Showbiz lore has it that Orson Welles only undertook the directing job on the 1946 thriller The Stranger to prove he could stay on schedule and make the same kind of films other directors did. Lacking the artistic flourishes and general showiness upon which he prided himself, Welles would later dismiss The Stranger and yet if any of his films still deserves reverence it is this film.
This smooth, watchable, taut and suspenseful thriller about a War Crimes Commissioner’s attempts to track an infamous Nazi to a small US town lays bare one of the great ironies of the film noir genre. As others have noted before it is the fact that this is the genre that turned the great character actor Edward G Robinson from a gangster into a good guy and here he is superb as the dogged detective on the heels of Welles’ fresh faced ex-concentration camp commandante in hiding. For all Welles' protestations there’s plenty of baroque and garish touches here with a finale which even gives the mighty Harold Lloyd in Safety Last! a run for his money.
The Stranger was a big commercial success on its initial release and is now available on a brand new DCP.