This week, Kino Lorber released a remastered edition of “The Stranger,” a tight political thriller from 1946, which also happens to be the third feature film directed by Orson Welles.
Welles also stars in “The Stranger” as Charles Rankin, a college professor whose life is a facade, created to protect his true identity: The Nazi mastermind Franz Kindler. Hiding out in America until the next war, which he believes is inevitable, the foundation of Kindler’s lies begins to crumble on his wedding day when he receives an unexpected visit from his former cohort Konrad Meinike (Konstantin Shayne). Sure enough, following Meinike is a war crimes detective named Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), who sees past Kindler’s guise.
Convinced Rankin’s the man he’s looking for, Wilson slowly puts the pressure on him, as well as his new wife, Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young). Without evidence, however, Wilson has to gradually feed Rankin enough rope to hang himself, but is it enough to best the crafty, manipulative war criminal?
The film doesn’t hold its cards particularly close to its chest, revealing bits and pieces of the story throughout rather than saving them to build the mystery. There’s no swooping, jaw-dropping reveal here, but it’s smartly structured in a way that keeps you involved, as you watch the battle of wits unfold between Wilson and Kindler. It’s a game of high-stakes chess. Or checkers, perhaps.
Welles is brilliant, as usual, in front of the camera as well as behind it, and if you haven’t had the chance to see “The Stranger” yet, I’d highly recommend picking up this release from Kino.