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The Stranger

A movie directed by Orson Welles

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THE STRANGER Proves Orson Welles Is No Stranger To Great Cinema

  • Mar 20, 2012
Rating:
+5

As many can claim, my first encounter with Orson Welles’ greatness was CITIZEN KANE.  I’d seen it on television when I was very young, and I was immediately smitten not so much with the story (I could go on for hours about precisely who I think the story is genuinely about instead of Charles Foster Kane) but more so with the use of the camera.  After all, KANE is one of the first motion pictures to make vast use of the camera as a device on the set, be it positioned high or low to capture the more thematic elements of the tale.  Also, I believe it was KANE was pioneered the usage of deep focus photography; objects deep in the frame are depicted in as vivid detail as items close to the lens.  It was the work of genius, and, while there are those who’ll tell you that Welles disappeared into obscurity after the premiere and presumed failure of the film, there are probably as many other who’d argue the man’s genius continued sparingly for at least another decade.
 
THE STRANGER was released theatrically in 1946, and it bares the rare distinction of being the only Welles-directed picture to actually earn a profit in its theatrical release.  The story by Victor Trivas was adapted by Trivas and Decla Dunning, while the screenplay shows credited to Anthony Veiller with uncredited contributions to John Huston and Orson Welles (known as a stickler for his own dialogue).  The film also is believed to be the first motion picture – post World War II – to actually include footage involving German concentration camps.  Also, THE STRANGER is allegedly Welles’ least favorite of the films he shot.
 
Mr. Wilson (played with surprising restraint by Edgar G. Robinson) is an agent of the United Nations tasked with hunting down former Nazi officers for the prosecution of war crimes.  Franz Kindler (Orson Welles) – the alleged mastermind behind the destruction of the Jewish people – has long alluded capture.  However, when Wilson’s last tangible lead brings the escaped officer nearly within his grasp, its Kindler himself – with his newly established identity as professor Charles Rankin – who rises to the occasion and outsmarts the agent.  Now, all Wilson can do is put his faith in Kindler’s new wife Mary (Loretta Young), hoping she’ll come to her senses and expose her husband as the fraud and the monster he really is.
 
THE STRANGER is a terrific picture.  It’s a story that, while important for its time, transcends its era with its emphasis on doing what’s just and what’s right despite the personal risk of safety or reputation.  Rather quaintly, it captures a small town vibe – the picture is set in the small Connecticut town of Harper – and juxtaposes it against the big world political themes of war, oppression, and genocide.  It takes ordinary people with ordinary dreams and aspirations and forces them to surpass their own limitations in the name of justice.  The performances – particularly by Robinson, Welles, and Young – are spot on, and it’s all constructed so that the tension builds as the stakes are raised for everyone involved.  The climax is handled beautifully as the entire town rises up on behalf of righteousness, leaving Rankin/Kindler with nowhere to turn but a soulless, metal hideout inside the bell mechanism of an old clock tower.  Needless to say, the machine of justice prevails, Kindler becomes an unlikely pawn to his own machinations, and the identity of THE STRANGER is ultimately revealed to them all.
 
As well as providing a tightly crafted suspense thriller, THE STRANGER is technically accomplished.  Specifically, Welles repeated use of frame composition – including subtle use of focus and out-of-focus elements – as well as the textural uses of black-and-white is nothing short of masterful.  Folks who’ve wrongly maintained for years that the man’s “singular benchmark” starts and stops with CITIZEN KANE can be deftly proven wrong by viewing THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS or THE STRANGER; clearly, the man was an auteur who knew a thing or two about telling stories uniquely on film.
 
The film has been lovingly restored here by Film Chest Inc., in this reissue by HD Cinema Classics (THE STRANGER is a public domain picture), and the disc provides a brief featurette showing the before and after restoration.  It comes packaged in the popular Blu-ray + standard DVD combo pack.  The sound has been updated to a 5.1 Surround Sound mix, though I didn’t notice any major differences from my respective speakers while viewing.  Spanish subtitles are available, and the package includes a nifty little ‘movie art’ postcard for those desiring such a trinket.
 
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION possible, as several of Welles-directed pictures should be required viewing by anyone who considers himself a film fanatic.
 
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at HD Cinema Classics provided me with a DVD Screener for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
THE STRANGER Proves Orson Welles Is No Stranger To Great Cinema

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March 22, 2012
I do like classics when I feel the need to refresh my brain. Orson Welles is enough to get me to see this one!
 
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More The Stranger reviews
review by . August 25, 2010
One of Welles's greatest suspense thrillers
Orson Welles’ 1946 film-noir “The Stranger” is one of Welles’s greatest works. Besides directing, he co-stared in this great suspense thriller.  This movie has a top notch cast, especially with Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young.  “The Stranger” was the only film made by Welles to have been a bona fide box office success on its first release (Citizen Kane had made back its budget and marketing, but not enough to make a profit). It earned an Academy …
Quick Tip by . August 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
Orson Welles’ 1946 film-noir “The Stranger” is one of Welles’s greatest works. Besides directing, he co-stared in this great suspense thriller.  This movie has a top notch cast, especially with Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young.  “The Stranger” was the only film made by Welles to have been a bona fide box office success on its first release (Citizen Kane had made back its budget and marketing, but not enough to make a profit). It earned an Academy …
review by . June 14, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Edgar G. Robinson, Billy House      Cons: Orson Welles and Loretta Young and an untenable story      The Bottom Line: Dreadful. If you like Edward G. Robinson, then this is worth considering, otherwise there is no reason at all to waste your time.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.      I am a semi-fan of film noir. The angular style of it built on as many shadows …
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Wiki

THE STRANGER: Orson Welles directed and starred in THE STRANGER, a tense black-and-white thriller that Welles made for maverick producer Sam Spiegel. Welles portrays Charles Rankin, a respected academic at a prominent Connecticut college. He seems to have the perfect life: a beautiful new wife, Mary (Loretta Young); and a charming home in a small town that holds him in high esteem. Enter Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), a detective on the hunt for Nazi war criminal Franz Kindler. The appearance of Mr. Wilson threatens to reveal that underneath this idyllic veneer is a secret that could tear everything apart. <br> <br> Although many of Welles's most interesting scenes wound up on the cutting-room floor when Spiegel reedited the film, THE STRANGER is still multilayered, complex, and fascinating. The scenes between Welles and Robinson are intellectually gripping, leading up to the stylized, shocking conclusion. As with so many of Welles's films, he was unhappy with the final result, but the viewer won't be...
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Details

Director: Orson Welles
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: January 1, 1946
Screen Writer: Orson Welles, John Huston
Runtime: 1hr 35min, 1hr 38min
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