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"Strangers on a Train," is regarded by many critics as one of the top five or six films by Alfred Hitchcock. Roger Ebert, in this review, says only three or four Hitchcock films are superior to it. Having seen most of the other films lauded as his "best," as well as some more obscure Hitchcock movies from his earlier days, I wanted to see for myself how this film stacked up against the others. The movie, based on the 1950 novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, tells the story of two strangers who meet on a train and discuss "swapping" murders. While I found this film flawed, there were some things I really enjoyed about it. ***SPOILERS FOLLOW*** There is stunning camera work in this film. I love the shot of the shadows as Bruno follows Miriam and her beaus through the "Tunnel of Love." Miriam's scream, as they exit the tunnel, enhances the suspense even more. Miriam's demise, shown through the reflection of her discarded eyeglasses, is brilliantly done. This is Hitchcock at his finest. When Bruno arrives at Guy's gate with news of what he has done, we see his face obscured by the shadow of the gate, while Guy stands on the other side, fully lit by a street light. Once Guy hears the news, and begins to feel complicit in the crime, he joins Bruno on the other side of the gate, both of their faces masked by prison-like bars. Another wonderfully shot scene is when Guy spots Bruno in the crowd at this tennis match. All of the spectators' heads are moving in unison, watching the match, except one. The camera locks onto Bruno's face, staring creepily ahead--at Guy, and at us. Another fun thing about this film is that much of the story takes place in the D.C. area, with several beautiful shots of the city. The plot, however, is quite implausible, which made it hard for me to get emotionally involved in the story. Some of the acting is top-notch, including a fine performance by the director's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock. Laura Elliott (also known as Kasey Rogers) is great as the unlikeable Miriam, and Robert Walker does a fine job portraying the creepy Bruno. Ruth Roman, on the other hand, a gives a one-note performance as Guy's girlfriend, displaying her full range of emotions by wiggling her lower jaw and exposing her bottom teeth. The film is melodramatic and dated, but I think any fan of filmmaking and of Alfred Hitchcock will find some things to enjoy in "Strangers on a Train."
"Rope," Hitchcock's first Technicolor film, was an experiment of sorts for the director. The action takes place in real time, edited to appear as a single, continuous shot through the use of long takes. This movie is based on a play of the same name, and this filming technique makes the viewer feel as if they are watching a play rather than a film. *** SPOILER ALERT! *** "Rope" is the tale of two young roomnates who strangle a former classmate minutes before they host a dinner party. The corpse is stuffed into a large chest, on which they decide to serve their meal to their guests. The men had no issues with the deceased; they merely wanted to murder for murder's sake. Among the guests at the dinner party are the dead boy's father and fiancee. James Stewart plays the young men's prep school housemaster, who eventually unravels the mystery. John Dall is outstanding as the arrogant Brandon Shaw, who thinks commiting the perfect murder makes him superior to other men. Constance Collier gives a delightful performance as the dead man's aunt. James Stewart seems miscast in his role, and Farley Granger overacts on occasion as the nervous pianist. There is, however, a wonderful scene with Granger playing the piano while Stewart's character questions him. The metronome ticks faster and faster while the music becomes increasingly dissonant, creating a palpable sense of terror and suspense.