Review: The Stranger (1946) Blu-ray/DVD

STUDIO: HD Cinema Classics/Film Chest/Virgil | DIRECTOR: Orson Welles | CAST: Orson Welles, Loretta Young, Edward G. Robinson, Philip Merivale, Richard Long
RELEASE DATE: 2/15/11 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD combo $15.99
BONUSES: restoration demo, postcard
SPECS: R | 95 min. | Action thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | mono/5.1 stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Stranger movie scene

People are strange: Orson Welles and Loretta Young star in Welles' The Stranger.

Orson Welles’ 1946 The Stranger is one of the great filmmaker’s most conventional films, a serious but uncomplicated post-war crime drama seasoned with a whiff of exotic international intrigue. Reportedly, Welles (Touch of Evil) took on the project as a response to the critics and studio heads who complained that he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) make a straight-ahead genre picture. That said, The Stranger isn’t Orson at his idiosyncratic best, but it proves that he could be a controlled-enough craftsman to be able to deliver a solid studio product. (And one that would later be regarded as an excellent film noir.)

Film Chest’s HD Cinema Classic imprint is presenting its edition of The Stranger (which has long been in the public domain) as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack. So viewers have the choice of two versions of The Stranger, a film that fans probably first encountered as a scratchy late movie on TV or as a jittery 16mm print in a college film class.

The versions included are as beautiful as I’ve ever seen, though there are plenty of scratches and lines visible from the source material. (They’re not terrible, but they are there.) But, overall, the image is beautiful, from the stark black-and-white contrasts of the interiors of the New England college where a Nazi war criminal (Welles) is hiding out under the new identity of a university professor, to the textured, tree-lined exteriors of the college campus.

One of the two-disc set’s bonus features is a before-and-after restoration demo comparing this latest version of The Stranger to earlier versions. Yes, there’s a small difference! But as for comparing and contrasting the two editions included in the package, we can’t lie: We really couldn’t discern that much of a difference.

Very well-priced at $15.99, this Blu-ray/DVD pack is perfect for fans of digitalized cinema who are looking for a depth in their library as much as high quality; they need to know that the versions of the classics playing on their home entertainment systems are the best ones available. That said, FilmChest’s edition of The Stranger could be the one for them.

They can even take the package’s postcard of the film’s original one-sheet (a noir card?) and send a stylish message to friends to let them know how nice the film looks.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.