Stranger, The (1946) * Top Pick *



Genre: Film Noir Mystery Crime Thriller

Starring: Edward G. Robinson (Little CaesarDouble Indemnity), Loretta Young (The Bishop's Wife • The Farmer's Daughter)

Directed By: Orson Welles (Touch of EvilCitizen Kane

Overview: A War Crimes Commission agent released a war prisoner in hopes that the German will lead him to bigger fish, namely a Nazi commander by the name of Franz Kindler.

The Stranger is yet another film I've hadn't heard of before venturing down the viewing halls of 1001 Movies.  In fact I didn't even remember it was on the list until I opened my valu-pak of Noir. Imagine my surprise when I find a bargain bin collection's film bordering on perfection in every single scene.

The obvious elements are there: Film Noir Expressionist lighting, murder mystery gritty suspense, and that look we all appreciate: men wearing trench coats and dames looking 'just right'. However on top of all this there's performances that are dramatic without being hammy, and writing that's telling without being expository, and all the while, we're in a perfect little moment ripe with imagery and darkness, betrayal and double-cross.

The interpersonal relationships between the characters twist and turn and shift from one moment to the next, and Edward G. Robinson is ever vigilant in his stone-faced way. As the walls close in on our suspect played by Welles himself, his demeanor shifts from one that is cautious and secretive to 'the brave man in need of a confidant' as he draws in those near to him by twisting honesty just enough. The way the investigation itself is secondary to the constant trust games and mind games is what makes The Stranger so powerful. Combined with a shooting style that embraces the Film Noir mood, it's no surprise that Orson Welles' only profit-making film is one worthy of being brought out into the light.

Welles, ever awesome
Welles, ever awesome

Performance: 10 Cinematography: 8 Script: 9 Plot: 9 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 90% (Get To Know It Better)

My only complaint is the lack of slapping. I've decided long ago that the best Films Noir have a five-finger foray to the face, and I was very disappointed that this classic Genre-following/propagating/rooted film was sans slap. Perhaps The Stranger is like a Persian rug, with each having an imperfection deliberately woven into it. Because only God can create something that's perfect, it would be arrogant for mere mortals to aspire to the same standards.

Either way, it's been far too long since I delved into the Film Noir Genre and I think I've been bitten by the bug. Any Noir-O-Thons out there?

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