DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Strangers On A Train - Two Disc Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Aug 31, 2004.

Tags:
  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 7, 2001
    Messages:
    1,342
    Likes Received:
    0
    [​IMG]

    Strangers On A Train
    Two Disc Special Edition





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1951
    Rated: Not Rated – Preview Version: PG
    Film Length: 101 Minutes/103 Minutes - Preview Version.
    Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Academy
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English & French
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $26.99
    Package: Two Discs/Keepcase





    The Feature:
    September can’t come fast enough for fans of legendary British director, Alfred Hitchcock. Warner Brothers is about to release a ten disc (9 films) boxed set entitled, The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection. Among the new releases will be Dial M For Murder (1955), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Suspicion (1941), I Confess (1953), The Wrong Man (1956), Stage Fright (1950) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941). Also included in the set is the ultimate WB Hitchcock property, North By Northwest (1959) in a new style keepcase, and finally the featured film, Strangers On A Train. Individual titles will list for $19.97, while the two disc SE will list for $26.99 or the entire set lists for $99.92.

    Last week I was blessed having spent a week working on a review of titles from one of the greatest living directors, Martin Scorsese. This week, I’m even more blessed working on a number of titles from one of the greatest directors ever – perhaps the greatest! Aside from many of the greats from the period (John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Huston, Billy Wilder, William Wyler, David Lean, Orson Welles, Frank Capra, Charlie Chaplin, and Michael Curtiz among many others), only one stands out - even among these legends; Alfred Hitchcock. While there was a whimsicality to most of Hitchcock’s films, he was perhaps the only director whose work might be defined or even described by his own name. His pictures had a feel that no other films can compare to and while Strangers On A Train for instance is a true film noir, it’s a Hitchcock first.

    The film, highly regarded to be among Hitchcock's best, is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995). Guy Haines (played by Farley Granger), is a famous tennis player traveling by train enroute to an upcoming tennis match with a planned stopover, when he is recognized by fellow commuter Bruno Anthony (played by Robert Walker). Bruno is a rather forward and inquisitive man who surprises the young playboy with his vast amount of personal knowledge about him and his personal affairs, though Guy seems too naïve and polite to simply walk out on him. Guy eventually discloses the fact he is in love with a U.S. Senator’s daughter, Anne Morton (played by Ruth Roman), but in order to marry her, he’ll first have to divorce his unfaithful wife, Miriam (played by Kasey Rogers).

    During lunch, Bruno suggests that they help each other out in a “criss-cross” murder scheme as he wants his controlling father dead. I’ll kill yours, you kill mine. He outlines the basic plan to Guy who is flabbergasted, but he assures him that since nobody could connect the pair, neither could ever become suspects. Guy who is appalled at the thought exits Bruno’s room but hastily forgets his monogrammed cigarette lighter.

    Guy shows up at Miriam’s workplace with the funds necessary for the divorce proceedings as she has requested, however she quickly changes her mind knowing that Guy is her meal ticket and will provide for her and her unborn child – a child that Guy hasn’t fathered.

    Guy starts receiving strange phone calls from Bruno and suddenly winds up as a person of interest in a police investigation when his wife, Miriam, turns up dead in an amusement park, strangled to death. Unfortunately, Guy just finished expressing to his new girlfriend how much he’d like to strangle her and they were seen arguing at her workplace just before the murder. Fearful of being wrongly accused, Guy starts to panic but the campaign of harassment and intimidation by Bruno escalates as he is now looking for his problem to be taken care of after taking care of Guy’s obstacle. What follows, is a taut cat and mouse chase and race to see if Guy can clear his name in time.

    It’s said that one of Hitchcock’s biggest phobias was to be accused of something he did not do, a theme that was at the heart of many of his films including this one. Also interesting is the sexual tension that exists throughout the film as Bruno seems rather smitten with Guy whose interaction during his initial encounter with him aboard the train is rather flirtatious. Obviously homosexuality was not yet a topic for open discussion, so the anxiety and tension was rather subtle and subdued, thus the reason for paring down the Preview (British) version by two minutes, removing some of the sexual overtones (among other things). The Preview version is also included in its entirety and can be located on disc two.

    For fun, we’ll list the infamous Hitchcock cameo shots throughout the series. In this case, he appears:

    At the 11:25 mark of the film as the big guy struggles to load an even bigger standup bass onto the train. Take a close look at Hitchcock’s eyes as he shoots Guy a look while boarding the train. Priceless. It may be only urban legend but it is said that Patricia Highsmith was given a cameo shot and can be seen in the demo room at the record shop where Miriam worked. It’s unknown whether or not that has ever been corroborated for sure.


    The Feature: 5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    If you have followed my reviews of classic films, you’ll often hear me refer to such titles as The Bad And The Beautiful and Now, Voyager as examples of B&W film that are near perfect. Well, let me add one more to the fray, Strangers On A Train.

    In a word – stunning!

    While I might be slightly hesitant to compare it to Casablanca (let’s face it, that would garner a score of 5½ out of 5), I can say with the greatest of confidence that this film betters 99.9% of any B&W film that has been released thus far.

    The level of image definition was amazing. This was one of those transfers that you could count individual hair and skin pores if you were so inclined. As expected, many of the female close-ups were slightly diffused but overall, this is a beauty. Velvety smooth – gorgeous.

    Black levels just couldn’t get any darker and equally impressive were whites that were always stark and clean. The level of contrast and shadow detail was also wonderful. There was an appropriate amount of extremely fine film grain present throughout which presented a beautiful looking film-like picture with loads of depth and dimensionality.

    There were only a couple of slight – very slight scratches and the amount of blemishes relating to dust and dirt particles were virtually non existent. The overall image was absolutely rock solid, never suffering from any shimmer or jumping, nor were light specks ever present.

    The disc was also free of any compression errors or artifacting and edge enhancement was never an issue. The only time the image became spotty occurred when many of the often used Hitchcock rear projection sequences kicked in. Obviously this isn’t transfer related.

    Perfect – absolutely perfect. If you’re not impressed by this transfer, then there is simply no pleasing you. And just so there’s no confusion, I compared this to the previous release and there is a day & night difference, a comparison that took me all of about 6½ seconds to make – it’s that noticeable. Some of the different footage from the “Preview” version looks slightly grainier than the “Final” version but it too is vastly superior to its original release counterpart.

    Video: 5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    While I’m not quite as enthusiastic regarding the audio portion, I have very little to complain about.

    First off, the track is totally free of any hiss or annoying pops or crackle. The overall tonal fidelity of the track is natural, never sounding edgy or harsh. The overall dynamic range is rather thin but that should be of no surprise considering the limitations of the period.

    Most importantly, dialogue was always exceptionally bold and clear even during Dimitri Tiomkin’s score that accompanies throughout the film.

    Again, as it relates to the “Preview” release, I’d say there is slightly more hiss than the previous release, but this too is vastly better (cleaner and better fidelity).

    A solid job with very little to complain about.

    Audio: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    As we’ve come to expect from WB and their Two Disc Special Editions, this set is loaded with worthwhile special features. They are spread over both discs starting with:


    [SIZE=]Disc One:[/size]
    [*] The first special feature is a Commentary. A number of participants are featured, including Peter Bogdanovich, Joseph Stefano, Andrew Wilson, Robert Osborne and Kasey Rogers among several others including Hitchcock himself from an interview excerpt. These are a series of individual commentaries, recorded separately as each of them discusses various aspects of the film. Everything from a history of Highsmith, to the cast members of the film are discussed in great detail. Some of the participants come off as a bit scholarly, but overall there is a great deal of information to be gleaned here.
    [*] The other special feature on disc two is the Theatrical Trailer which is also included. Clearly it is spottier than the feature film, but is in very good condition. Duration 2:31 minutes.


    [SIZE=]Disc Two:[/size]
    [*] The first feature on disc two is Strangers On A Train: A Hitchcock Classic. The special features a number of contributing participants including Bill Krohn (Hitchcock biographer), Andrew Wilson (Highsmith biographer), film historians Richard Schickel and Robert Osborne, Robert Walker Jr., Patricia Hitchcock-O’Connell (Hitchcock’s daughter), Mary Stone (Hitchcock’s granddaughter), Farley Grainger, Joseph Stefano, Olivia Douglas (Tiomkin’s widow). This is a superb feature which has each of the participants discussing the film as well as the cast members offering various Hitch recollections. There is also an interesting discussion from Walker’s son describing his father’s death resulting from alcohol abuse (who later died that year in 1951) as well as an in-depth discussion on the “so-called” preview or British version of the film and its alternate endings. Perhaps the best feature included in the set. Duration 36:39 minutes.
    [*] Strangers On A Train: An Appreciation By M. Night Shyamalan as the young director talks about many of the qualities of Hitchcock that he appreciates and he discusses various Hitchcock techniques. He also discusses the film itself and comments on the characters as well as the plot. Informal but very interesting. Duration 12:43 minutes.
    [*] Strangers On A Train: The Victim’s P.O.V. is a short interview with Kasey Rogers who spends her time reflecting on being chosen for the role of Miriam and her time spent during the shoot. Duration 7:19 minutes.
    [*] The Hitchcocks on Hitch is a collection of home movie clips that are interestingly narrated by family members. Duration 11:17 minutes.
    [*] Alfred Hitchcock’s Historical Meeting a short clip minus the audio portion. Duration 1:05 minutes.

    Special Features: 4.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Strangers On A Train is a brilliant suspense thriller that will have you glued to your seat, perhaps even on the edge of it for 101 minutes. The film ranks among the very best of any of Hitchcock’s pictures, which alone speaks volumes. The writing, performances (including Hitch’s own daughter), not to mention the direction are all wonderful.

    I was absolutely amazed with the presentation of this film; among the very best classic films Warner Brothers have released thus far – again high praise indeed and a release that renders the previous disc “coaster worthy”. The film is also complemented with a healthy group of special features, all of which are worthy of your time. Needless to say, my recommendation for this disc couldn’t be any higher. From a price point, purchasing the boxed set should be the easiest DVD purchase of the year if you’re a fan of the “Master Of Suspense”.

    Overall Rating: 5/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Highly Recommended…!!!





    Release Date: September 7th, 2004
     
  2. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2004
    Messages:
    4,619
    Likes Received:
    87
    It's gonna be a long wait til I get this next week! This is second only to Psycho for my all-time fave Hitch movie.
     
  3. Adam_ME

    Adam_ME Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    May 31, 2002
    Messages:
    930
    Likes Received:
    1
    My favorite Hitchcock film. Quick question. Is the preview version on the new 2-disc SE the same as the British cut on the original DVD? I just need to know if I can sell the old disc(along with North By Northwest) when I get the box set.
     
  4. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Cinematographer
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 1999
    Messages:
    2,938
    Likes Received:
    664
    Herb,

    Great review! My only question is this: based on your review, it sounds like the British version (the one with stronger homosexual overtones) is not on the DVD. That only the US version is on the DVD, with the alternate cuts being in the documentary.

    Is this true?
     
  5. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 7, 2001
    Messages:
    1,342
    Likes Received:
    0
    Mark,

    Sorry, I should have been more clear on that and I will change the wording. The Preview version (aka the British version) is indeed included and is located on disc two.

    Adam, they're both listed as 101 and 103 minutes respectively, so I would assume they are identical - the quality of course, is not with both versions on the new SE being vastly superior.
     
  6. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 8, 2000
    Messages:
    1,500
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks, Herb. Excellent review.

    I can't wait for this one... this is my favorite Hitchcock, edging above about a half a dozen others that are on nearly equal footing.

    -Scott
     
  7. Bryan Ri

    Bryan Ri Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2004
    Messages:
    1,689
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    NYC Area
    Real Name:
    Bryan
    Great review, Herb!

    I can't wait for this and some of the other Hitchcock films to arrive at my door within the next week. This box set is shaping up to be one of the treasures of 2004, to say the least.
     
  8. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Messages:
    7,549
    Likes Received:
    179
    Location:
    Georgia (the state)
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart
    Great review... I'm very happy to know that "Strangers" has been remastered really well. Warner said they had it in the restoration pipeline in the last chat, so it's good to know that it shows. I already ordered the 10-disc Hitchcock box set (Amazon.com has a great deal, FYI) so this may be the first of them I'll view.

    By the way, Herb, are you reviewing the other Hitchcock DVD's in the box set (excluding North By Northwest, of course)?
     
  9. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    Messages:
    3,883
    Likes Received:
    0
    Definitely good news about the quality of everything on this release. I also have the box set on order, but the first one I'll be watching is Foreign Correspondent. It has some plot holes big enough to fly a plane through, but I absolutely love it.
     
  10. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 7, 2001
    Messages:
    1,342
    Likes Received:
    0


    Patrick, my plan is to review all of them. Funny enough, they never sent NxNW. Next up, Suspicion.

    Herb.
     
  11. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 1999
    Messages:
    8,005
    Likes Received:
    268
    Location:
    Monroe, LA
    Real Name:
    Tim Glover
    Great review Herb. [​IMG] Looking forward to this and Dial M For Murder.(just can't get enough of Grace Kelly)[​IMG]
     
  12. Bryan Ri

    Bryan Ri Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2004
    Messages:
    1,689
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    NYC Area
    Real Name:
    Bryan


    Just subsituting one Cary Grant film, for another, eh? [​IMG]
     
  13. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2003
    Messages:
    4,533
    Likes Received:
    320
    Location:
    Bolton, Lancashire
    Real Name:
    John
    Mouth-watering stuff Herb; looking at my current copy of SOAT I can hardly believe the wonders you describe - can't wait!
     
  14. Reagan

    Reagan Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2002
    Messages:
    546
    Likes Received:
    4
    Real Name:
    Reagan
    Thanks for the review Herb.

    Would you say that the picture quality on the British version (disc 2) is equal to the picture quality of the American version (disc 1)?

    -Reagan
     
  15. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2002
    Messages:
    5,507
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Southern, Ca
    Real Name:
    Zen K. Butler
    Stellar review Herb. A must-buy for me. Sounds gorgeous. Thank you,

    Your neighborhood "Criterion Fan-Boy",
    Zen
     
  16. Robert Floto

    Robert Floto Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 1999
    Messages:
    739
    Likes Received:
    0
    I want to be clear on this... This is a different, better transfer of both versions than the previous DVD release?
     
  17. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2003
    Messages:
    4,533
    Likes Received:
    320
    Location:
    Bolton, Lancashire
    Real Name:
    John
    Robert, you're kidding right...?

     
  18. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 7, 2001
    Messages:
    1,342
    Likes Received:
    0
    Reagan and Robert,

    Again, both versions on the SE are vastly superior to the versions that exist on the previous release. The Preview version on the SE, still has a few spotty moments and I noticed a slight amount of hiss here and there, but it too is much better than the Preview (British) version on the original release. Did I watch all four films in their entirety for the review...? Obviously not. I watched the Final version of the SE in it's entirety and then did checkpoint comparisons with the other three versions. Hope this helps.



    Zen... not there's anything wrong with that... [​IMG]
     
  19. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2002
    Messages:
    5,507
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Southern, Ca
    Real Name:
    Zen K. Butler


    A tag that I think should supersede "Highly Recommended." A 5/5 from Herb is rare.
     
  20. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2003
    Messages:
    4,156
    Likes Received:
    680
    Real Name:
    Steve
    Thank you Herb for another [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] review from you. I even read your reviews for films I'm not buying because they're that enjoyable to read.

    This set is perhaps my most eagerly anticipated of the year. SOAT was a "blind buy" for me when the original DVD came out (it was one of the few early Hitchs I hadn't seen). I was absolutely blown away by this great film and I'm more than happy that it's getting the treatment it deserves.

    I also have mine on order from Amazon. After STL the set was only about $63.

    Looking forward to your other Hitch reviews. I'm a big fan of some of the other titles in this set so hopefully Warners has provided stellar transfers for them as well.

    Steve
     

Share This Page