TCM Film Festival: Day 4

It seems like the festival just started. And it’s over in the blink of an eye. But before I make the trek home, a look back at the final day of the event.

The first screening of the final day of the festival for me was After The Thin Man. I’ve been a huge fan of the series ever since my late mother introduced me to them on a day home sick from school. I probably didn’t get nearly all the jokes the first time. But that experience was my introduction to classic movies and made me a big fan of Powell and Loy. The Thin Man movies are also very popular among TCM viewers. So it’s no surprise the screening was PACKED! I had never seen any of those movies in a theater before. So laughing along with a packed crowd of old movie weirdos got the day off to a great start. As far as sequels go, After The Thin Man is one of the best. It captures the same witty energy as the original movie. And William Powell and Myrna Loy’s chemistry is perfect as always.

Following After The Thin Man, I went over to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for conversations with two complete different legends: Margaret O’ Brien and Piper Laurie. Margaret O’ Brien was just as charming in person as she was in her movies. She really seemed to enjoy seeing her fans in person at the festival. So that was really fun.

Piper Laurie is an actress I still think isn’t appreciated enough. Carrie is my favorite Stephen King book/movie adaptation. But Laurie couldn’t be further from the crazy mother she plays in that movie in real life. She’s very down-to-earth, warm and funny. It was great to see her Club TCM event so packed with fans.

Dave Karger interviewing Piper Laurie.

Next on my agenda was originally going to be a new to me pre-Code called Evenings For Sale. I got my queue card. But when I came back I got shutout for the first time all festival. Crushed, I examined my options. I saw that The Pajama Game was starting in 15 minutes. It was one of the closing day encore screenings and I missed it the first go round due to a screening conflict. And lo and behold spots were still available. The whole circumstance turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The Pajama Game ended up being the highlight of the festival for me. Only Doris Day with her bubbly personality could sell you on a musical about labor organizing. I was so glad I got to see it. I guess the moral of the story is no matter what screening you go to at the festival, it’s sure to be something special.

Going in a completely different direction, next up was the live table read of I Married A Monster From Outer Space. If you attended virtually last year, you know the SF Sketchfest troupe gave the same treatment to Plan 9 From Outer Space. It was done Luke an old school radio play. And good lord was it funny! The whole ensemble was great. But the highlight for me was Laraine Newman, one of the original Not Ready For Primetime Players.

The live table read of I Married A Monster From Outer Space.

I had to duck out of the table read a little early to catch my final screening of the festival: A League of Their Own. The cast reunion panel beforehand was just fantastic! That cast is probably the group I would most like to just hangout with for coffee or cocktails. And the movie itself is only my favorite baseball movie. Since it’s a movie that comes full circle and looks back with sentimentality, it felt like the perfect way to end the festival. There were also a few fans that showed up dressed as Rockford Peaches, which was great.

A League of Their Own cast reunion

There was a poolside closing night party. It let me say goodbye to the friends I made over the course of the festival. Some were new acquaintances and others I knew virtually through Twitter. And it also provided me with the opportunity to meet a few of the hosts in person: Eddie Muller and Alicia Malone. Both were very approachable and kind, which assuages my social anxiety. The party was bittersweet. It was hard to believe the festival was over. Such an amazing four days! This was my first one and I’m planing to come back in 2023.

TCM Film Festival: Day 3

Days two and three kind of blended together for me. It started with Miracle Mile at midnight. Technically it was on the schedule for day two. But since it started on day 3 officially, I’m counting it for today. But I digress. Miracle Mile was a wild card pick for me. I had never heard of it before. But the plot sounded like something I would see on TCM Underground. It revolves around a man who thinks he’s found his soulmate. But a promising relationship is tested when they have to escape an impending nuclear war. It’s a wild ride in the best possible way. The final selling point for me was Anthony Edwards from ER being in the cast.

After getting roughly four hours of sleep back at my hotel, I was back bright and early for The Third Man. It’s not just one of my favorite noir films. It’s one of my favorite films period. I had never seen it on a big screen before. And the festival screened a new 4K restoration. It makes you appreciate Robert Krasker’s cinematography even more. All the great lighting and Dutch angles really give it a great noir vibe. Just a treat to see it that way.

After The Third Man I went to a Club TCM event called Catch Them If You Can: A Celebration of the Great Movie Chase. It was a presentation by TCM programmer Scott McGee to go with the launch of his new book: Danger On The Silver Screen. Since Raiders of the Lost Ark started my love of movies, I’ve always appreciated what stunt people do. The presentation honored them in a great way. I look forward to reading the book.

Catch Them If You Can: A Celebration of the Great Movie Chase

Saturday was a particularly packed day at the festival. One of the hardest screening choices I had to make was between The Wizard of Oz and Baby Face. As much as I adore Barbara Stanwyck and pre-Codes, I couldn’t pass up seeing The Wizard of Oz in the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the IMAX screen. There’s no other way to put it. The experience was magical. That movie is timeless. And the gorgeous Technicolor never looked better. I will cherish that experience forever.

My first screening in the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was The Wizard of Oz.

My next screening was also in the IMAX theatre: Heaven Can Wait. I love Bonnie and Clyde and McCabe & Mrs. Miller Warren Beatty. But Heaven Can Wait might be my favorite movie of his. Beatty has a great romantic leading man presence. And Heaven Can Wait really lets that part of his acting chops shine. It’s a modern movie to be sure. But it has the look and feel of a romantic comedy from the 40s. Bonus: the movie has Julie Christie as his love interest. Beatty showed up for a conversation about the movie afterwards, which was great.

I had to book it to get to my last movie of the night: Diner. It was playing at the Hollywood Legion, a good 15-20 minute walk from the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Fortunately the festival had shuttle service there. So I got there in plenty of time to queue up. The screening started with a cast reunion moderated by Dave Karger. In attendance were Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser, Steve Guttenberg and Tim Daly. Hands down one of the most fun panels I’ve been to all festival. I had only seen the movie once prior. I appreciated it more this time seeing it with a packed theater.

Diner cast reunion at the Hollywood Legion.

One more day left! Stay tuned for my day four recap.

TCM Film Festival: Day 2

Day two of the TCM Classic Film Festival started for me at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Lily Tomlin was having her hand and footprint ceremony. Even though I didn’t quite get the greatest viewing spot, I still got to experience a unique Hollywood experience. I’ve been a fan of Tomlin’s going back to my youth when she voiced Miss Frizzle on The Magic School Bus. It was great to see her getting some overdue recognition.

Lily Tomlin speaking before having her hands and feet immortalized in cement.

The hand and footprint ceremony was listed as going until 1 PM on the schedule. But it got done a little early at 11:15. So I took my food break then. Next I headed to Club TCM for Mark McCray’s presentation: Looney Tunes In Hollywood. It was a fun look at how cartoons, especially the Looney Tunes made at Warner Bros. lampooned movie stars of the Golden Age. It brought back some great memories of seeing those cartoons growing up. I also want to watch the Looney Tunes parodies of classic movies when I get home.

I followed the Looney Tunes presentation up with a screening of Pride of the Marines. There were a lot of good movies programmed at that time. But what sold me were two things: it was a new to me John Garfield movie and Jim Beaver of Supernatural fame was introducing it. The movie warrants comparisons with The Best Years of Our Lives. It’s that good. Trust me.

Jim Beaver introduced Pride of the Marines.

I went right from Pride of the Marines to a TCM Celebrates Doris Day, another Club TCM event. When I saw Eddie Muller listed as the moderator, I honestly thought it was a typo. But, no. The Czar of Noir is a huge Doris Day fan. Sometimes people really surprise you in a good way. The whole presentation was a wonderful celebration of Doris Day’s life, from her movies to her philanthropy. It was great to see the room packed with people who wanted to pay tribute to her.

I ended the day with Soylent Green. Since this is my first trip to the festival, I felt like I needed to do at least one poolside screening. It was fun experience, complete with Soylent Green cookies provided to the audience (although there wasn’t an ingredient list on the packaging, which was suspicious). It was a unique screening experience I’m glad I had.

That’s a wrap for day two!

TCM Film Festival: Day 1

This year marks my first trip to the TCM Film Festival. It’s been a bucket list item for me for ages! Each day I will be filing a report about my adventures at the festival.

The first day of the festival didn’t have any events until early afternoon. So I decided to take advantage of the discounted tickets the festival organizers arranged for us for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. The guided part was about 1 1-/2 hours and the self-guided portion lasted me about 1 1/2 hours. I took the Classics Made Here tour. If you’re an old movie weirdo, this is a must! The highlight for me was seeing the last remaining set from Casablanca. It’s the cafe where Rick and Ilsa learn the Nazis have invaded Paris.

Last remaining set from Casablanca

On the self-guided tour my favorite parts were the costumes from My Fair Lady, Casablanca and all the great props/photo opportunities for the DC comic book movies and Harry Potter franchise.

After getting back to my hotel, I took a brief break. Then it was off to Club TCM for the So You Think You Know Movies, a fun trivia game. You can form teams of up to eight people. I joined up with some friends I had known only through the Twitter TCMParty hashtag. We didn’t win. But we had fun! And the trivia questions are HARD. This isn’t Trivial Pursuit. It’s almost like being on the clock on Jeopardy.

Bruce Goldstein put us to the test with his trivia contest.

After the fun of trivia, it was on to the opening night reception. This was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt pool area. The festival also has poolside schedules planned this week. It was a great little mixer to kick off the festival.

Hollywood Roosevelt pool

Then it was on to the main event: movie screenings! After considering going to see Jewel Robbery, I ultimately chose The Slender Thread as my first screening of the festival. I had only seen it once before and remembered liking it. With Sidney Poitier passing recently, it felt like a great movie to start with. Poitier and Anne Bancroft are great in the movie, which marked the directorial debut of Sydney Pollack. There are also great supporting performances by Telly Savalas and Ed Asner. The Slender Thread was decades ahead of its time in tackling subjects like suicide and mental health. A powerful movie to be sure.

I ended the first day of the festival with Topkapi. It was brand new to me. What ultimately sold me on it was that it was directed by Jules Dassin, who also directed maybe my favorite heist movie: Rififi. Topkapi was kooky and charming while managing to be incredibly suspenseful, particularly during the heist sequence itself. The heist takes so many twists and turns that I was on the edge of my seat until the end. Topkapi is kind of a hybrid screwball comedy/neo-noir hybrid. And it all works surprisingly well. I’m hoping this will be the first of many hidden gems I see at the festival.

That’s a wrap for day one!

Moulin Rouge Revisited

Ever watch a movie and it takes you until a second viewing to appreciate it? That was the case for me with Moulin Rouge. This week I decided to give it a second watch. The first time I saw it, I wasn’t sure quite what to make of it. But the soundtrack has remained in my regular music rotation since the movie’s release way back in 2001. As it turns out, the second viewing was the charm.

Moulin Rouge follows the romance of two very different people in 1890s Paris. One is a penniless poet named Christian (Ewan McGregor). He goes to Paris to cover the Bohemian revolution. He eventually ends up at the center of it in the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub. There he falls for the courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman) . Their romance is complicated by the fact that a was wealthy club patron (Richard Roxburgh) also covets Satine. A love triangle develops as Satine and Christian collaborate on a stage show.

So why was I lukewarm on Moulin Rouge the first time around? To be blunt, I had never seen anything like it before. The quick editing style, the modern music contrasting the story’s setting…The whole experience was jarring. But this go round it worked for me because now I see what director Baz Luhrmann was trying to do. Moulin Rouge comes off to me as a way to reinvent the movie musical for the modern era and also pay homage to the great musicals of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The color palette has a style that reminds me of the glossy Technicolor musicals of the 1950s (particularly the ones made at MGM). The musical numbers are shot and edited in a style akin to current music videos.

The old fashioned story and color scheme combined with modern music and modern visual styles combines to give the viewer a movie that pulsates with energy while also getting us emotionally invested in the story of the star-crossed lovers. The end result is truly something quite special. The choices of songs all work, especially Your Song and Nature Boy. Come What May, originally written for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet, is perfect as the musical’s emotional center.

Moulin Rouge attempts so much and hits its mark at every turn. The performances by Kidman and McGregor are top notch, and there’s a great supporting performance by Jim Broadbent as the impresario of the club. This is a movie that pays tribute to the great Hollywood musicals of the past while using visual techniques to bring the genre into the present. It’s a great way to get younger generations to get an idea of the kind of movies their parents grew up with. If it gets new generations to check out classic musicals, I’m all for it.

I wasn’t a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet. It had good performances. But the emotional center just wasn’t there for me. In Moulin Rouge, I’m invested emotionally from the word go. Having given it a second look, I have nothing but admiration for it. I wasn’t ready for it back in 2001. But seeing more classic musicals made me really appreciate just how ambitious it was. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out. If you have seen it, consider revisiting it like I did.

Most Memorable Oscar Moments I’ve Seen Live

Happy Oscar week! In honor of next Sunday’s ceremony, here’s a list of my favorite moments I’ve seen live.

1. Blake Edwards receiving a lifetime achievement award

Blake Edwards had been making audiences laugh for years with his iconic comedies, including the Pink Panther movies, 10, The Party, SOB, Victor/Victoria, etc. And his acceptance speech was so genuine. He talked about people who worked on his movies that made the filmmaking process fun. You could tell how much the night meant to him.

2. Michael Caine’s acceptance speech for The Cider House Rules

The Cider House Rules may not have been a perfect movie. But Michael Caine’s performance definitely was. And his acceptance speech was the definition of class. He spent the majority of it not tooting his own horn, but by recognizing and praising all of his fellow nominees.

3. Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Sidney Poitier make for an historic night

2002 was a noteworthy one for African Americans. Denzel Washington won Best Actor for Training Day. Halle Berry won Best Actress for Monster’s Ball (the first African American to ever win that category). And Sidney Poitier was awarded an honorary Oscar. Berry’s speech was so full of raw emotion. You knew watching it she recognized the historic nature of her win. And the evening was a passing of the torch in a way because Washington won after introducing Poitier for his honorary Oscar.

4. Return of the King sweeps the Oscars

I’m a diehard LOTR fan. What Peter Jackson did to bring Tolkien’s trilogy to the screen was nothing short of a Herculean feat. But Oscar doesn’t traditionally recognize science fiction or fantasy in anything except the technical categories. 2004 changed all that with the trilogy’s final installment winning every category it was nominated in, including Best Picture. By the time all was said and done the film took home 11 Oscars, tying a record held by Titanic and Ben-Hur.

5. John Legend and Common’s performance of Glory from Selma

Has there ever been a more moving performance of a Best Original Song nominee than the 2015 Oscars? John Legend and Common delivered a heartfelt performance of Glory from Best Picture nominee Selma, complete with a chorus and a symbolic onstage walk across a re-created Edmund Pettus Bridge. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house afterwards.

6. Robin Williams wins for Good Will Hunting

1998 was a breakthrough year for Robin Williams. He won Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting. It was a turning point in his career because he was finally starting to get dramatic roles worthy of his talents. Williams was more versatile an actor than he got credit for. It’s a shame we lost him so young. I have no doubt there were more Oscars in his future.

7. 14th time is the charm for Roger Dawkins

Best Cinematography might not sound like an exciting category. But in 2019 it delivered some long overdue recognition to Roger Deakins. Blade Runner 2049 earned him his 14th nomination. He had been nominated before for The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun and Skyfall to name a few.

8. Three-Six Mafia winning Best Original Song

Confession: I’m not big on rap or hip hop. But the Three-Six Mafia’s acceptance speech for It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp was one of the best surprises of the 2006 Oscars. The hip hop group honestly sounded like they were happier to be there than anybody else.

9. Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma perform the nominated scores

The 2001 Oscars did something truly inspired with the Best Original Score category. Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma performed a medley of all of the nominees. With montages from the respective movies in the background, it was a great way to showcase the importance of the film composer.

10. Shakespeare In Love upsets Saving Private Ryan

I could talk endlessly about all the times Oscar got it wrong. But one of the most glaring examples to this day to me is Shakespeare In Love winning Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed Shakespeare In Love. It had a sharp script, solid performances…But it didn’t stay with me the way Saving Private Ryan did. Thankfully Saving Private Ryan didn’t go home empty handed. It won 5 Oscars, including Best Director for Steven Spielberg.

5. Anti-Valentine’s Day Movies

This Monday is Valentine’s Day, one of the most nauseating, manufactured and ridiculous holidays out there. I could do a whole blog post just on that. But this is a movie blog. So what movies are there to watch if you’re over the insipid, sugary sweet romantic movies? Here are five to get you started.

1. Audition

If there’s one movie that will make you glad to be free of the horrors of dating, it’s Audition. The plot is simple enough. A widower is convinced to stage a fake audition as a way to find a new wife. They set him up as one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. The girl he chooses comes off as very down to Earth and likable too. But, then the tables turn and the relationship goes south fast! Warning to viewers: This is not for the faint of heart. I’ve seen a lot of horror movies. Audition may be the disturbing of them all. I’m not being hyperbolic.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

We all have that one relationship we’d like to forget. Joel (Jim Carrey) takes that to the extreme in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Joel finds out his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) had her memories of their relationship erased. Joel decides to do the same. But, in the process, Joel discovers the spark they had at the beginning of the relationship. Michael Gondry’s film is a fascinating meditation on love, pain and human nature. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet shine, along with their rich supporting cast.

3. In A Lonely Place

Very few genres show how quickly love can go awry than film noir. So I had to include at least one on my list. In Nicholas Ray’s In A Lonely Place, Humphrey Bogart plays Dixon Steele. Dix is a washed up screenwriter with violent tendencies. When he’s suspected of murdering a hat check girl who turns up dead a few hours after he had her over to his house to have her explain the novel he is to adapt in her own words. His neighbor, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) gives him an alibi. Soon romance blossoms between the two of them. With Laurel’s help, Dix gets sober and starts writing again. But he remains fixated on the murder he’s suspected of. As Laurel sees him get into fights and see more of his dark side, she begins to suspect he may not be innocent after all. It’s a pitch perfect noir and reminder that love stinks.

4. The War of the Roses

If ever there was an argument against getting into a relationship, it’s The War of the Roses. Few movies have depicted the bitterness of divorce more convincingly. The divorcees in question are Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara (Kathleen Turner). After 17 years of marital bliss, the romance goes out of their relationship. They decide to call it quits. But there’s one problem. Neither wants to leave their posh mansion. The two of them engage in a no holds barred battle to force the other to leave. Caught in the middle is divorce lawyer Gavin D’ Amato (Danny DeVito). This is one of the funniest black comedies ever made. It will have you rethinking your desire to get married.

5. Under The Tuscan Sun

This is the most lighthearted movie on my list. Like The War of the Roses, Under The Tuscan Sun deals with the ramifications of divorce. But it tackles it in a more upbeat way. Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) is a writer, literature professor and literary reviewer living in San Francisco. But she’s having a serious case of writer’s block with her latest novel. Then her husband files for divorce out of the blue. To add insult to injury, he wants to marry the woman he’s been cheating on Frances with. Frances gets wiped out financially and emotionally in the divorce. Her friend Patti (Sandra Oh) convinces her to go on a tour of Tuscany with her and Patti’s lover Grace (Kate Walsh). Frances ends up ditching the tour and buys a Tuscan villa that’s a fixer-upper. In the process of refurbishing the villa, Frances rehabilitates herself and her outlook on life. The reason I included Under The Tuscan Sun on this list was that it shows a woman coming back from divorce and living her best life. She takes back the power her ex had over her. Plus it’s a fun fantasy. And Diane Lane is one of our best, and still most underrated actresses.

Groundhog Day: Tribute To A Modern Classic

This week we celebrated Groundhog Day. It’s the name of a quirky holiday. But, more importantly, it’s the title of a great movie with Bill Murray.

Groundhog Day was released back in 1993. Almost 30 years after its release, I find myself coming back to it not just for its connection to the holiday. I come back for the performances and the subtle philosophy lurking beneath the laughs.

Bill Murray had hit movies before Groundhog Day of course. Ghostbusters and Stripes come to mind. And both co-started future Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis. The part of cynical weatherman Phil Connors was tailor made for Bill Murray. The script makes perfect use of Murray’s trademark cynical, dry wit.

What’s surprising about Groundhog Day isn’t that it’s funny. The surprising thing is the warmth/depth of the humor. The people of Punxsutawney, PA feel like they walked out of a Frank Capra movie. And their good nature is eventually what cures Phil of his selfishness and cynicism. Groundhog Day really takes the time to develop the whole town, not just the leads. The script makes the smart move of embracing instead of stereotyping small town America.

In the end, what gets Phil Connors out of his time loop is starting to think of people besides himself. That may sound very basic. But the way the movie gets him to that realization is not. This is a comedy that’s much deeper than you expect. The performance by Murray should have been nominated for an Oscar. And the whole ensemble around him is solid, especially Andie MacDowell as his producer/eventual love interest Rita.

Groundhog Day works because of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis’ direction and the sharp script by Ramis and Danny Rubin. It’s smart, funny and heartfelt. You can watch if again, and again and again. Pun intended.

Favorite Film Noir Villains: Kasper Gutman

It’s the last weekend of Noirvember. And I’ve saved one of the best noir villains for last. This week’s honoree is Kasper Gutman from The Maltese Falcon.

The Maltese Falcon is the movie that by and large birthed film noir. The novel had been filmed twice before. But the third time was the charm. With a script by first time director John Huston and a cast that consisted of the brightest talents at Warner Brothers, it was a winner.

By now audiences know the story of private eye Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and how he’s drawn into a plot to obtain the valuable statuette mentioned in the title. Among the people after the Maltese Falcon is Kasper Gutman. Gutman is played by Sydney Greenstreet in his film debut. Greenstreet had been a stage actor for decades. But he didn’t make a movie until age 61. So you’re never too old to achieve your dreams.

Gutman is such a great noir villain for a multitude of reasons. One is that subtle menace that Greenstreet plays the character with. Greenstreet has a great maniacal laugh ant he can deliver a chilling look with the slights eye movement or tilt of the head. He could have been a great silent actor as well.

There’s also the fact that he is so cold that he is willing to give up Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.), who he says is like a son to him, just to get the statuette. “Well, Wilmer, I’m sorry indeed to lose you. But I want you to know I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.” Ouch! Willing to sacrifice anyone to get what he wants.

Finally, Gutman never flinches when Spade loses his temper or threatens him. Sam Spade is as hard boiled a detective as you’ll find in noir. Even when Spade chews him out and starts tearing the room apart, Gutman remains cool as a cucumber. He even has the audacity to ask for more money when the Maltese Falcon is revealed to be a fake. That is chutzpah!

Sydney Greenstreet may have been a late bloomer. And his film career was a brief one. But he left an indelible mark on cinema, especially in the movies he made with his frequent co-star Peter Lorre. There are umpteen reasons The Maltese Falcon is a classic. Greenstreet’s portrayal of Gutman is one of them. It wouldn’t have been the same without Sydney Greenstreet.

Favorite Film Noir Villains: Bruno Antony

I hope you’re enjoying this trip down film noir memory lane for Noirvember. It’s been fun looking back at the Rogues’ gallery film noir has given us. My next favorite film noir villain comes courtesy of Alfred Hitchcock. It’s Bruno Antony from Strangers On A Train.

Robert Walker didn’t have a particularly long film career. But he still managed to leave an indelible mark. My two favorite films of his couldn’t be further apart: The Clock (a romantic gem with Judy Garland) and Strangers On A Train.

Bruno Antony is a great villain largely because he looks and acts like such a regular guy. In that respect, he reminds me of Norman Bates, another iconic Hitchcock villain. Hitchcock showed us in multiple films that evil can come from anywhere. In the case of Strangers On A Train, it can even come from a seemingly innocuous conversation you strike up with a stranger on public transit.

Bruno also has a very nonchalant attitude towards murder and mayhem. As he tells tennis player Guy Haines (Farley Granger) about his crazy scheme where two people swap murders so the police wouldn’t catch them, Walker seems uncomfortable with what he is suggesting. After Bruno weasels his way into Guy’s life, he shows up at a cocktail party and breaks the ice by asking people how they would kill someone and get away with it. Needless to say Bruno isn’t the life of the party.

Finally, when Bruno commits the murder he thinks he’s doing to help Guy, he does little things along the way to suggest how far his villainous intent goes. He stalks Guy’s wife Miriam at a carnival. Along the way he takes the time to pop a little kid’s balloon. It’s not an important plot point. But it really shows his complete lack of morality or human feeling.

Alfred Hitchcock gave us a lot of great villains. And Bruno was one the absolute best. That’s a testament to the strength of the script, the direction and Walker’s performance. Bruno wouldn’t have been believable if Walker played him over the top. That would have made him come off like a cartoon villain. Walker’s performance is among the best ever given in a Hitchcock film.