Friday, January 28, 2011

The Stranger

The Stranger is a noir directed by and starring Orson Welles. This is a very important point to make, because Orson Welles' Noirs are not your typical noirs, which for The Stranger are both it's high point and downfall.

The plot: The Stranger is about a former Nazi, Professor Charles Rankin(Orson Welles) posing as a college professor when a war times criminal detective(Edward G Robinson) comes to town looking for him. Rankin has taken a wife and integrated himself into the small town. The biggest mystery here is what are the lengths to which he'll go to not be found out?

Since this is an Orson Welles Noir, a few things are a given: Big production values, great cinematography, great acting, and Orson steels the spotlight. It' similar to Hughes movie, if Hughes stared and had all the best lines. The Stranger is no different. The production values are great and the camera pans and dollies off the ground like no one's business. But while there are quite a few nice shots here, it's nothing compared to Welles other works such as A Touch of Evil or Citizen Kane.

The whole movie centers on what Rankin will do, meaning Welles gets most of the spotlight. Not that he didn't give a great intense performance, I just find it a shame because I was looking forward to seeing Edward G. Robinson let loose. It might have been the pacing or the fact that I already knew who the main villain was, and therefore who gets his comeuppance at the end(and man does Welles ever like his death scenes), but I just found it so hard to get through this. I didn't know exactly how it would end, but I just didn't find it suspenseful somehow. Even with it's dramatic music.

And gosh, what dramatic music it was! If you are into suspenseful dramatic movies in Noir movies like me, this will be high point for you. There was one scene in which Welles is patting the ground with a shovel, which could have been a very low, downplayed scene. Instead, CRAZY MUSIC! WHAT'S GOING ON! I HOPE SOMEONE DOESN'T FIND HIM DIGGING IN THE DIRT!

I found it more suspenseful in the beginning, right after someone had just committed a murder. It left me wondering if anyone's going to find the body or who's going to find out Rankin's real identity. But in the third act when literally everyone knows who the professor really is and there's still half an hour left, the rest of the movie feels so drawn out. And then the ending seems strangely happy with church belles and a smiling Edward G Robinson even after all the dramatic and trauma inducing events going on.

I wasn't really satisfied with this one. I couldn't wait for it to be over with. Sure it's got some nice shots and Orson Welles does a great Orson Welles impersonation, but I wouldn't say it's essential to your Noir library. I'd give it a 52 out of 85.

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