Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" (1951) carries with it the signature of its auteur director. Hitchcock's other films are marked in the same way using similar themes, character types, and storylines. "Strangers" is most similar to "The 39 Steps" (1935) and "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943) so this essay will focus primarily on these three films. The innocent man who is wrongfully accused plot is the broadest similarity between the three. This leads to a specific distrust of law enforcement and Hitchcock's common connection of the innocent with the guilty. The concept of a hero who has dark impulses is a large part of this similarity between innocent and guilty. All of these reoccurring plots and ideas reflect Hitchcock's opinions, often called worldview, which comes out of his being an auteur.
[...] In 39 Steps” the ambiguity between good and evil can be seen most interestingly in the character of the professor. We meet him in the company of his family and we think of him as a safe man, one who can help Hannay who we know to be innocent. However, Hitchcock throws a curveball to us when we discover he is missing part of his finger, revealing him to be a part of the espionage ring responsible for the woman's murder for which Hannay is being pursued. [...]
[...] The police investigating and oftentimes trying to arrest the wrong man is reflective of their general lack of grace in Hitchcock's films, meaning their nature consists of hurting the innocent but never the guilty. The police in the film are investigating the wrong man, but only the audience knows Guy is innocent of the murder, if not totally innocent he at the least did not commit the act. This knowledge allies the audience with Guy and against the police, though this takes a secondary role to Guy against Bruno. [...]
[...] The hero with dark impulses is similar to Hitchcock's idea that there is only a small distinction between innocent and guilty. Hitchcock's use of similar characters, plots, and ideas is his signature on a given film; it is what makes it a Hitchcock. The innocent man who is wrongfully accused plot is the basic similarity in plot that unlocks many philosophically questions that Hitchcock asks. Two such questions involve the actions of police in his films and the connection of the innocent and the guilty to each other. The hero with dark impulses, usually creating danger and suspense, is [...]
[...] The similarities are found in the situations of the innocent men. In “Strangers” Guy must reveal Bruno as the murderer; in 39 Steps” Hannay must reveal the spy ring. This plot can be found to a small extent also in “Shadow of a Doubt.” It is not a complete similarity because the plotline does not continue the whole film, rather for a short time the audience thinks through its ignorance that Uncle Charlie did nothing wrong. In the first shots of the film we are introduced to Uncle Charlie lying in his room and two mysterious suited men are revealed to be watching his window. [...]
[...] This is first shown in “Strangers on a Train” in the first number of shots. Close shots of a pair of black and white shoes are juxtaposed with duplicate shots of a pair of plain brown walking shoes. This is the first link between Bruno Anthony and Guy Haines but not the last. A few moments later on the train the two meet and the plot begins laying itself out, Bruno pitches a murder swapping, and Guy de-boards the train at his hometown. [...]
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