January 28, 2011


In the months following the end of WWII, Orson Welles was hired to direct a film called The Stranger (1946). The story focuses on a War Crimes Commission investigator, Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), who is a Nazi hunter on the trail of Franz Kindler, mastermind of the Holocaust. Clues lead him to a small university town in the United States, where the last man who can identify Kindler turns up murdered! As the investigation continues, the shadow of suspicion begins to fall on professor Charles Rankin (Orson Welles).

The Stranger may not be remembered as one of Welles' top-shelf projects, but it's always been one of my favorites. It's also interesting as a reflection of its era. The film includes concentration camp footage, the first ever to be seen in a feature picture, and the story itself reveals a world trying to unravel and respond to the horrors of the war. Although many of Welles' sequences were cut by the studio, something that plagued his career as a creator, the final cut of the film remains a classic thriller. Readers might be interested to know that Welles, on principle, never liked to see real misery exploited for entertainment. But in this case, he felt that using the film to spread the truth about the Holocaust was an important opportunity not to be shied away from. The Stranger will be released in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on February 15th by Film Chest and Virgil Films & Entertainment (formerly Arts Alliance America). The print is said to be digitally restored from 35mm film assets, and fans are hoping that the movie will finally find the restoration it deserves after years on the public domain market. The Blu-ray is available for pre-order at $11.99 on Amazon here.

Orson Welles truly earned his reputation as a narrative genius. Spy Vibers would especially enjoy his work as an actor (and story contributor) in Carol Reed's
The Third Man and his appearance in Casino Royale (1967). His must-see thrillers include The Lady From Shanghai, Touch of Evil, and Mr. Arkadin. Other classics include The Trial, Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and F is For Fake. There is much to explore in Orson Welles, including his prolific adaptations of Shakespeare. For more on Welles, see the inspiring and illuminating This is Orson Welles by Peter Bogdanovich.

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