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The Stranger (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 17, 2013 by  



thehitch-hiker

“The Stranger” has been released on video many times before via Public Domain and has not been the best in quality.  But now the film is being released on Blu-ray with new HD mastering and for fans of this classic Orson Welles film, there is no doubt that this is the definitive version of the film that has been released yet.   Orson Welles’ “The Stranger” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Kino Lorber, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Stranger

FILM RELEASE: 1946

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Black and White, 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1, DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Monaural, B&W

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: NR

Release Date: October 15, 2013

Directed by Orson Welles

Screenplay by Anthony Veiller

Adaptation by Victor Trivas, Decla Dunning

Story by Victor Trivas

Produced by Sam Spiegel

Music by Bronislau Kaper

Cinematography by Russell Metty

Edited by Ernest J. Nims

Production Design by Perry Ferguson

Starring:

Edward G. Robinson as Mr. Wilson

Loretta Young as Mary Longstreet

Orson Welles as Professor Charles Rankin

Philip Merivale as Judge Adam Longstreet

Richard Long as Noah Longstreet

Konstantin Shayne as Konrad Meinike

Byron Keith as Dr. Jeffrey Lawrence

Billy House as Mr. Potter

Martha Wentworth

This Academy Award-Nominated (Best Writing, Original Story) thriller follows Franz Kindler (Academy Award Winner Orson Welles, Citizen Kane), a Nazi fugitive hiding out as a professor in a small Connecticut town. When his new wife (Academy Award Winner Loretta Young, The Bishop’s Wife) begins to suspect his past, a detective (Academy Award Winner, Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity) sets out to uncover his identity. From Academy Award Winning Producer Sam Spiegel (Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge On The River Kwai, On The Waterfront). BRAND NEW 1080p HD TRANSFER on / 35MM Restoration from the Library of Congress EXCLUSIVE to Kino Classics!

Back in 1946, “The Stranger”, a film directed by Orson Welles (“Citizen Kane”, “Touch of Evil”, “The Magnificent Ambersons”) and a screenplay by Anthony Veiller (“The Killers”, “The Night of the Iguana”, “Moulin Rouge”) was released in theaters.

Released not long after the war, the Hollywood film is seen as the first film to showcase actual footage from concentration camps and of the 13 films that Orson Welles directed, it was his only major box office success.

The film would star Edward G. Robinson (“Double Indemnity”, “Key Largo”, “The Ten Commandments”), Loretta Young (“The Bishop’s Wife”, “Come to the Stable”, “The Loretta Young Show”), Richard Long (“The Big Valley”, “House on Haunted Hill”), Philip Merivale (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, “This Land is Mine”) and Konstantin Shane (“None Buthte Lonely Heart”, “Vertigo”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber featuring a new printed mastered in HD from archival 35 mm elements preserved by Library of Congress.

“The Stranger” begins with Mr. Wilson (portrayed by Edward G. Robinson), who works for the United Nations War Crimes Commission who is following Nazi Konrad Meinike (portrayed by Konstantin Shane) in the U.S. in hopes the man will lead him to Franz Kindler (portrayed by Orson Welles), a man who is responsible for the deaths of many in the concentration camps.

While Meinike manages to escape from Mr. Wilson by swinging a rope with metal onto his head and knocking him out, Meinike visits the home of Franz Kindler, now going by the name of Charles Rankin.  Meinike meets Mary Longstreet (portrayed by Loretta Young), the fiance of Charles Rankin and finds out that the two are getting married the following day.

As Mary gives Meinike directions of where she can find Charles, who is coming out of his classes at the school he teaches, Meinike eventually reunites with his former Nazi mate.  Kindler tells his old friend that he eliminated all paperwork that about Franz Kindler in Germany before making way to the U.S.  Meinike tells Rankin that he was followed by a man with a pipe but escaped and he took out the individual.

Meinike tries to get Rankin to pray to God and have them forgiven for the sins they have created. While praying, Rankin worried that Meinike may link him to his war crimes, strangles his friend and covers him up with leaves.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wilson pretends that he is an antiques dealer in town.  Trying to learn from the locals of people who just moved into the area. Because he is into antiques, he is introduced to Supreme Court Justice Adam Longstreet (portrayed by Philip Merivale), father of Mary.  And immediately, Charles Rankin suspects the man to be the person that Meinike had come in contact with.

As Charles Rankin and Mary are married, during the reception, he quickly goes to the area where he covered Meinike up with leaves and buries him.

During dinner, Mr. Wilson tries to get Charles Rankin to discuss his perspective of Germany and Rankin has his own wild perspective.  As Mr. Wilson tells everyone that he is leaving town, Rankin is paranoid about what he had done and while walking Mary’s dog, Red.  During their walk, Red ends up going to the area and tries to dig up the body.  Rankin ends up trying to hurt the dog.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wilson reveals himself to Noah Longstreet of why he is in town and what he suspects Charles Rankin to be.  At first, there is no proof, but he believes the only person that may have proof is Mary, who may have seen Meinike meeting up with Charles Rankin.  So, he hopes they can get Mary to tell the truth.

But Charles also has figured out that the only person that witnessed Meinike coming into town and visiting them is Mary, so he plans on killing her.

Can Mr. Wilson find the proof needed to connect Charles Rankin to being Franz Kinler and can he prevent him from killing Mary?

VIDEO:

“The Stranger” is presented in 1080p High Definition, black and white, 1:33:1 aspect ratio.  It’s known by fans of the film that the previous Public Domain video releases of “The Stranger” have been bad. And for the longest time, the best version in terms of picture quality was the MGM 2007 DVD release as part of their “Film Noir” collection.  But now, Kino Lorber’s “The Stranger” receives new mastering in HD from archival 35 mm elements preserved by the Library of Congress.

“The Stranger” definitely looks much better in terms of detail and the HD transfer helps one make out even the smallest things such as the bottles at Mr. Potter’s store and much better detail when it comes to closeups.  Gone are the blurring backgrounds or bad quality that was featured in Public Domain releases.  The film is well contrast as whites and grays are much sharper, blacks are much deeper.  It’s important to note that Kino Lorber is not a company that does any cleaning up of the films, so the transfer is not pristine, as there are scratches in the film, the occasional vertical black line coming down the sides and several scratches.

But other than that, this is the best looking version I have seen of “The Stranger”, even better than the MGM 2007 DVD release.

Also, it’s important to note that a public domain Blu-ray version was released in 2012 by Film Chest.  So, it’s important that those wanting to buy this film, purchase the Kino Lorber/Kino Classics version.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Stranger” is presented in LPCM 2.0.    Dialogue is much clearer and for the most part, for the film’s age, nearly 70-years-old, the film sounds very good, with a little hiss but compared to how the film’s audio was before on public domain, I’m actually quite pleased with this uncompressed monaural mix.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Stranger” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by filmmaker and historian Bret Wood, author of the Orson Welles book, “Orson Welles: A Bio-Biography”.
  • Death Mills – (21:30)A 1945 War Department Film produced by Billy Wilder which were shown to Germans of what the Nazi’s did to the Jews. A very graphic informational film.
  • Radio Broadcasts – Featuring classic Orson Welles radio broadcasts of “Alameda” (28:52, Oct. 25, 1942 – About a Nazi takeover of the Canadian town of Alameda), “Brazil” (28:52, November 15, 1942) featuring Welles with Carmen Miranda, “Warworkers” (14:33, February 14, 1942 – A story about a Nazi spy who is broadcasting), “Bikini Atomic Tests” (14:38, June 30, 1946 – Orson Welles’ political opinion of America’s development of the atomic bomb).
  • Gallery – Featuring poster images and stills from “The Stranger”.

“The Stranger” is no doubt a classic Orson Welles film.  Created after “Citizen Kane” and “The Magnificent Ambersons”, the film received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Screenplay” and was well-received by film critics.

During the release of the film, “World War II” was still fresh in the minds of people and the idea of a former Nazi, trying to assimilate into America was rather fascinating, because we know that in reality, since this movie had been made, there have been many news reports of number of former Nazi war criminals that left Germany, taking on another identity and live in the U.S. and other countries.

The film is quite entertaining in the fact that you have one of the most recognized faces when it comes to cinema and law enforcement, Edward G. Robinson as Mr. Wilson, pursuing Nazi officer, Franz Kindler turned school teacher, Charles Rankin.  A man who would do all that is necessary to prevent people from knowing his true identity.

I would imagine that Nazi’s living in American soil, definitely caused some panic for some and as the first film to show footage from a concentration camp, many Americans would see the atrocities committed on the big screen.

Orson Welles had discussed it in the book “This is Orson Welles” (by Orson Welles & Peter Bogdanovich).  Welles said, “I do think that, every time you can get the public to look at any footage of a concentration camp, under any excuse at all, it’s a step forward.  People just don’t want to know that those things ever happened.”

Welles also mentioned how the film had much more footage filmed including a big chase in South America with many dream like events, producer Sam Spiegel and Bill Goetz chose to take it out.  According to Welles, “they removed at least two reels of material which was certainly more original than the rest.”

And through this conversation with Bogdanovich, Welles added that he wanted Agnes Moorehead to play Edward G. Robinson’s part (as the casting of Robinson would be too obvious) and a person uncredited in the film is John Huston (“The Maltese Falcon”, “The African Queen”, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”) who apparently wrote most of the script for “The Strangers” under the table but couldn’t take credit because he was in the army at the time.

The film does feature fine performances by Robinson, Welles and Loretta Young, the cinematography by Russell Metty (“Spartacus”, “Touch of Evil”, “Bringing Up Baby”) was also well-done, especially how he captured shadows on the wall and the action scenes for the film.

As for the Blu-ray release of “The Stranger”, this is the definitive version of the film that is available on video.  The film is well contrast with its grays, whites and deep blacks.  The film looks slightly cleaner than its 2007 DVD release but the details in the background environments are much more clearer, especially the detail in close-ups.  The uncompressed LPCM 2.0 soundtrack also sounds very good and dialogue is clear with a tad sign of hiss.

The special features includes audio commentary, an informational (and graphic) film about the genocide are featured in an information film produced by Billy Wilder and the footage that was used in “The Stranger”.  Also, four complete radio programs featuring Orson Welles.

Overall, “The Stranger” has been released on video many times before via Public Domain and has not been the best in quality.  But now the film is being released on Blu-ray with new HD mastering and for fans of this classic Orson Welles film, there is no doubt that this is the definitive version of the film that has been released yet.

Orson Welles’ “The Stranger” is highly recommended!

 

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