and grabbed by teenaged male George trying to neck and steal a kiss. At one point, Bruno's shadow cast an ominous, dark and looming imprint over Miriam. There was an orgasmic, deathly, but playful scream just as Miriam's boat emerged from the river-cave tunnel - a murderous foreshadowing. The two boats docked at a nearby island known as "Magic Isle." The three continued their frivolous chase game on the island, when suddenly, Miriam purposely evaded them and ran into Bruno (from his POV), and her face was illuminated by the flicking of Guy's lighter. He confirmed her name by asking: "Is your name Miriam?"

In a shocking strangulation murder scene (with the calliope's music, Hitchcock's leitmotif (recurring theme) of "(And) The Band Played On," faintly heard from the carousel in the distant background), it was first presented as a standard sexy Hollywood kissing scene. But then violence erupted as Bruno's gloved hands grabbed her by the neck. Her glasses tumbled onto the grass and fell next to the lighter. The brutal homicide was reflected or mirrored in one of the thick lenses of her glasses that had fallen off her face. (The other lens was shattered or cracked). The distorted fun-house view showed her lifeless body slowly dropping to the ground, with the voices of her male friends heard calling out for her: ("Hey, Miriam, come on. Stop fooling. Maybe she's given us the slip, huh? Hey, come on! Stop hiding. Miriam, where are you?").

Bruno retrieved both Miriam's broken eyeglasses and the lighter from the grass, and quickly returned to his boat and shoved off to return to the landing dock, amidst pairs of other promiscuous lovers on the grass. Shouts were heard: "Look, she's fainted!..She's dead!...Help, somebody, help!" The distress calls brought a large crowd of curious onlookers to assemble on the boat dock. As Bruno walked through the gathering crowd to escape, the Boat Man vendor-operator distinctly noticed the suspicious-looking Bruno fleeing in the opposite direction. As Bruno exited the park, he helped a Blind man (John Butler) (with darkened glass lenses) safely across a busy road - a brief act of atonement for his crime. Bruno glanced at his watch - it was 9:30 pm. He was linked to Guy, also looking at his watch.

[Note: Guy was on a train going the opposite direction, heading southward from New York City to Washington DC, unwittingly establishing an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of Miriam's murder - however, the only other passenger in the circular observation car who could attest to his presence was a drunken Delaware Tech University mathematics named Professor Collins (John Brown), singing to himself about a goat after having just delivered a speech in New York. Of course, his recollection of meeting Guy would be suspect and faulty. After he babbled on about differential calculus, the Professor queried Guy about his complex statement ("Do you understand?"). Guy assented - without thinking ("Yes, I understand"), echoing his earlier agreement with Bruno's murderous proposal ("Sure, Bruno, sure").]

Early the next morning at 3 am, when Guy was delivered in a taxi to his DC apartment near the domed, lit-up US Capitol Building, he was interrupted at his front door by Bruno eerily calling out to him from across the street. He had been hovering in shrouded, shadowy darkness behind a tall iron-barred gate or fence. Guy turned and entered into Bruno's darkness (behind metal iron bars, looking imprisoned), where he was confronted with the news of Miriam's murder in Metcalf. As proof, he revealed a memento of the murder - Miriam's eyeglasses (that had literally witnessed the murder, with a cracked right lens): "I've brought you a little present." Bruno informed Guy that it was a painless death and perfectly-executed murder:

It was very quick. She wasn't hurt in any way. It was all over in no time. I knew you'd be surprised. There's nothing for us to worry about. Nobody saw me. Only Miriam. And I was very carefuI, Guy. Even when I dropped your cigarette lighter there, I went back to pick it up.

When Guy responded in horror by calling Bruno a "maniac," Bruno was taken aback - quickly reminding him of their bargain:

But Guy, you wanted it. We planned it on the train together, remember?

Facing Bruno and speaking to him through the iron bars, Guy threatened to call the police, but turned speechless when Bruno began to blackmail him. Bruno warned what would happen: "But you can't, Guy. We'd both be arrested for murder....You're just as much in it as I am. We planned it together. Crisscross." Bruno explained how he wouldn't be considered a suspect in Metcalf, but that Guy would be - he was the complicitly-guilty one with a real motive to eliminate his wife:

Bruno: Why should I go to Metcalf to kill a totaI stranger, unless it was part of the plan, and you were in on it. You're the one who benefits, Guy. You're a free man now. I didn't even know the girI.
Guy: I had nothing to do with this. The police will believe me.
Bruno: Guy, if you go to the police now, you'll just be turning yourself in as an accessory. You see, you have the motive.

Bruno was right - he was suggesting that Guy (who had a clear motive and desire to kill Miriam) was subconsciously or implicitly guilty, and a true accessory to murder after the fact.

From outside, Guy heard his phone begin to ring inside his apartment, but he was so transfixed, stunned and confused that he couldn't respond. He realized it had to be "news" of Miriam's murder. Guy joined Bruno behind the iron gate - now both were hiding behind the imprisoning iron bars, as a police car drove up, and an officer came to the front door of his residence, presumably to contact the husband of a murder victim. With no response to the doorbell, the car drove away. Guy admitted to the crazed Bruno: "You've got me acting like I'm a criminal. Why, you crazy fool!" - he felt drawn into Bruno's psychotic world and had been tainted with guilt by Miriam's murder. Bruno began to become enraged ("Don't you call me that!"), but then remembered the second half of the bargain - Guy now had to reciprocate with the murder of Bruno's father:

I've got the plan of the house already made. And I have an old Luger pistoI which I picked up in a pawnshop in San Francisco. The gun - Guy - (Guy stormed off) Wait a minute! We have to talk. We have to arrange things.

As Guy strode over to his apartment's front steps, Bruno attempted to write off Guy's brash and angry reaction: "You're not yourself, Guy. You're tired. Now, when you think things over, you'll see that I'm right. Tomorrow." Guy vowed to never see Bruno again: "I don't know you. I never saw you before, and I never want to see you again."

Inside his apartment, Guy spoke to Anne on the phone (while dangling Miriam's glasses in his hand) - and because she was so upset, he promised to see her immediately.

Upon his entry into the aristocratic and elegant Morton residence, Guy and the trembling Anne embraced and kissed. She told him of her passionate love and devotion for him: "I wonder if you know how much I love you." Guy revealed that Anne was the dominant and more mature partner when he replied: "Brazen woman, I'm the one to say that!" She ushered him into the living room to speak with her father, Senator Morton (Leo G. Carroll), standing stiffly to greet him in his night robe. Anne's teenaged, younger sister Barbara (or "Babs") (Patricia Hitchcock, the director's daughter) was also awake, and rushed to hug Guy, hinting at some "dreadful" news.

The Senator informed Guy of the terrible development that they had learned - that Miriam had been murdered. Guy's first response was feigned shock that his wife was dead. Anne confirmed her suspicions of Guy by detailing the exact method: "She was strangled." The intelligent and outspoken Barbara inappropriately but honestly joked that the police would probably pin the murder on him:

Senator Morton: There seems to be no way of diplomatically breaking tragic news. I'm sorry, Guy, to be the one to tell you. It concerns your wife. She's been murdered.
Anne: The police have been trying to locate you everywhere.
Senator: You're to call headquarters in Metcalf.
Guy: Miriam murdered.
Anne: (in a overhead closeup, with a blank stare) She was strangled.
Senator: It happened on an island, in an amusement park. It was sort of a lover's lane, I believe, evidently, a sordid atmosphere.
Barbara: Miriam went there with two boys. They're the ones who found her, so they're not suspects, but you probably will be...Let's not fool ourselves. The police will say Guy wanted Miriam out of the way so he could marry Anne. In a crime of this sort, the police first go after the husband anyway. And Guy had every motive.

Senator Morton tried to assure Guy: "I'm sure you've got nothing to worry about." Babs agreed, but only IF he had an air-tight alibi: "If he hasn't an alibi for 9:30 tonight, he has plenty to worry about." Guy mentioned his train trip as his alibi, and that he had a witness - a Professor Collins from Delaware Tech. Anne smiled with obvious relief: "Then everything's all right," although Babs still had her doubts: "Not quite, he'll still have to answer questions," but then she relished the idea of a scandal: "Daddy doesn't mind a little scandaI. He's a Senator." Anne remained supportive:

Anne: Can't be helped, darling. It's not your fault. It's not as though anyone can say you had anything to do with it.
Guy: Someone might say it. I'd do anything to keep you all out of this mess.
Senator: Be guided by my experience. Never lose any sleep over accusations, unless they can be proved, of course. Dreadful business, dreadful. Poor unfortunate girl.
Babs: She was a tramp.
Senator: She was a human being. Let me remind you that even the most unworthy of us has a right to life and the pursuit of happiness.
Babs: From what I hear, she pursued it in all directions!

Inappropriately but accurately reflecting everyone's real thoughts, Babs declared that Anne and Guy could immediately be married: "Think of it. You're free!" [Note: Those were similar to the words Bruno said to Guy: "You're a free man now."] As Babs and the Senator exited to go to bed, the Senator urged Guy to call Captain Turley in Metcalf. Babs slyly noted the homicidal force of love: "I still think it would be wonderfuI to have a man love you so much he'd kill for you."

Anne moved toward Guy to again embrace him, but reminded him of her worry about his shouted words on the phone after his encounter with Miriam in the Metcalf record store - when he threatened to strangle Miriam. When he said: "That I could stran---", she stopped him with a kiss in the middle of the word 'strangle', and then vowed her deep love:

Don't even say it. Forget you ever said it. Even more terrifying than the murder itself was the horrible thought that if you had had anything to do with it, we would have been separated. Perhaps forever. I couldn't stand that. I couldn't bear it.

As they kissed, he opened his eyes - signifying extreme worry and nervous concern over his concealed involvement in the murder.

In Metcalf's police station the next morning, Guy met with non-uniformed Captain Turley (Howard St. John) and Lieutenant Campbell (Edward Hearn) - two police officers - for questioning. Guy's momentary relief at seeing Professor Collins (John Brown) outside the office was unfounded when his potential witness (and alibi) had completely forgotten him. Guy took some credit for stating that at least he had identified someone on the train and the police had located the man ("Surely the important thing is I have been able to name a man who was on the train with me. You've been able to find him. Isn't that proof of where I was at 9:30 last night?")

Back in Washington, DC that evening at the Mortons' residence, Guy visited with the Mortons in their living room and told them about the opening of a case. He told them that detectives had theorized that according to the crime's timeline, Guy would have been able to commit the murder and still board the train afterwards ("They suggested that I could have caught the train at Baltimore after Miriam was murdered. They had it all worked out in that little timetable"). He said that he was considered the prime suspect in the killing, and pointed out he was constantly being tailed (or shadowed) 16 hours a day by Detective Leslie Hennessey (Robert Gist) (standing as his "guardian angel" across the street and pacing under a streetlight), to prevent him from fleeing. [Note: There were two detectives trailing Guy in Washington DC, one of whom was Hennessey.] Anne suggested, with her father, that Guy should continue his normal routine and schedule, including his Forest Hills tennis match in NY: "You mustn't do anything that looks suspicious. You've got to go on acting as if nothing had happened."

  1. The Morton's black butler (J. Louis Johnson) entered with a telephone call for Guy - it was from Bruno who was also in DC. Guy hung up immediately, causing everyone to think his behavior was somewhat odd and strange

It was the first of seven instances of Bruno stalking after and contacting Guy (who was failing to cooperate), to increase the pressure. The seven instances began from a more distant place (a phone call) to a closer, more threatening and personal stance:

  1. while walking with Hennessey in downtown DC, Guy expressed his future desires: "When I'm through with tennis, I'm going into politics, I hope" but then he distantly spotted Bruno staring at him from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial - a dark-suited spot against the white marble columns
  2. Guy found a handwritten note in an envelope pushed under his DC apartment door: ("Dear Guy We must get together and make plans. My father will be going away soon. Call me. B"); after reading it, he swiftly crumpled and burned Bruno's note in an ashtray
  3. in one of Washington DC's stately museums, the National Gallery of Art (aka the Mellon Gallery), during some rare private time with Anne, Bruno interrupted them and called Guy aside. Frustrated by Guy's continual evasions, Bruno was anxious to tell him in a whisper: "You're spoiling everything. You're making me come out into the open. (From a distance, Anne saw Bruno for the first time - she noticed his prominent signature tie-clasp with his inscribed name.) I've tried calling you on the phone. Did you get my note? Why haven't you called me? My father is leaving for Florida the end of next week." Bruno leered at Anne: "Slight improvement over Miriam, huh, Guy?" Guy threatened Bruno to stay away, and told Anne the excuse that the gentleman was "just some tennis fan"
  4. in an office for Guy and his secretary Louise (Mary Alan Hokanson), set up in the Mortons' study, Guy received a special delivery letter, marked PERSONAL, containing two items: a detailed map or floor plan of Bruno's home, with implicit instructions pointing the way to his father's upstairs bedroom, and the front door key to the Antony house
  5. Guy again noticed Bruno trailing him, while he was on the sidelines at the Washington Country Club in DC, waiting for another mixed doubles match to finish before playing a practice singles match; Bruno chillingly watched him - staring straight at him from the stands, while all of the other spectators followed the game volleys of the ball back and forth (left and right) over the net
  6. after Guy's singles game (off-screen), he discovered Bruno further insinuating himself into his life and friendships. He was sitting on the club's upper outdoor cafe terrace, directly socializing and entertaining Anne with his two friends, by telling "charming stories" - French-speaking Monsieur (Georges Renavent) and Madame Darville (Odette Myrtil)

Anne eerily noted Bruno's monogrammed tie-clasp for the second time (the first time was in the art museum) and became suspicious. Barbara called Guy aside, and told him a ghoulish story about a gruesome murder case solved by Guy's "shadow" - Mr. Hennessey:

I've just been talking to your shadow. Guy, did you know Mr. Hennessey helped crack that axe murder I was reading about? You know, the one where the body was cut up and hidden in the butcher shop. He was locked in the icebox with the left leg for six hours.

And then Barbara became distracted after noticing the attention-getting, attractive Bruno (an "interesting-looking Frenchman") at the table with the Darvilles. Guy corrected her: "His name's Antony. He's not French." She moved over closer to be introduced to him. The troubled and haunted psychopath began to intently stare at Babs, and the camera zoomed in for a close-up of her face - capturing the transformation of her smile into dismay and slight horror.

[Note: To make clear that Bruno noticed a likeness and identification between Babs and Miriam - with his first troubling flashback to the murder, the soundtrack played the leitmotif of fair music - "(And) The Band Played On," and he heard the words he had spoken to his victim before murdering her: "Is your name Miriam?" In addition to the auditory hallucinations, there was also a striking visual image -- the reflection of Bruno's lit lighter, the one used at the murder, superimposed onto Barbara's glasses. As Miriam's glasses reflected her own murder, so did Babs' pair of glasses literally reflect the murder back onto the perpetrator.]

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