I may be old fashioned, but I thought murder was against the law…
You know what I like about Hitchcock (besides all the other things…)? Cameos! I love the way he hides himself in just about every film he's ever made. In this film he was boarding the train with a large double bass case; it looked very lumpy, perhaps there was a body inside?! I love the idea that those lucky enough to be able to see these films for the first time when they were released at the cinemas would have also been keeping a keen eye out for those brief few seconds that he might appear in the background and the low rumble of noise in the auditorium when he was spotted!
There are many great directors who have little trademarks. Tarantino of course, The Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson… all highly stylised with their unique quirks and easter eggs that make their films unmistakably theirs. But none of them have Hitchcock cameos and none of them ever will now… that was a devastatingly simple idea and really a natural conclusion for anyone to make… you should always put yourself into your work.
This film is a fine example of the age old saying that goes "the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing". Guy Haines (played by Farley Granger) seems a little too gormless as to the implications of his first chance meeting with Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) on the train. Anyone with half a brain should have been able to realise that, despite the fact they were indeed two stranger on a train, Bruno had gone to lengths to know things about Guy beforehand and had every intention of carrying out his side of the bargain whether Guy agreed to it or not.
The way Guy foolishly leaves the train and conversation whilst 'pretending' to agree with Bruno only sets him up for the chaos that will ensue. He could have said anything to anyone and possibly prevented the murder of his wife. Even if he did want her out of his life so he could re-marry, it was fairly clear he didn't really want her dead (not at that point at least), but I suppose if common sense had prevailed then the film would have derailed (yes… yes indeed that was a pun!).
Whether intentional or not, this film does make a very good talking point on what really makes a person crazy or not. There are small attempts throughout the film to make it appear as though Bruno is mentally unstable… his fascination with space travel, terraforming mars, his complete lack of caution in front of the authorities when approaching Guy to convince him to go through with killing his father and, of course, his blatant daddy AND mummy issues…
But really… do any of those things make him mad? Ambitious, yes, foolish, yes, frustrated and a little messed up and disconnected, yes, but mad? I don't think so.
Guy, on the other hand, could have ended the whole charade at any point, but didn't, which is slightly mad! I get that he was scared of being implicated or framed, but ultimately he could have gotten out of those sticky places… he was a famous sports star with an influential senator as a father-in-law-to-be. The odds were (questionably but undoubtably) in his favour if he had gone against Bruno in courtroom. But he didn't. He let the situation escalate and that was mad…
And boy, did it escalate and was it mad! That was definitely a very 'mad' ending. It oozed black humour. I don't like to spoil these plots too much as those of you who may have read this far should know, so all I can really say is you should watch it for yourself… and hold on tight!