The Stranger

Year 1946

Orson Welles as  Franz Kindler/Prof. Charles Rankin  
Edward G. Robinson   as Wilson
Loretta Young as Mary Longstreet/Rankin
Richard Long as Noah Longstreet
Billy House as Mr. Potter  
Konstantin Shayne as Konrad Meinike  
Director - Orson Welles
Screenwriters - Orson Welles
  - Decla Dunning
  - John Huston
  - Victor Trivas
  - Anthony Veiller

Another one of the 30Ę movies that isn't too shabby. In fact, this one borders on really good because of the cast.

When the opening credits forThe Stranger rolled by, I kept looking for the name Albert Camus. It never showed up. I wonder why? I mean, the most famous work by Camus is L'…tranger or, in …nglish, The Stranger. How could this not be what the movie is about?

Well, I went into watching the movie looking for existentialism. You know existentialism. "To do is to be" - Jean-Paul Sartre. "To be is to do" - Albert Camus. "Do be do be do" - Frank Sinatra. Ba-da-bing!

In a nutshell, existentialism is how we are defined by our environment and we can guide our paths but really have no absolute control over them. That's what I was looking for in this film noir.

What I got wasn't too far removed from that. It's the story of a manhunt for Franz Kindler and you don't find out about his background until near the end of the movie. Without giving too much away, and maybe this is a spoiler, think "Boorman the Chauffer" by Blue ÷yster Cult .

If you want more, here's a link to a discussion that contains some pacing spoilers.

As I'd mentioned, the acting is top notch. You've got Edward G. Robinson as the bloodhound tracking Kindler. You've got Orson Welles as Kindler. You've got Loretta Young as Kindler's new bride. Even though the bit players aren't from Welles' Mercury Theater Troupe, they're no slouches. How can anyone be bad with Welles directing?

Welles, for all of his glory, does not steal this one. He shares. Edward G. Robinson gets good lines and is allowed wonderful pacing to let the viewer feel his character. Loretta Young is also provided with opportunities to shine. (Didn't she and Welles have "a thing going on" at some point?) But, the touch of Welles is evident everywhere.

His camera angles, although sometimes disconcerting, are nearly always flawless. His use of lighting is a clinic on shadow and contrast. Kubrick and, on occasion, Luc Besson can come close. His pacing is near nerve wracking in the way bits and pieces are carefully doled out. There's a reason why Welles is a role model for directors. Check out the re-edited version of Touch of Evil if you don't believe me.

Take a look at the list of screenwriters. It's a hodgepodge that somehow manages to stay together. But when you share a screenplay, you share egos. I'd wager that more often than not, nice side pieces are removed to keep contributions among the writing talents equal.

There is some dialogue that's sort of entertaining.

Wilson describing Red the dog's corpse: Fore paws muddy. No mud on hind. Dry leaves mixed with the mud. Red must have been digging somewhere in the woods.
Noah Longstreet: Have you any idea what for, Mr. Wilson?
Wilson matter of factly: A body, I think. Meinike's.

Mary Longstreet: Franz Kindler! Kill me. Kill me, I want you to. I couldn't face life knowing what I've been to you and what I've done to Noah. But when you kill me, don't put your hands on me!
[Picks up a fireplace poker]
Mary Longstreet: Here! Use this!

Mr. Potter after being asked about the identity of a corpse: 'Course, he's changed some. Being buried in the earth does that.

Will Wilson get Kindler? Do you have any doubt? That isn't the real question that'll keep you watching. The real question is, "What is his bride going through and will she survive?" You've got to watch until the end and even then there's no closure. This is bad.

I wonder if this was one of those films by Welles that had half of it left on the cutting room floor. The story that's told is told well enough, but it's not even close to a complete story. What is Wilson's background? How did Kindler and his wife meet? Why was she attracted to him at all?

The relationship between Kindler and his wife was my biggest problem with the movie. I never bought into the fact that she loved him so deeply. Oh, I bought into the "stand by your man" determination and the toll it took on her sanity. I didn't get what had happened to them as a couple to forge this strong bond.

I had the same incredulity about Kinlder's love for her. But with Kindler, the dichotomy of character worked. Did he really love her and was he giving her time to recover or was he biding his time and leading her on until he could silence her?

Is it good? Yes. Is it worth watching? Yes. Is it a masterpiece? No, it's bones without flesh.

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