On its release in 1951 this was an adaptation of a story by a young unknown, made by a director whose career was on the wane after a series of flops; it also lacked any major stars. But ‘Strangers on a Train’ revived the career of Alfred Hitchcock and set him on the path to his most successful period in the ’50s and early ’60s, while launching the career of Patricia Highsmith.
Hitchcock may have taken some liberties with the beautifully constructed plot (some of them forced on him by the censors), but he delivered a masterpiece of black comedy with a superlative performance from Robert Walker as Highsmith’s prototype psychopath Bruno Antony. A chance meeting on a train with tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) offers Bruno the opportunity to inveigle Guy into his scheme to swap murders. Highsmith has rarely been so well served on screen.