TheStranger1I’m not sure there’s ever been a director who’s more adept with shadow or framing than Orson Welles. The camera always seems to be in the exact right place to bring out the proper energy in the composition. He uses shadow for truly ominous sequences—such as near The Stranger‘s conclusion, when Charles Rankin (Welles), bathed in darkness, peers down a ladder—or to enhance a more subtly dark scene, like Mary (Loretta Young), Charles’ confused and scared wife, drawing the curtains to create an air of privacy. Welles is so technically proficient that even his second-tier works are well worth seeking out, and The Stranger belongs to this category. It’s not at the masterful level of Citizen Kane or Touch of Evil, and I don’t even think it’s as rich a work as The Magnificent Ambersons: the first half of The Stranger is a bit up-and-down from a pacing perspective, and some suspension of belief is required to buy into Charles’ decisions at times (the script can’t touch Kane et al). Still, it generates tension in a similar manner to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, using a woman’s vulnerability and deep love to manipulate, play off fears and avoid detection—though in The Stranger, we know the truth from the beginning, whereas Shadow of a Doubt conceals it until the final ten minutes—and the suspense is greatly aided by Welles’ aforementioned technical wizardry (he also turns in one hell of a performance here, as does Edward G. Robinson as the plucky, pipe-smoking detective dead-set on revealing Charles’ true identity to his wife and the rest of their small, sleepy town). And kudos to Welles for tackling such a hot-button topic—Nazis on the run—so soon after World War II. An imperfect work, but one with many more strengths than weaknesses.

69/100