The Stranger (1946) 4.14/5 (1)


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Rating: The Good – 83.3
Genre: Film-Noir
Duration: 115 mins
Director: Orson Welles
Stars: Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young

One of Orson Welles’ more mainstream directorial offerings but a neat little film-noir nonetheless, The Stranger stars the man himself as a professor of history in an esteemed school and general upstanding leader of his tight-knit community. His life seems idyllic until an old friend comes to visit, bringing with him a relentless Nazi-hunter (Edward G Robinson) who believes the respected professor is a former high ranking concentration camp commander in hiding.

The Stranger has all the hallmarks of a great Welles film just in far fewer numbers. It begins with definite echoes of The Third Man (hinting he had indeed more than just acting duties on that picture) as we are served a beautifully shot yet ambiguous scene that sets the tone for what is to come. However, almost immediately we are transported to leafy Connecticut which might as well be another planet. Though the film loses most of its visually noirish feel from this point on, the switch still counts as something of a masterstroke, for nothing is as it seems. But with the arrival of Robinson’s character, the veil is steadily lifted.

The Stranger is not on a par with Citizen Kane or Touch of Evil, but it is an excellent film in its own right, marked by the story-telling flourishes we typically associate with Welles. The ending too is something which again evokes memories of The Third Man as the stakes are raised in fitting fashion. On the acting front Welles is as magnetic as ever but like the film as a whole, in a more subdued fashion. Moreover, his performance is complemented nicely by Robinson’s iron-hand/kit-glove to whom the film owes most of its charm. Welles counted The Stranger as his least favourite film, which isn’t too surprising given the lack of aesthetic flair and dark exploration compared to him more famous work. However, what it lacks in that department, it makes up for in sheer entertainment, for The Stranger is an exceedingly enjoyable thriller.

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