We like to think that we know people, that our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even family members are who we believe them to be. It’s a rude awakening to find out our best friend is a liar and manipulator, that our parents were swingers, or that the person we’re going to marry was a Nazi.
Orson Welles plays Charles Rankin, a history teacher at a small college in Connecticut who’s about to marry the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice. All seems well until an old man comes to town looking for Rankin—a former Nazi turned repentant Christian, hoping to save Rankin’s soul, but in the process putting U.N. War Crimes Commission Agent Mr. Wilson (played by Edward G. Robinson) on Rankin’s trail.
You see, Charles Rankin isn’t really Charles Rankin. In reality he is Franz Kindler, one of the architects behind the Final Solution, and possibly the most elusive Nazi in hiding. Kindler destroyed any and all records of his existence to the point where not even a photograph exists. Now it’s up to Mr. Wilson to expose the monster to the whole town and bring him to justice.
The Stranger is one of those films that’s a joy to listen to. I don’t mean the soundtrack, which is nice but forgettable, but the dialogue and the way actors say their lines. Welles and Robinson both have some excellent lines in this movie and their delivery is wonderful, and it’s rare these days to have such an excellent aural component to a film.
I knew Welles was a great actor, but I had forgotten just how good Robinson was. Today he’s been reduced to a caricature of his “tough guy” roles, popping up now and again in Bugs Bunny cartoons or on The Simpsons in the form of Chief Wiggum. There’s a real subtlety to his performance, a warmth tempered by steely determination and fierce intelligence. He’s as much fun to watch as Welles, which is definitely saying something considering the man’s immense stage presence.
The Stranger is a great, old-fashioned thriller of the kind we rarely see nowadays. There’s little action, but the tension and atmosphere are great and lead to a highly satisfying ending. This is a real gem and it definitely deserves to be re-released on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Both the DVD and Blu-Ray are in Fullscreen 4:3 aspect ratio with the sound 5.1 Surround Sound Mix. Spanish subtitles are available for non-English speakers. The transfer to both the DVD and Blu-Ray was great with no problems with either the picture or sound.
There isn’t much here in terms of extras except some features on the restoration of the film. Since I’m not too terribly interested in the technical side of filmmaking it didn’t really appeal to me, but those that are interested should like it.
Original Movie Art POSTCARD
Before & After Restoration Demo
This is a great thriller and any fan of noir should pick this up. Highly recommended.
Film Chest, Inc. presents The Stranger. Directed by: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Loretta Young, and Edward G. Robinson. Written by: Anthony Veiller. Running time: 95 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: February 15, 2011.