Thursday, May 24, 2012

187. The Stranger (1946)

Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: Orson Welles
Written By: Anthony Veiller, Victor Trivas, Decia Dunning
Main Cast: Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Philip Merivale, Richard Long
Click here to view the trailer


"Murder can be a chain, Mary, one link leading to another until it circles your neck."

Now we're cooking with gas oil! This is the type of expertise that I expect to see in a motion picture directed by and starring Orson Welles, as I turn my attention, yet again, to the streaming portion of Netflix and his 1946 film "The Stranger".

Mr. Wilson (Robinson) is a detective working for the United Nations War Crimes Commission, who's main objective is to hunt down and bring to justice Nazi's who escaped Germany following World War II.  More specifically, Mr. Wilson is hunting one in particular Nazi named Franz Kindler (Welles), an evil man who was said to have invented the concentration camp and one who erased all evidence of his identity before fleeing to America. Kindler has escaped to Connecticut where he goes by Charles Rankin, teaches at a prep school and is preparing to marry Mary (Young), the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice, when an old friend of his, from his Nazi days, comes to visit. The friend is Mr. Meinike and he has been released from custody, in hopes that he'll lead Mr. Wilson to Franz's  doorstep. Mr. Meinike attacks Mr. Wilson from behind, when he catches on that he's being followed and meets Franz, who, almost immediately upon their reunion, strangles him. When Mr. Wilson wakes up from his attack, he knows he's in the right town, a small American town where everyone knows everyone else's name, but doesn't quite know who he's looking for.

It sure doesn't sound like a picture that would appeal to me, but I'll be damned if it wasn't a fantastic one. If the rest of "Welles Week" is a complete failure upon my personal tastes, at least now I'll be able to proclaim that I DO have a favorite Orson Welles picture and it's not the popular one, which kind of makes it a little cooler, if you ask me. Where do I even begin when it comes to praising "The Stranger"? How about I start with Welles' direction and the way he moved his camera, captured his images and told his story. The picture is a great example of film noir and would've fit perfectly into "Seven Shadows Week". In fact, there are shadows galore, as Welles uses shadows to build tension and suspense and keep us gripped by this story about a Nazi criminal. Certain shots are unforgettable, like the one of Edward G. Robinson standing in front of a projector that is showing footage of concentration camps, his shadow cast on two different surfaces. Or the one of Mr. Meinike face, shown in close-up through the lens of a camera, while he holds a conversation with another man. And, of course, there's the ending..........


.........where Franz is impaled by a statue of an angel wielding a sword and falls to his death from the top of a clock tower. Oh and can I just say, for the record, that any film that has it's climax take place at the top of a clock tower, bell tower or lighthouse is okay by me.

Someone's "time" is up!
I don't even have to tell you that Welles is also amazing in front of the camera. Despite never selecting a favorite picture of his (until now, of course) I had always considered Welles to be one of the very best actors I'd ever had the pleasure of watching. In fact, he may be THE BEST actor ever - not my personal favorite - but, perhaps, the best. When I try to imagine what Orson Welles - the man (not the actor) was like, I envision a man very passionate about his work. Whether it was radio or film, I envision a man who poured everything he had into his current project and I envision a man who took his work very seriously. I'd like to think that's true and all evidence says that it is and perhaps that's why Welles was so fantastic an actor. Don't discount Edward G. Robinson either, one who I couldn't believe was playing the good guy, after he did such a believable job playing Little Caesar Bandello in "Little Caesar". But, once again, I'll be damned if he didn't play a damn fine good guy too when he took on the role of Mr. Wilson. Loretta Young held her own too, acting alongside Welles and Robinson, providing a glitter of beauty in this very evil and ugly world.

RATING: 8.5/10  Perhaps another scene or two of high tension would have boosted this film to a '10', but I'm not griping. Next up: "The Lady from Shanghai".


May 24, 2012  12:52am

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