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Film review: The Stranger (1946)

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Early noir-ish thriller directed by and starring Orson Welles. No Touch of Evil but one for the Nazi hunter in us all.

Mr Wilson (Edward G Robinson), an investigator with the War Crimes Commission, is on the trail of escaped Nazi, Franz Kindler. Kindler is believed to be one of the masterminds behind the Holocaust. The trail leads Wilson to the small town of Harper, Connecticut. He arrives just as Dr Charles Rankin (Orson Welles), a recent arrival to the town, is about to marry the daughter (Loretta Young) of a US Supreme Court justice who lives locally.

But, is Dr Rankin really who he claims to be?

It’s not long before the dark shadow of violence is cast over the small town, as Wilson gets closer to the truth.

The Stranger is a very tight and coherent story, and very successful at the box office on its first release. The cinematography is what’s to be expected of Welles — chiaroscuro, lots of shadows and plenty of intriguing camera angles … the hallmarks of noirish psychological thrillers of the time.

It’s not the most exciting movie of its kind, and the lead female character is kind of annoying. The detective too lacks some of the moral ambivalence that his counterparts in Welles’ later movies — for example, his Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil.

Then again, it was 1946 and the antagonist was a Nazi — no doubt Wilson represents the moralism of Americans and Brits protecting the world from evil. All based on the premise that there is a clear distinction between good and evil.

Welles gives a solid performance though. Strangely he has a lot of sex appeal.


Written by Darren Smith

5 March 2009 at 7:18 pm

Posted in film review

Tagged with , , ,

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