The Stranger Orson Welles

The Stranger Orson Welles
A beautiful and sharp DVD transfer accentuates this release of Orson Welles’s 1946 film The Stranger. The film was released as part of MGM’s Film Noir series and is a welcome addition to this collection. The Stranger was released during Welles’s most successful artistic period, which included landmark films Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. According to imdb.com, this film was Welles’s least favourite. After watching this finely crafted movie, it’s hard to imagine why. The film’s action surrounds the efforts of Inspector Wilson (the always dependable Edward G. Robinson) to track Professor Charles Rankin (an exceptionally creepy Orson Welles, who slips into a subtle German accent frequently throughout the film), a small-town teacher who Wilson believes is an escaped Nazi involved in setting up concentration camps. Wilson thinks that Rankin is posing as an American schoolteacher to escape persecution. The beautiful Loretta Young is Mary, Rankin’s new wife, who’s initially oblivious of her husband’s true identity. Hollywood just doesn’t produce starlets with this kind of grace and natural beauty anymore. The film follows many of the conventions of film noir — the presence of a hard-boiled detective and the prevalent use of shadows. Welles’s eye for shadow and chiaroscuro is aesthetically gorgeous, adding a level of visual beauty and complexity to the simple story. Welles’s direction does suffer from frequent lags in pace, a difficulty any watcher of Citizen Kane is acutely aware of. However, his use of long shots, cranes and creative angling provide the freshness that makes this film more than just a simple whodunit. It is an excellent example of the Film Noir period. The DVD is unfortunately barebones, as a featurette would have provided some interesting insights into the process of this film's production. The Stranger is also historically significant, as it features the first use of a concentration camp post-WWII. The images of the dead and gas chambers are still haunting today, so it’s chilling to think what effect that footage elicited in an audience just one year removed from wartime. This is an excellent film well worth watching. (MGM / Fox)