The Stranger

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“The Stranger” is a thriller film of 1946 directed by Orson Welles. Welles also stars in the film alongside Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young. The film marks Welles’ debut in the genre of noir movie.

The plot revolves around a high-ranking former Nazi member named Franz Kindler (played by Welles) who is hiding out in the United States under a new identity. An investigator from the Office of Hunting War Criminals, played by Edward G. Robinson, is tasked with finding him and bringing him to justice. Kindler settled in a small town in Connecticut and took over as a history professor. However, his past begins to unravel when an old Nazi comrade comes to town to blackmail him. Meanwhile, Kindler’s wife (played by Loretta Young) begins to suspect something is wrong.

“The Stranger” deals with themes such as guilt, remorse and trying to escape from one’s past. The film offers an insightful depiction of Nazi war crimes and their lasting effects on society. Welles effectively uses the somber atmosphere and contrast of light and dark typical of the noir genre to create a sense of suspense and tension throughout the film.

The film is also known for its ending sequence, shot in the clock tower of an old church, which features a battle between Welles’ and Robinson’s characters. This scene is considered one of the most iconic sequences in Welles’ filmography.

Although “The Stranger” is considered one of Welles’ lesser known works, the film achieved good commercial and critical success upon its release. He is praised for his skillful directing, intense acting and enthralling pacing.

“The Stranger” deals with themes such as Nazism, guilt and the attempt to escape from one’s past. It is a film that deserves to be discovered by lovers of genre cinema and a significant work in Welles’ filmography.

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Plot

The film opens with the capture of a prominent Nazi war criminal, Franz Kindler, during World War II. After the end of the war, Dr. Meineke, a friend and accomplice of Kindler, travels to the United States to try to find him. Meanwhile, government investigator Wilson (played by Edward G. Robinson) is assigned to track down Kindler.

Kindler assumed a new identity in the United States, becoming a respected history professor in Harper, a small town in Connecticut. There, he marries Mary Longstreet (played by Loretta Young), an innocent woman unaware of his true identity.

Wilson arrives at Harper and begins investigating Kindler’s life. She suspects the man is hiding among Harper’s citizens, but has little concrete evidence. Wilson befriends Mary and tries to convince her that her husband is hiding something. Mary begins to doubt Kindler and decides to investigate on her own.

Meanwhile, Meineke comes to Harper to try and blackmail Kindler. He wants Kindler to resume his plans to create a new Nazi organization in the United States. Kindler, however, fears that if Meineke speaks up, her true identity will be revealed. So, Kindler kills Meineke to protect her secret.

Mary, while investigating her husband’s past, discovers shocking evidence about his true identity. Now convinced that Kindler is a Nazi war criminal, Mary confronts her husband and accuses him. Kindler admits his true identity, but tries to convince Mary that he is no longer the ruthless man he once was.

“The Stranger” is a psychological thriller which explores themes of guilt, redemption and hidden identity. The plot unfolds through a series of shocking revelations leading to the final showdown.

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Movie Characters

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Here are the main characters of the film “The Stranger”:

Franz Kindler (played by Orson Welles): The film’s protagonist, a former high-ranking Nazi member hiding out in the United States under a new identity. He is a war criminal on the run trying to escape justice.

Wilson (played by Edward G. Robinson): An investigator in the Office of Hunting War Criminals tasked with finding Franz Kindler. Wilson is determined to bring Kindler to justice and follows him to Harper to reveal his true identity.

Mary Longstreet (played by Loretta Young): Franz Kindler’s wife, unaware of his past and true identity. Mary begins to suspect her husband is hiding something and becomes involved in Wilson’s investigation.

Doctor Meineke (portrayed by Konstantin Shayne): A former accomplice of Kindler during the Nazi era. Meineke comes to Harper to blackmail Kindler, eager to revive their plans for a new Nazi organization.

These are the main characters of the movie “The Stranger”. Besides them, there are also other secondary characters who contribute to the development of the plot and the suspense of the film.

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Production

“The Stranger” was directed by Orson Welles, who also played the title role of Franz Kindler in the film. It was produced by International Pictures, a US film production company. The film was distributed by RKO Radio Pictures.

Production on the film began in 1944 and concluded in 1945. During production, Welles faced some interference from the studio, which made changes to the final cut of the film without his consent. This interference led to tensions between Welles and RKO, which affected the film’s promotion and distribution.

Despite the difficulties encountered during production, “The Stranger” was made on a relatively modest budget by the standards of the time. Welles made the most of available resources, using a combination of real sets and well-designed sets to create the desired mood in the film.

The soundtrack of “The Stranger” was composed by Bronisław Kaper, a well-known Polish-American composer. The music effectively underlines the tension and mystery present in the plot.

Despite some difficulties during production and distribution, the film was a commercial success upon release and received good critical reception. It was praised for its skillful direction, the performance of Orson Welles and its contribution to the noir genre.

“The Stranger” represents an important milestone in Orson Welles’ career, marking his first entry into the film noir genre and once again proving his prowess as a director and actor.

Distribution and Reception

“The Stranger” was released in the United States on July 25, 1946 by RKO Radio Pictures. The film had a wide release in theaters across the country.

In terms of critical reception, “The Stranger” was generally well received. Many critics praised Orson Welles’ direction and his performance as Nazi war criminal Franz Kindler. However, some criticisms focused on the fact that the film did not reach the high standard of Welles’ previous works such as ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’.

Commercially, ‘The Stranger’ was moderately successful at the box office. The film managed to recoup its production budget, but didn’t make as big a profit as other blockbusters of the time.

Despite the studio’s interference in the film’s final cut, ‘The Stranger’ was praised for its gripping storyline, suspenseful sequences, and insightful depiction of Nazi war crimes. The film helped establish Orson Welles as a talented filmmaker in the noir genre and added another significant milestone to his film career.

Over the years, “The Stranger” has been re-evaluated and appreciated for its importance in Welles’ filmography. Today it is considered a classic of the noir genre and is often cited as an example of how Welles managed to create an atmosphere of tension and suspense even on a limited budget.

Overall, although “The Stranger” did not achieve the level of success and recognition of some of Welles’ previous works, the film helped solidify his reputation as one of the most influential directors in cinematic history.

Style

“The Stranger” features a distinctive style that characterizes Orson Welles’ work as a director. Here are some stylistic elements present in the film:

Visual Expressionism: Welles uses lighting, shadows, and the use of camera angles to create a dark and eerie atmosphere. The aesthetics of German Expressionism affects the visual image of the film, creating a sense of suspense and tension.

Depth of Field: Welles makes extensive use of depth of field, allowing multiple actions and details to be visible in the same shot. This technique gives the film a feeling of realism and heightens the viewing experience for the viewer.

Bold framing: Welles uses bold and offbeat framing to create memorable visual effects. For example, the final sequence in the clock tower offers tilted shots and unique angles that heighten the tension and sense of danger.

Innovative Editing: While experiencing some studio interference, Welles uses editing in an innovative way to build suspense and connect the story’s different plots. The use of cross-editing and quick-cut sequences contributes to the gripping pacing of the film.

Deep Themes: In addition to his distinctive visual style, Welles explores deep themes such as guilt, redemption, and confrontation with the past. These themes are explored through the characters and their interactions, adding an emotional dimension to the film.

The visual aesthetics and stylistic elements of “The Stranger” combine to create an immersive and unforgettable cinematic experience. This distinctive style has become a defining feature of Orson Welles’ work and helped make him one of the most influential directors in the history of cinema.

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Director

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The director of “The Stranger” is Orson Welles. Welles is considered one of most influential directors and groundbreaking in the history of cinema. Born May 6, 1915, he began his career as a stage actor before moving into film directing.

Welles achieved great success and recognition with his first film, 1941’s ‘Citizen Kane’, regarded by many as one of the best films of all time. His innovative use of storytelling, photography and staging revolutionized the cinematic language.

After “Citizen Kane”, Welles went on to direct several influential films, including “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942), “The Lady from Shanghai” (1947) and “Touch of Evil” (1958). He has ranged between different genres, from drama to noir, and has demonstrated a mastery of the use of visual and narrative techniques.

Welles was known for his distinctive visual style, bold use of depth of field, creative lighting, and use of montage to create stunning effect. He often played lead roles in his films as well, proving his skills as both a director and an actor.

Despite some difficulties in the production and distribution of his films, Welles left a lasting impression on cinema. His influence and contributions to the art of cinema have been recognized and celebrated over the years. Orson Welles remains an iconic figure in the film business and his filmography continues to be studied and admired to this day.

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