Remakes are always being mooted – one far-fetched internet rumour had Ricky Gervais starring in one of them – but whatever eventually pops out, it’s unlikely to eclipse this warped 1951 original, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Patricia Highsmith, surely one of cinema’s most misanthropic couplings. Hitchcock, as book after book delights in telling us, loved torturing blondes. The lesbian Highsmith, on the other hand, loved to torture homosexuals – see The Talented Mr Ripley, for example. And it’s Highsmith who comes out on top in this thriller about two men agreeing to swap murders. Robert Walker plays Bruno Anthony, the psychotic ball of mother-love who wants his horrible father dead. Farley Granger is Guy Haines, a clean-limbed tennis pro with a wife restricting his extra-mural canoodlings. The trouble starts when psycho Bruno kills Guy’s wife and expects Guy to fulfil his end of the deal, a “deal” which Guy had thought was merely the what-if ramblings of strangers passing time on a long train journey. Spicing up this stew is the regularly suggested but never openly stated homo-erotic subtext, with mad Bruno constantly making cow eyes at rangey Guy. And there you have it, the basic steps – sex, death and guilt – for life’s never-ending tango. Irresistible.
© Steve Morrissey 2006