Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #13: Criss Cross (Opening Scene of Strangers on a Train)

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We kick off Hitchcock's peak years and Golden period with a great film from 1951 Strangers on a Train. 

 

As with many of our other Daily Doses, this one is also the opening scene of the film. 

 

Go over to Canvas to watch the clip and then return here to discuss the scene.

 

As usual, here are three questions to get you started:

 

1.     In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

 

2.     Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

3.     While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence? 

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1. I think you covered most in the lecture - the train tracks and the feet (obviously).  I think you could consider the "cross cutting" of the edits between the two men's feet as they are walking a form of "criss cross". 

 

2. Guy's clothing is fairly conservative, while Bruno's is garish - beginning with the initial shot of Bruno's spats shoes as he exits his cab.  The soundtrack even gives him a brassy jazz flourish to accentuate them. Once they meet, Bruno is aggressively inquisitive - going so far as to jump into the seat next to Guy after peppering him with questions, while Guy basically gives non-verbal "aw shucks" reactions to his compliments. Bruno's pin stripe suit is very "busy" compared to Guy's monochromatic coat. I love the "punchline" of Bruno saying "I don't talk much".  I can't say I that I noticed any special camera framing or lighting to particularly contrast Guy vs Bruno. It all comes across in dress. score. behavior, and dialogue. 

 

3. For me, once the credits end, the score actually has a mischievous tone, as if Hitch is winking at us and saying "I'm about to totally mess with these two guys. Watch this..."  I am definitely in the "this is a dark comedy" camp when it comes to Strangers on a Train. 

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DAILY DOSE #13 (Strangers on a Train).

 

WHEN TOPAZ COLLIDE:

1. Their diagonal paths portend crossing as the crossing rails make multiple Xs, then they cross their legs which causes Bruno to cross over to Guy.

2. Bruno sits lower than Guy wearing his mom's lobster bib but puts himself on Guys level to shake hands.

3. The score denotes city bustling with thematic flourishes to introduce the two characters.

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1. Hitchcock sets up Bruno and Guy to be on a collision course right from the beginning of the clip shown . Each arrives in a cab from an opposite direction, each exits his cab from opposite doors, each walks with his porter heading toward the other to their track, each walks to his seat from an opposing direction and they finally collide when Guy has the misfortune to kick Bruno's flashy spectator shoes with his own completely normal looking oxfords. Although they start in opposing seats, Bruno quickly moves to sit next to Guy, who visibly reacts to having his space invaded by an aggressive fan.

 

The train makes its way out of the station on tracks which are "double crossing" each other.

 

2. In addition to the contrast shown by Bruno's and Guy's collision course entry in to the film, their personalities are contrasted by their wardrobes and actual walking patterns. Bruno is wearing very sporty spectator shoes with a suit made of a district check or glen plaid pattern (hard to see clearly in the tiny clip shown). Additionally, Bruno's shoulder pads are huge, and when he reveals his hand painted tie, the audience understands that he is outre, flashy, and a little odd in his dress. Bruno doesn't mind standing out and calling attention to himself. I think some of this is 1950's code for homosexuality. It is interesting that Hitchcock cast the straight Robert Walker as Bruno and the homosexual Farley Granger as Guy, especially considering that Hitchcock knew Granger was gay. It is one reason he cast him in "Rope."

 

Guy is dressed conservatively, and a little dully. Even though he is a tennis star, he doesn't try to call attention to himself by his dress.

 

Bruno's walk is jaunty and bouncy, while Guy's walk is unremarkable, as is his attire.

 

When they actually meet, Bruno does all of the talking, Guy has no virtually no dialogue. Bruno knows all kinds of information about Guy, who knows nothing about Bruno. Bruno is thus in control of their nascent relationship.

 

3. The Tiomkin score punctuates the duality if we see in screen. Each lead has his own two part melody for the arrivals at Penn Station and for the walk to the train.

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  1. In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.                                                    The two taxis arriving.  Bruno is wearing flashy shoes while Guy is more conservative.  The camera cuts back and forth between them.  We have the train tracks that split.  On the train the two men's shoes hit against each other.  We see Bruno is wearing a sporty suit with a lobster tie (how many men can pull that look off!) with his Bruno tie clip.  He is much more outgoing while Guy is more conservative and reticent.  

 

Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.   Guy is more conservative in his dress and manor.  He seems put off by a stranger intruding in his space.  Bruno is flashy and more aggressive in his actions.  The music for Bruno is jazzier also.  

 

While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?  Wow - this music is great.  There is a crisscross of two rhythms that go back and forth.  One more romantic while the other more energetic and sometimes it sounds like it is warning of danger.  Sometimes the melodies combine.  It made me think of the romance of the rails.  Leaving behind the city or town and then the music becomes more energetic.  I do seem to sense danger!

 

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  1. In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific. -- The objects on the screen are shown in different angles, creating a criss-cross pattern on the screen; the train tracks continue that pattern as the train moves; and once again, the feet move in different directions onboard the train, passing passengers with crossed legs...  then Bruno's speaking continues the criss-crossing pattern where the scene ends.

Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example. -- Bruno is flash; from the tilt of his foot when he pays the cab to his gait as he moves toward the train. His shoes are flash, his tie... his bright, open expression and his speaking to a man he doesn't know and ending with the line, "You go ahead and read, I don't talk that much." .. and then he looks over the man's shoulder to read the book. Whereas Guy, is just a guy; he doesn't stand out from the rest of the passengers in dress or manner.

While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence? -- Dramatic music at the start and then, comic phrasing with the shots of the feet. He almost lulls the viewer into ease.. but it's a Hitchcock film, so I'm not setting down the blanket yet, Dimitri... nice try.

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In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

 

We see train tracks crossed, legs & fingers as well. The two characters' paths are also crossing.

 

Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

Guy's attire is casual and he walks very regular. Bruno is dressed in nicer suit & shoes. Bruno's walk has more life in it. Upon meeting, Guy is quiet and dies not seem interested in conversation and Bruno is at the other end of the spectrum.

 

While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

 

The music is lively. Serious yet adventurous. The music accentuates the scene of Guy's foot hitting Bruno's and that sets the film into motion.

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This is one of my favorite opening sequences out of all of Hitchcock's films (maybe even out of all films period). There's something about the flashiness of Bruno's shoes that catches the eye more than Guy's, and Hitchcock chooses to focus first on Bruno's arrival rather than Guy's; this introduces the audience to Bruno as the "instigator." Whereas normally, we tend to see the protagonist introduced first, then the antagonist enters to create conflict. Here, we see the antagonist first (although we don't realize this until a few moments later).

 

I also think it's interesting visually that in the shot of Bruno's shoes passing through the train car we see more variety of shoes of the other passengers, including one that is wearing similar shoes to Bruno. This is opposed to the shot of Guy's shoes passing through the same car, but the other passenger's shoes are plain, basically the same as his. I think this foreshadows Bruno as being a more "colorful" character than the meekly-portrayed Guy.

 

The musical score is ironically playful, but reinforces the "game-like" quality of the criss-cross murders Bruno eventually envisions. It echoes almost a call-and-response as the shots volley back and forth between the gentleman's shoes.

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1. In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

 

The useage a shoes coming from either direction. The tracks that literally crisscross. And further low angles crossing the plane of movement on the ground of moving shots. Lots of suggestion there is two worlds crossing paths and possibly colliding.

 

2. Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

I see Guy as more typical not loud or overly special similar to everguy type of guy versus Bruno who even has a name as someone who could be a wise guy or hitman or the likes. The low angles of their footwear tells me Bruno has louder shoes and Guy has black shoes not overly loud. Bruno has a very obnoxious way about him from the inviting himself over to Guy's side of the train. I see Guy as more humble and Bruno is doing more of the interaction which makes him appear as more the aggressor but subtly. I have seen and it takes away from the slow early moments when they first engage and interact. There is a slow build that occurs even in their mystery each character being revealed.

 

3. While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

 

I believe Tiomkin's score is lulling into security only to later pull those grounded feelings away when the movie raises tensions. With Hitchcock he always seemed to set the stage only to shake the foundation for bigger thrills later in his films...

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It appears that Alfred Hitchcock is fascinated with the Svengali theme, as well as with his own dexterity in performing macabre tricks. His last picture, "Rope," will be remembered as a stunt (which didn't succeed) involving a psychopathic murderer who induced another young man to kill for thrills. Now, in his latest effort, called "Strangers on a Train," which served to reopen the Strand Theatre last night under its new name, the Warner, Mr. Hitchcock again is tossing a crazy murder story in the air and trying to con us into thinking that it will stand up without support.

And again his instigator of evil is a weirdly unbalanced young man who almost succeeds in enmeshing a young tennis star in a murder plot. This time the two individuals meet by seeming chance on a train, making what appears a devious journey from Washington to New York. And before the trip is over, the Svengali has hatched a scheme whereby he will do a murder for the athlete if the athlete will do one for him.

As a matter of fact, he doesn't even wait for the tennis star to agree to the scheme—or even to show an interest in it. He just goes out and murders the athlete's wife. And then he fast-talks the poor, scared fellow into thinking that he is somehow involved and keeping him in a state of terror and grave anxiety until the end of the film.

Perhaps there will be those in the audience who will likewise be terrified by the villain's darkly menacing warnings and by Mr. Hitchcock's sleekly melodramatic tricks. Certainly, Mr. Hitchcock is the fellow who can pour on the pictorial stuff and toss what are known as "touches" until they're flying all over the screen. From the slow, stalking murder of a loose girl in a tawdry amusement park to a "chase" and eventual calamity aboard a runaway merry-go-round, the nimble director keeps piling "touch" and stunt upon "touch." Indeed, his desire to produce them appears his main impulse in this film.

But, for all that, his basic premise of fear fired by menace is so thin and so utterly unconvincing that the story just does not stand. And the actors, as much as they labor, do not convey any belief—at least, not to this observer, who will give a Hitchcock character plenty of rope. Robert Walker as the diabolic villain is a caricature of silken suavity and Farley Granger plays the terrified catspaw (as he did in "Rope") as though he were contantly swallowing his tongue. Ruth Roman holds herself in solemn tension as, the latter's hopeful fiancée and Patricia Hitchcock, the daughter of the director, bounces about like a bespectacled tennis ball as the sister of Miss Roman and a convenience to the paternal "touch." Leo G. Carroll and Laura Elliott are others who jump and jig according to how Mr. Hitchcock arbitrarily yanks on the strings.

Also, it might be mentioned that there are a few inaccuracies in this film that may cause some knowing observers considerable skeptical pause—such as the evidence that you get to the Washington Union Station by going into Virginia over the Memorial Bridge. Also a purist might question how a tennis star could race around Washington half the night and then win three grueling sets of tennis in a Forest Hills tourney the next day.

Frankly, we feel that Mr. Hitchcock is "touching" us just a bit too much and without returning sufficient recompense in the sensation line.

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In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

​This is one of the few Hitchcock movies I had seen before enrolling in this course, and it is one of my favorites. In addition to the "criss-crossing" motif, as demonstrated visually by the criss-crossing paths of the men entering the station and the criss-crossing of the train tracks, there are other subtle instances, such as the criss-crossing of Guy's legs as he sits opposite Bruno on the train. There is also a variation on the motif of criss-crossing (doubling), as we see here in Guy's two tennis racquets, and which we will often see later in this film, such as the cameo scene of Alfred Hitchcock, in which he is carrying a large double-fiddle case.  
 
2.     Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

I am not sure how the camera work creates a sense of contrast, but the clothing and shoes definitely do. Bruno is a much flashier dresser than Guy, as noted by Bruno's spectator shoes, his hand-painted lobster tie, and his "Bruno" tie clasp. In contrast, we see Guy's sensible brown oxfords and nondescript jacket. As for dialogue, Bruno clearly dominates the conversation. Also, Bruno's comment about being interested in people who "do things" reveals him to be a gentleman of wealth and leisure, the antithesis of Guy.

​Bruno's penchant for dramatic attire is highlighted later in the movie, in which he has apparently raided the Warner Brothers wardrobe department for the smoking jacket worn by Monty Woolley in 1942's ​The Man Who Came to Dinner.
 

 the-man-who-came-to-dinner-monty-woolley
 
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As a side note, last year I took a train from the Baltimore airport to Union Station in Washington, D. C. When I arrived, I stepped outside to see the taxi entrance shown in the movie, but it does not seem to be there anymore. On the plus side, the station interior is beautiful.

post-47134-0-26324300-1500299704_thumb.jpg

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I really love Strangers on a Train, and the main reason is this whole criss-cross idea with the switching murders that captures your attention from the beginning (even Danny DeVito tried to imitate it!). Hitchcock uses the railroad tracks to show us two different paths that cross that each other, and then the two characters; their shoes, their equipment, their clothing, but not their faces until later. He uses time and coincidence, two seemingly ordinary people, strangers to each other, who just happened to catch the same train and sit opposite each other. Once more, Hitch tries to say that what's gonna happen could easily happen to anyone of us.

 

Guy and Bruno appear like two ordinary people at the beginning, but they still seem different. Bruno's clothes are more fancy, his way of talking more refined, his attitude more social. Guy, although he's the one who's famous, is more of an everyday guy who looks after only his own business. Personally, I think that the casting of Robert Walker and Farley Granger (a guy who usually played innocent-looking characters getting into a lot of trouble in a blink of an eye) in the respective roles is just perfect.

 

Dimitri Tiomkin wrote many excellent film scores in classic Hollywood, and this is one of his best. This score can be easily connected with film noir; it creates an intense, disturbing mood and atmosphere and sets the pace for the huge suspense that's gonna follow.

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In Strangers on a Train Hitchcock begins his visual metaphor of “criss-crossing” with low-level shots of our two primary stars exiting taxis in a D.C. train station.  Both are Diamond cabs but on one, the passenger door opens being hinged on left side, the other one hinged from the right side (otherwise know as a suicide door).  The first character’s movements are filmed moving from the right to left of the screen while the second character’s low-level shots are from left to right.  The most obvious criss cross shot is the low level shot taken from the train engine point-of-view as it crosses a maze of overlapping train tracks. 

 

From this brief scene Hitchcock created a sense of contrast by having Guy (Farley Granger) wearing a common looking darker suit with standard footwear and dark suit case, while Bruno (Robert Walker) is dressed in a well tailored pin-stripe suit with flashy two-tone shoes and a light colored suitcase.  From the dialogue it becomes pretty clear that Guy is trying to do some reading on the train and though being recognized as a “sports celebrity”, prefers to be left alone and does nothing to encourage the ensuing conversation.  Bruno on the other hand, is fast-talking and invites himself over to Guy’s table.  He claims not to talk much but that’s an obvious lie from a pushy and obnoxious character as Guy responds with a sarcastic, “Thanks!” for allowing me to keep reading. 

 

Dimitri Tiomkin’s score opens as a grand and rousing piece with the entrance to the train station and the Capitol dome in the background. Once images of the characters feet are introduced, he does an excellent job of matching mood and tone to Robert Burks amazing camera work within a hectic environment.  This collaboration creates an atmosphere of an energetic metropolis with people in hurry and lots of activity.  It is not until we are on the train that the music moves to a slower pace with hints of possible sinister overtones and then the dialogue begins.

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In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

 

We see the train tracks criss cross and we see the paths of the two travelers criss cross. The cabs also criss cross paths. Even their legs criss cross as they sit down. Great foreshadowing technique by Hitchcock.

 

Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

The characters are contrasted to suggest Guy as a well to do gentleman and Bruno as a " want to be".

Guy is dressed in a beautiful coordinating 3 piece suit and Bruno has a pin striped suit with saddle shoes. I'm not sure if this was stylish at the time, but it sure does stand out in my mind. Guy's tie is a very conservative check pattern, but Bruno's has lobsters on it, again calling attention to himself. Bruno even wears that tacky tie pin with his name. Bruno talks way to much, suggesting his false sense of confidence. He obviously lies as he says, " go ahead and read, I don't talk too much", after he just introduced himself and talked uncontrollably about Guy and his tie pin.

 

While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

 

At first the music is light and lively, as if you were preparing for a fun trip. Then it changes as the shoes appear.Guy's shies are walking with an airy light score, one of goodness. Bruno's shoes are walking to a faster score, one of intrigue and mystery.

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(1) I noticed two ways in which crisscrossing in demonstrated in the opening of Strangers on a Train.  First, we see Bruno—or rather just his feet—walking from the right side of the frame to the left upon getting out of his car at the train station, while Guy, on the other hand, gets out of his car and walks from the left to the right side of the frame.  They are headed toward each other.  Second, there is a shot of the intersecting train tracks. 

 

(2) The characters of Guy and Bruno are contrasted significantly in the brief opening of the film.  Bruno is flashier.  He wears pinstriped pants, two-tone shoes, and a tie clip that spells out his name.  Conversely, Guy is more neutrally dressed in non-attention-getting attire.  Bruno comes across as more outgoing.  He initiates the conversation with Guy.  Guy, in contrast, who seems to want to keep to himself, is reading a book when his shoe bumps into Bruno’s shoe.  While Guy is known tennis player, he doesn’t seem interested in people’s adoration.

 

(3) Both characters’ departure from their respective taxis is accompanied by the same bars of fanfare-like orchestration (featuring brass).  The common musical introduction of each character implies that they will have something in common.  The “fanfare” is immediately followed by a brief, whimsical phrase that includes strings and woodwinds.  The brassy phrases and the fanciful phrases alternate throughout the opening sequence.  As the Guy and Bruno approach each other, the tempo of the music increases, and there is a staccato nature to the score, punctuating their steps.  The viewer anticipates their meeting as a result.  There is an adventurous mood to the music that carries on up through the point in the opening when we see the train tracks.

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1. In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

 

There are many ways in which Hitchcock plays with the metaphor of "criss cross" that is central in Strangers on a Train. First, you see Guy's and Bruno's shoes appear as they each disembark from a cab, and in one critical moment, those shoes touch. Another example is the interlocking train tracks. You don't know which direction this train will take, and it makes you wonder how things might have turned out differently if the train had veered to one direction instead of the other.

 

2. Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

There is definitely a contrast between Guy and Bruno. First, and most obviously, are the shoes. Guy's are more standard and sensible, shoes you'd expect, while Bruno's are flashy. Bruno also has a flashy tie and tie pin. Bruno is also much more talkative, while Guy is less so, seeming like he is taking part in the conversation to be kind only after Bruno has recognized him. 

 

3. While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

 

The music by Dimitri Tiomkin is central to this opening sequence. The music really makes this scene seem lighthearted, but, knowing Hitchcock as we do, we know that things won't stay this way for long. The music used for each of the characters' exits from their respective taxis gives us more an idea of their very different personalities. 

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This is one of my favorite movies. 

 

1.  The criss-crossing is evident from the beginning where Bruno arrives from the right and Guy arrives from the left.  It follows with a back and forth between Bruno coming from the right each time and Guy from the left.  The rail road tracks enter from each side of the screen to meet only to diverge and meet again, a constant intertwining. The shoes finally enter the train from either end and meet when Guy's foot accidently hits Bruno's.

 

2.  Hitch shows contrasts between Bruno and Guy in their clothes.  Bruno is flashy: two-toned shoes, a pin-striped suit and a loud tie that has a clip with his name.  Guy is more conservative: brown shoes, plain suit, tie covered by a sweater.  He also contrasts their speech.  Even though Bruno says "I don't talk much", he starts the conversation and continues it with very little help from Guy.  Guy says barely six words while from Bruno we find out that he is gregarious, that Guy is a profession tennis player and we even hear a bit about Bruno's mother (another important character to the story).

 

3. The Dimitri Tiomkin's music continues the theme of contrasts.  The opening has booming brass contrasting with lilting strings.  As they walk toward each other, the music ramps up the tension with each step emphasized, only to drift off into strings.  Finally, the music ends with a final blast as Guy's shoe hits Bruno's.

 

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In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

 

There are several ways that Hitchcock portrays the "criss cross" in the opening scene:  the taxis that deliver the men to the station approach from different directions (one taxi is coming towards the camera, one taxi is travelling away from the camera); one man walks from right to left across the screen to approach the gate, the other man walks from left to right; they enter the gate from opposite sides of the screen, the train tracks cross; the men approach their seats from opposite sides of the screen and sit across from each other; after their feet bump, Bruno crosses over to Guy's side of the train and sits beside him.
 

Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

Some contrasts I noticed: Bruno's shoes are white, Guy's are a dark color; Bruno walks ahead of the porter who carries his suitcase while Guy either walks behind or next to his porter; when Bruno sits down, he stretches out his legs, but when Guy sits down, his legs are pretty much in his own space; Bruno has a tie clip with his name on it while Guy is a famous tennis player and doesn't need to "announce" who he is; Bruno is doing all the talking while saying "I don't talk much", and Guy is very quiet.

 

While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

 

At times, the music seems playful and seems to go along with Bruno's demeanor. At other times, the music seems foreboding.

 

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Further Reflections:  After watching the clip, please go to Twitter (#Hitchcock50) or the TCM Message Board (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.to continue your reflections on this clip. Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

1.     In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

The first criss cross occurs when both men arrive at the station. They each arrive via cab but different directions. They are distinguished by the type of suits they wear. One wears a flamboyant pin-stripe suit with spats. The other wears a very conservative suit and shoes but his luggage includes a tennis racket. Then we see the criss cross as the train is leaving the station and moves from one set of tracks to another set of tracks. Then comes the meeting in the dinner car of the train where we their shoes under the table and then the accidental contact between their feet and the conversation (the actors’ dialogue) begins.

2.     Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example. Please see my answers to the first question. But to expand on my response in #1 I also mention that Guy wants to read while Bruno wants to interact with others and even projects his name via a tie clasp with his name on it. Guy, a pro tennis player is the person we would expect to be flamboyant but Guy appears to be introspective, indeed Guy seems to eschew interacting with others and chooses to read a book. Bruno is reading passengers.

 

3.     While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?  The score changes from an expansive, orchestral-like, piece one would expect with a romance to a brass piece that literally announces the flamboyant Bruno (see 3 minute mark) and sounds like the start of a Western, then the piece quiets down then has a more cosmopolitan that starts to sound like a piece you would hear at the start of a war movie. The tempo of the score increase as we see people in a hurry to board the train. As the chance meeting is about to occur we get some music that sounds a bit like what you would hear in a mystery movie or a science fiction movie (kind of an eerie quality). There is a quick flourish when the two men meet via the brushed foot. 

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1.     In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

2.     Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

a.     The criss-cross and the contrasts work together hand-in-hand – like a poetic chiasmus in filmic trope. Train tracks that criss-cross are the most obvious visual semiotics, but the juxtapositions of the fancy v. understated footwear, plain v. striped pants, loud v. conservative ties, reserved v. engaging facial expressions, talkative v. reserved personalities – all reinforce the intersection of two opposite forces.

 

3.     While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

a.     There is a playfulness in the score that varies from Bruno’s sections (higher pitched, more brassy) to Guy’s sections (lower tones, softer instrumentation) – and the overall pace of the music (coupled with the footage of the feet briskly moving towards the train) give us the feeling that we are hurrying along towards some destination or meeting.

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1. In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “crisscross” or “crisscrossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “crisscross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film.] Be specific.

 

Hitchcock sets up the “crisscross” motif using “doubles”.  For example, the camera pans left on an approaching cab coming into the train station entry.  In a low shot, the camera shows a male passenger wearing spats exiting the cab and walking screen left.   In another low angle shot, another cab arrives with a male passenger wearing regular black shoes who exits screen right.  Camera shots of the first passenger continuing to walk screen left are intercut with the second passenger walking screen right.  Finally, a wide shot of people walking toward the train show a sort of crisscrossing as the first passenger enters soon followed by the second passenger.  That scene dissolves into a low angle traveling shot of train tracks intersecting, perhaps the most prominent visualization of the crisscross motif.   The shots continue the use of doubles as two men finally get seated across from each other to finally intersect or “crisscross” as their shoes accidently bump.

 

 

2. Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

The costume design, particularly the shoes, is the first tool that differentiates the two men.  Guy wears a stylish dark suit with a vest and dark shoes while Bruno wears a tweed suit with a loud tie with a stickpin with “Bruno” on the front and the outlandish black and white spats.   Bruno walks with a slight swagger whereas Guy walks in a normal way.  Hitchcock indicates that Bruno is a rather bon vivant, independently wealthy type of person to the sort of working-class, industrious, goal-driven person that Guy is.  One of the most telling bits of dialogue from Bruno is, “I certainly admire people who do things”, perhaps an indication that his life is a waste to a certain extent.     

 

3. While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

 

Tiomkin’s score seems constructed like a score for a war film.  It is playful and bombastic at the same time.  A musical theme is repeated to emphasize the doubles in place such as the two passengers exits their cabs and their walks into the station.  The score gives the sense of a great adventure and conflict that is about to unfold.

 

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Some of Hitchcock's early films are very good (The 39 Steps, Blackmail, The Lady Vanishes) but the period from Notorious (and after), is where I really start to get hooked on Hitch. 'Strangers on a Train' is one of his best films. The merry-go-round scene is fantastic. The wife's murder is spooky.

 

Robert Walker is a great villain. Bruno wears wonderful shoes. Guy wears nice shoes as well, but they are brown. Please note that it is Guy who sits down next to Bruno (and kicks him), not the other way around. Guy initiates the encounter between the two men, but Bruno says, "excuse me." He is polite, yet psychotic. Walker's Bruno is one of the best characters ever put to film.

 

The music is lovely. Tiomkin is Hitchcock's best (arguably). The music is alternately mysterious and then cheerful. The music lets you know that you're about to have a good time for the next two hours.

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In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

 

Two instances of a criss cross in this opening scene are the way the taxis come in and the men come out at different angles seeming to cross. Then once the train is moving the crossing of the rails is very obvious.

 

 

Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

The contrast between Bruno and Guy begins with them exiting the taxis Bruno is wearing two-tone wingtips and Guy more sedate Oxfords. The men's suits are also different Bruno is wearing a more formal pinstripe and guy is wearing a sport coat a sport coat over a sweater and different color slacks. I think it's funny that he points out the tie clip from his mother over the garish hand-painted Lobster tie. The other contrast between the men is how talkative Bruno is compared to Guy's interest in his book.

 

 

While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

 

Tompkin's score has two main motives in this beginning we hear the rising trombones as the porters retrieve the luggage, then we hear the Jazz elements when the characters exit the taxis. The difference in these two motives give aural evidence of the differences between the characters

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In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

 

 I am delighted to be reviewing Alfred Hitchcock's strangers on a train. The metaphor Of the criss cross Is essential To the themeI of one of my favorite Hitchcock works. It representsT he hand of fate, And how in life we never know What might happen to us. One notices the bold black and white we tip shoes Of the character Bruno. Even before seeing his face We know this man Is probably vain, self absorbed and self-important. In contrast Guy's shoes Are neutral And suggest and suggest an ordinary man. The Criss Crossing of the train tracks set up the duality of life  (good and evil existing in the same realms) and the "chance meeting" of the main characters. The men arrive both by taxi from different directions yet end up on the train opposite each other.  There is a metaphor to me of good and evil, bold and submissive,  guilty and innocence.  Duality. Before we even see Bruno's face we know he is probably the villain. I love this opening set up. It is one of my favorites of Hitchcock openings 

 

Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

 

Even from the first view of Bruno we get a man who thinks he is powerful, self important, vain, bold, pushy.  He wears the white/black wing tipped shoes, and a giant tie clip with his name Bruno. Saying Look at me look at me.  His suit is more flamboyant and he immediately puts the moves on Guy..  striking up conversation and even moving in like a predator to sit next to him.  Bruno "invades" Guy's personal space.

 

Guy on the other hand is conservative and reserved.  His suit is monotone as his shoes, His body language is withdrawn.  To me the the joke here is that Guy's character is a famous tennis star.  He should be used to fans and spotlight but he just wants to be left alone, but feels drawn into Bruno's web.  Bruno possesses power, charm, and even sensual/sexual tension.  There is an underlining sensualism of this scene.  The feet touching, Bruno's zoning in and striking up conversation, the flattery etc.  The dialogue is amazing.  The tone and timbre changes.  Bruno resonant and forceful, Guy soft/subdued. The camera angels show this too.  If one notices Bruno's character is often shot from below slightly. Giving him a longer profile.. that he is taller .. aka more important. Bruno's presence towers over Guy's. We know Guy is trapped though we don't yet know Bruno's intentions.. and yet we are intrigued and want to watch more.  Again one of my favorite openings. 

 

While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence? 

 

This is one of my favorite Tiomkin scores for Hitch.  If one notices the opening credits start with a sweeping film noir-esque waltz..  a metaphor of the song and dance of life. The fate that will bring the two lead characters together.  When the scenes of the opening shoes start we first hear brass underscoring Bruno.  Brass is strong, forceful like the character of Bruno.  Then the softness of harps and strings come in when we see Guy's shoes... representing timidness, innocence.  These are not leitmotifs (meaning actually themes for the characters) but a sophisticated interweaving of orchestral story that reflects the mingling of these two characters.  Most people might not know how sophisticated Tiomkin's score really is timed to the second of Hitchcock's frames.  Truly masterful. 

 

Tiomkin uses orchestral ornamentation flourish when the feet brush up against each other.  

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The music fits the visuals so perfectly that it fades into the background -- I had to rewatch the clip just listening to the music in order to make sense of it. We see contrast in the two pairs of feet and legs, but I think the music is actually pretty similar, if not identical for each. As each new pair of feet come into view, we get a bombastic, brass heavy fanfare, that merges into a more playful theme as each alights from the taxi. This sets them up as equally important players in the scene. The rhythms fit the walking, what somebody else described as bustling urban music. When each goes through the ticket gate, we get the brass fanfare again: Bruno first, and we watch several other groups of people enter to uneventful music with the fanfare playing again as Guy goes through. We have no doubt who the main characters are. To describe one as heavy and the other as light isn't really there in the music. In fact, we could see it the other way around, since Bruno is very elegant and a kind of jazzy motif accompanies him out of the taxi, making him seem the light-hearted one. Except that the exact same theme is there for Guy also.  

    It is interesting how the background music (non-diegetic sound) is complemented by the diegetic sound (generated from sources within the movie). At first, the bustling traffic is completely subordinated to the orchestral sound track. But as the walking stops, the train starts moving and the sounds of the train motion become the new rhythmic beat. Even this train sound fades into the background as our two protagonists finally meet, however. The orchestra punctuates the moments when one shoe hits the other, and then stops completely. The added music has faded, giving way to the internal sounds of the film's environment, finally giving pride of place to the conversation between the two men. First time through the clip, I was only aware suddenly that there was no score by the end. But by the end of the clip, it had done its job. It was the musical score that took us from our own world, where the Warner Brothers logo flashes on the screen and we were aware that we were settling into a movie, into that focused film space where only Guy and Bruno exist, having that conversation that would set them on the paths of their noir destiny.  

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