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The Stranger (Orson Welles, 1946)

Professor Rankin, a teacher in a small town in Connecticut marries the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice. She has no idea that the man she loves has a very sinister past.

There is something comically surreal about the whole plot. Although the film shows some signs of a typical film-noir, it is more a political satire on post-war America. Undercover war crime agents hunting Nazi sleepers is a rather blunt set-up and many of the actions in the film verge on the ridiculous.

When the 'bad guy' is finally uncovered, Welles' character goes through an inconsistent zigzag of confiding the truth to his wife, and at the same time lying to her. On the other hand he is a amateurish murderer with very weak planning ahead for such an allegedly super-smart war crime architect. His escape attempts towards are lame and stupid - packing a bag or hiding in his favorite spot in the church tower when the whole town is searching for him.

I can understand why Welles didn't like this film in particular. Nevertheless, it was a box office success at its release

One could well argue that this film is not so much about 'evil Nazis' but about the perception of their folklore in the US after the war. It seems that most of the concentration camp footage was not publicly known yet, so this was the first time the Americans got confronted with the atrocities visually - it must have had quite an effect.

There are one or two scenes that are rich in suspense and were enjoyable to watch - even if the actions therein made no sense:

- When Rankin is found by Heinike, he gets lured into the woods. While Heinike gives a long speech about finding God and redemption, Rankin decides that he will kill the man - and you can see it in his eyes.

- Rankin holds a great speech about the evil spirit of the Germans (being himself a Nazi, of course) and promoting their complete annihilation. Edward G. Robinson's dead-pan reaction to all of this made it even more hilarious than it already was.

- The finale with Rankin being killed by an angel carrying a sword was outright bizarre. In a very funny way. 

The way Welles used depth in the camera was quite interesting, too. The camera is often placed really low. Close-ups were possibly often shot giving the faces (Welles' head, mostly) a strange distortion, while a lot of stuff was happening in the background at the same time.


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