Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Stranger (1946) - An Olive Films Blu-ray Review

The classic Orson Welles suspense film THE STRANGER (1946) has just been released on Blu-ray and DVD by Olive Films.

I last saw this film over nine years ago, and I enjoyed revisiting it tremendously; among other things, it reaffirmed that THE STRANGER might contain my favorite performance by Edward G. Robinson.

Robinson plays Wilson, an investigator hunting for a notorious Nazi war criminal (Orson Welles), now hiding in plain sight as Charles Rankin, mild-mannered teacher in a small New England town.

Wilson arrives in town on the very day that Rankin is marrying Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young), the sweet daughter of a Supreme Court Justice (Philip Merivale). Mary's brother (Richard Long) seems to harbor doubts about his sister's new husband -- who oddly disappears for a prolonged time during the wedding reception.

It seems a fellow Nazi has arrived in town along with Wilson, and Rankin needs to make sure the man will never, ever tell what he knows about Rankin's evil past. Despite that, his identity begins to unravel, and Mary's life is in danger.

As directed by Welles, THE STRANGER is great, nail-biting fun, particularly watching Wilson circle his man. (Rankin's too-perfect pro-American ideals dinner table speech combined with the odd statement that Karl Marx wasn't German, but a Jew, is a key moment which convinces Wilson to continue surveilling Rankin.) Wilson hangs out in the town drugstore, helping himself to coffee and playing checkers with the owner, as bit by bit small clues continue to reveal themselves.

The film is very well paced at 95 minutes. If the movie has any drawback at all, it's the lack of chemistry between Welles and Loretta Young; on this second viewing I still find no explanation for why she married him -- or continued to support him as events unfolded. He's neither attractive or charming, if you ask me. I wondered at the time of my previous viewing if Mary felt herself to be an "old maid" but that description of the gorgeous Young defies logic.

THE STRANGER was filmed in black and white by Russell Metty. The supporting cast includes Byron Keith, Martha Wentworth, Billy House, Neal Dodd, and Konstantin Shayne.

The Olive Films Blu-ray was a significant improvement over the previous DVD I watched of THE STRANGER, which has suffered the indignity of being released in too many poor public domain prints over the years. It's a good-looking Blu-ray.

The knowledgeable commentary by Nora Fiore, who blogs at The Nitrate Diva, is a pleasure to listen to. Nora covers a wide range of material, moving easily from production background to trivia (loved a bit of info about a sign in the gym) to commonalities with other Welles films. (Full disclosure, Nora is an online acquaintance of several years, and I've enjoyed watching movies at the TCM Classic Film Festival with both Nora and her mother.) I listen to a great many commentary tracks and was both informed and impressed by Nora's track.

The set also includes a booklet with an essay by Jennifer Lynde Barker, which may also be found on the Blu-ray itself.

Thanks to Olive Films for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Bill O said...

I'm sure that it's covered in the commentary, but this was purely a studio controlled, commercial enterprise for Welles.
"To prove I don't glow in the dark.". He COULDA done Hitchcock and Lang, but his drive was inner-directed...

2:04 PM  

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