Reel Reviews

The Stranger (1946) - Blu-ray Review

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The Stranger (1946) - Blu-ray Movie Review

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4 stars

Leave it to Orson Welles to tackle the subject of continued fascism after WWII.  Never one to shy away from topicality, left-wing minded Welles directs The Stranger, after stroking the coals of paranoia and isolation with unapologetic opening, that those who once aligned their beliefs to those of the Nazi party would simply wait out their time until another sad uprising occurs.  That was in 1946 and still that level of hatred and intolerability is with us.  Was Welles correct?  If news reports are to be believed, it certainly seems that way.  But not content to stop there with his political offerings, Welles brings the idea of sustained fascism into small town America when a Nazi sympathizer arrives to pay an old friend a visit.

Franz Kindler (Orson Welles) is a fugitive.  Living under an assumed alias, Charles Rankin, and working as a professor in Connecticut.  Once a member of the Nazi party and supposed theorist of genocide, Kindler now hides his war crimes deep inside the shadows of his heart.  Yet, in conversation, his theories pop up from time to time – especially when he gets too passionate about war conversations and his obsession with clocks.

Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) has been assigned to find the fugitive war criminals hiding in America and, upon his insistence, allows for a Nazi criminal to be granted into America knowing that he will lead him to Kindler.  Yet, Kindler refuses to be captured that easily and kills humans, animals, and even threatens his newly wed wife, Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young), as he runs and twists his way free of Wilson’s tightening grip.

“Murder can be a chain,” Welles says to his wife after one version of the truth has been disclosed to her.  So can paranoia – which this film delivers by the bucketfuls courtesy of Welles’ structured scenes and twisted camera positioning.  Welles wants his audience to think and to second guess what they are seeing and he stages the camera to deliver the truth in such a manner.

To say that The Stranger is classic Welles is an understatement.  This is THE forgotten classic – one of his only era hits – that time has been unfortunate to.  Shockingly brutal and rich in shadowplay, The Stranger builds upon its character positioning an intolerable sense of doom and dread that pays off in a stunning conclusion that displays exactly what kind of cinematic genius Welles was as a director and a performer.

Key to this film is Young’s confident performance as the war criminal’s unknowing wife.  Naïve, yet loving throughout, she slips into her role with the marked strength of a learned knowledge that betrays her young age.  She recoils in horror once she is exposed to the truth of her husband’s crimes – real footage from the concentration camps (rumored to be the FIRST time the footage was used in Hollywood) – her sudden change is as deadly as it is innocent.  Especially in light of her husband’s exposed plot to protect his own life while taking hers inside the town’s clock tower he so lovingly restored in order to win over the town with his selflessness.  Yet, the truth in his soul won’t stay hidden.

Ticking with a sense of urgency, the film raises the stakes until all our characters are forced into a life and death situation inside the clock tower.  Suddenly, all obsessions make sense – even Young senses the distance behind her husband’s eyes as he tells her she will die.  It’s a stunning sequence that rivals anything inside Charles Foster Kane’s precious Xanadu.

Cold, ominous, and twisted, The Stranger is one visitor you won’t soon forget.

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{2jtab: Film Info}

The Stranger (1946) - Blu-ray Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: this title is not yet rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Orson Welles
Writer
: Anthony Veiller
Cast:
Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Orson Welles, Philip Merivale, Richard Long, Konstantin Shayne
Genre
: Crime | Drama | Mystery
Tagline:
The Most Deceitful Man A Woman Ever Loved !
Memorable Movie Quote: "'Course, he's changed some. Being buried in the earth does that."
Distributor:
RKO Radio Pictures
Release Date:
May 25, 1946
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 15, 2011

Synopsis: Wilson of the War Crimes Commission is seeking Franz Kindler, mastermind of the Holocaust, who has effectively erased his identity. Wilson releases Kindler's former comrade Meinike and follows him to Harper, Connecticut, where he is killed before he can identify Kindler. Now Wilson's only clue is Kindler's fascination with antique clocks; but though Kindler seems secure in his new identity, he feels his past closing in.

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{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

The Stranger (1946) - Blu-ray Movie Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

2 stars



Blu-ray Experience
3 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 11, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); BD-Live; Blu-ray 3D

Since its original distributors didn’t see fit to renew its copyright, The Stranger has been in public domain Hell for awhile now.  This release, presented by Film Chest, makes an effort to clean up the print, but - seeing as how they can’t remaster the film from an original 35mm negative – the 1080p transfer is far from perfect.  Is it better?  Yes, but their efforts to clean the print have unfortunately washed most of the film grain away.  The resulting picture is rather shiny and claylike.  Sometimes muddy and sometimes perfect, the unevenness of the film’s quality isn’t a distraction…only a disappointment.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

There are only two supplemental items: a trailer and a wordless restoration clip.  Noteworthy as it does show where the print was and what their processes did to it, but nothing really of any substance.  The blu-ray does include a DVD of the film and a postcard of the original poster.

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{2jtab: Trailer}

None

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