Strangers on a Train appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I felt consistently pleased with this appealing presentation.
Sharpness looked positive. A few wide shots demonstrated minor softness, but those remained minor, and those instances were almost certainly an outgrowth of the source material. The vast majority of the movie exhibited fine delineation and accuracy. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering emerged, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent.
The black and white image demonstrated solid tones. Blacks came across as deep and rich throughout the movie, and it offered simply terrific contrast at all times. The film displayed a nicely silvery appearance. Shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but never came across as excessively dense. Print flaws were a non-factor, as the movie looked clean and devoid of specks, marks or other issues. We got a nice, natural sense of grain, so I didn’t suspect any intrusive digital noise reduction. I thought Train looked pretty terrific.
While not in the same league as the picture, the monaural soundtrack of Train also worked acceptably well given the age of the material. Speech seemed reasonably accurate and distinct, though lines could be somewhat edgy at times. Music came across as fairly bright and lively, though dynamic range seemed limited. Effects also displayed generally accurate tones but lacked very clear highs or tight lows. Overall, the audio appeared decent but not spectacular.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the last DVD from 2009? Audio was a little clearer, though there wasn’t a ton that could improve 60-year-old material. On the other hand, the visuals offered significant improvements, as the Blu-ray looked substantially more accurate, cleaner and more distinctive.
In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc includes an audio commentary. This track features a mix of participants. We hear from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano, Patricia Highsmith biographer Andrew Wilson, film historians Richard Schickel and Robert Osborne, actor Kasey Rogers (billed as “Laura Elliott” in the movie), actor/Hitchcock’s daughter Pat, Hitchcock’s granddaughters Mary Stone, Tere Carrubba and Katie Fiala, novelist Peter Benchley, Train adapter Whitfield Cook, filmmaker Joe Alves and Psycho II director Richard Franklin. The track looks at the original novel and its adaptation, story and character issues, cast and performances, and Hitchcock as director, collaborator and person.
The commentary fares best when it looks at Highsmith and her novel. Wilson offers good details about her and gives us a fair amount of useful information. Unfortunately, the rest of the track isn’t as interesting, and it can become downright dull at times. The participants tend to wander off-topic, and despite the fact we get 14 speakers, there’s a surprising amount of dead air. I wouldn’t call this a bad commentary, but it’s not a particularly good one, either.
For a variation, we find the ”Preview Version” of Strangers on a Train. It runs 1:42:57 vs. the theatrical release’s 1:40:48. Expect minor differences between the two, as the two editions are mostly identical. The biggest change comes from the ending, as the “Preview Version” comes with a less interesting finish. I can’t imagine many fans will prefer the alternate cut to the theatrical edition, but it’s nice to have as a bonus.
Five featurettes follow. Strangers on a Train: A Hitchcock Classic lasts 36 minutes, 44 seconds and provides notes from Bogdanovich, Wilson, Schickel, Osborne, O’Connell, Stone, Stefano, Hitchcock at Work author Bill Krohn, actor’s son Robert Walker, Jr., actor Farley Granger, and composer’s widow Olivia Douglas. “Classic” examines the source novel and its adaptation, what Hitchcock brought to the project, story/character subjects, themes and symbolism, cast and performances, aspects of the shoot, music, cinematography, editing and the “Preview Cut”, and the film’s legacy.
Inevitably, some areas repeat from the commentary, but that’s not a huge issue. “Classic” manages to deliver a good overview of the film’s creation and gives us a nice selection of notes. This turns into a tidy little summary of the production.
Strangers on a Train: The Victim’s POV fills seven minutes, 22 seconds with info from Rogers. She discusses her work on the film and its impact on her career. Rogers delivers some interesting observations about her involvement in the movie.
We hear from a contemporary director in Strangers on a Train: An Appreciation by M. Night Shyamalan. The filmmaker chats for 12 minutes, 46 seconds as he covers his interpretation of the movie and thoughts about it. Shyamalan avoids too much puffy happy talk as he opens up the flick in a fairly satisfying manner.
Family members discuss the director in The Hitchcocks on Hitch. It lasts 11 minutes, 20 seconds as we hear from Stone, O’Connell, and Hitchcock’s granddaughters Tere Carrubba and Katie Fiala. We get memories of life with Alfred Hitchcock and aspects of his personal life. This isn’t the most fascinating piece, as it stays pretty superficial, but we get some nice thoughts and some interesting archival materials.
Finally, we get the one-minute, eight-second Alfred Hitchcock’s Historical Meeting. It shows… I don’t know. We see some kind of ceremony with Hitch, two people in period costume, and some crotchety-looking old guy. This takes place in front of a stationary train. There’s no sound and no context offered, so I don’t have the slightest clue what “historical meeting” occurred – and based on other reviews I read, no one else figured it out, either.
Strangers on a Train comes blessed with a splendid concept but cursed – or at least mildly harmed – by a dull lead actor. Despite that weakness, however, the movie offers enough suspense and intrigue to remain consistently compelling. The Blu-ray gives us impressive picture quality along with adequate audio and a good selection of supplements. I like this movie and find this to be a strong Blu-ray release.
To rate this film, visit the TCM Hitchcock Thrillers Collection review of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN