Movie Review: The Stranger (1946)

Starring: Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young

Directed by: Orson Welles

A detective from the War Crimes Commission travels to Connecticut in search of a prominent Nazi war criminal who managed to erase his old German identity and take upon a new one as he blends in to his new surroundings.

Having experienced my first Orson Welles movie back in August with Touch of Evil I was greatly impressed with the quality of it that I was happy to find another piece of his work on Netflix in the shape of The Stranger. While there are probably better titles to watch, such as Citizen Kane, that display how great Orson Welles’s mind for cinema was I can only watch what I have readily available so was happy to find The Stranger and hoped it could match the quality of Touch of Evil.

Unfortunately The Stranger was unable to quite live up to my expectations which were set very highly indeed due to the quality of Touch of Evil. The story was interesting enough but I just felt that certain areas of detail were lacking that extra bit of quality. This movie was released right after the end of the Second World War so it was a genuine possibility for people to come across a Nazi war criminal hiding within their community as so many of them fled Germany once they realised they were close to defeat. This only amped up the tension and the drama that was involved in this movie as Orson Welles plays a former concentration camp mastermind who found himself hiding in Connecticut as a school teacher. The music in older movies always impresses me as it’s utilised so well in order to create a specific type of atmosphere and The Stranger only backs up my viewpoint as it’s score is wonderfully crafted as the story becomes grittier as it develops.

The story of The Stranger, while interesting, was very predictable and at times very lethargic as you could see the next step of the movie coming each and every time. The character of Professor Charles Rankin also known as Nazi Franz Kindler, who was played by Orson Welles, was surprisingly dull and his story seemed rather absurd. He was able to work his way up to the upper echelon’s within the Nazi party yet remained completely unrecognisable and anonymous so much so he was able to destroy all traces of his existence before he left Germany and arrived in America without even the slightest traces of accents. For me it felt like very lazy writing as a severe lack of effort went in to writing the central protagonist’s character. Welles didn’t particularly perform very well in this movie as he did in Touch of Evil as most of the time he had a blank gormless expression smeared on his face which became rather irritating towards the end. Edward G. Robinson, who played the detective tracking Kindler down, and Billy House who played local store clerk Mr. Potter were the standout performers in this movie, especially the latter. Both actors made the story move along smoothly and were the vital links between major scenes.

Overall, The Stranger wasn’t as good as my initial Orson Welles encounter but it was still a half decent movie to watch. A better performance from Welles and a little less predictability would’ve helped this movie be more enjoyable.


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