The Stranger (1946)

I’m still not sure why this is in the MGM film noir box given that it wasn’t an MGM film, having been an indie production released by RKO (ironically, given how Orson Welles’ previous films had fared with them); I don’t know if that’s enough to let MGM claim later ownership, though the film’s public domain now. Whatever, Wellesnet reckon this is the best available version, so there you go… Apparently this was Welles’ one and only actual box office hit, though he dismissed it as his worst film and the film’s later reputation suffered accordingly… Of course, his directorial career could charitably be described as tanking by the time he made this, hence why The Stranger has perhaps been viewed as a slightly desperate sellout, the work of a director for hire brought in to do a cheaper knock-off of Shadow of a Doubt with an escaped Nazi commandant. Which may or may not be the truth, but if it is it’s still pretty good. At 95 minutes it’s probably a bit long and I’m not sure Welles looks old enough for the character he’s playing, but he was too good a filmmaker, surely, to just churn out a completely anonymous Hollywood product however constrained he may have been by studio dictates (the latter of which apparently included the excision of a fairly long prologue). It may well be his weakest work, but it’s not that weak a film by itself.

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