DVD Watch: 'The Stranger'
Orson Welles directs and stars in noir about a Nazi hiding in plain sight
By Kimberley Jones, 3:45PM, Tue. Oct. 15
Not to be confused with Camus’ 1942 novel, the 1946 film noir The Stranger (Kino Classics, Blu-ray $34.95) stars Orson Welles as a mild-mannered professor whose previous job was as chief architect of Germany’s genocide of the Jews.
Plausibly German in a menacing little mustache, Welles plays Charles Rankin, the title’s stranger. He’s new to the town of Harper, Conn., a sleepy little wooded idyll that’s an ideal roost for the secret Nazi formerly known as Franz Kindler. Rankin/Kindler thinks he’s gotten away with it – he’s even bagged a Supreme Court justice’s daughter (played by Loretta Young) as his new wife – but then an old Nazi crony shows up, unwittingly leading Edward G. Robinson’s War Crimes Commissioner Mr. Wilson straight to Rankin’s front door.
Welles also directed, though it was by no means a passion project on the order of Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, or any of his Shakespeare adaptations. Victor Trivas received an Oscar nomination for the story, but Welles (along with John Huston) did some uncredited tinkering; maybe it’s just the influence of Welles’ The Third Man cuckoo clock insert, but it’s easy to imagine the few standout bursts of inspired dialogue as Welles’ originals. (A dinner dialogue, for instance, extemporizing on Carthaginian peace bears little resemblance to the otherwise boilerplate script.) The Stranger is second-rate noir, rather tinnily plotted and performed, but there’s some lovely shadow work and ample diversion in Robinson and Welles’ yin-and-yang deliveries, from avuncular to uncut evil.
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