In this new series of articles, our writers are watching classic films for the first time. Here, Patrick catches up on 1946’s The Stranger.

Perhaps lesser known among Orson Welles’ stellar run of hits in the 1940s (think Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and The Lady from Shanghai), Netflix have given us a real treat by bringing to a wider audience his 1946 gem, The Stranger.

It details a fictional Nazi fugitive, Franz Kindler (Orson Welles), living covertly in small-town America (namely Harper, Connecticut) in the months following the end of the Second World War. One of the great strengths of the film is its surprising perspicacity on a subject that was historically so immediate. The famous Nuremberg war crime trials were taking place at the very same time that The Stranger was being filmed, and this was the first film to use actual footage of Nazi concentration camps in an attempt to colour its villain Kindler in unequivocally evil terms.

Despite the historical relevance, this was first and foremost a big Hollywood number. Orson Welles takes the lead role of the Nazi fugitive and he doesn’t even bother with trying to craft a German accent. He speaks, in fact, just like…Orson Welles!

What the film may lack in some aspects of verisimilitude, it more than makes up for in Welles’ greater guise – as a master director. The noir ambience and use of ominous shadow is to the fore, and there are some gripping sequences that also have a touch of gallows humour about them. Perhaps the darkest/funniest (take your pick) is when Kindler has to secretly take leave of his own wedding ceremony to finish burying a man in the nearby woodland.

Fascinating on so many different levels – as an immediate dramatisation of the phenomenon of Nazi war criminals, as a classic noir, and as further evidence of Orson Welles’ genius – The Stranger deserves a warm welcome on your TV screens over the coming weeks.


Available to watch on: Netflix


CAST: Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young

DIRECTOR: Orson Welles

WRITERS: Anthony Veiller, Decla Dunning (uncredited: Orson Welles, John Huston)

SYNOPSIS: An investigator from the United Nations War Crimes Commission follows a lead to Connecticut in the US on the hunt for Nazi fugitive, Franz Kindler.