Orson Welles THE STRANGER now out on MGM DVD
The Stranger is now out on a official MGM release which apparently puts all the many public domain versions of the film to shame. I haven't seen it yet, but here is David Kehr's review of the new DVD in The New York Times:
The Stranger, in a radiant new print, gains most in this (film noir) collection. Long and, to me, unaccountably dismissed by Welles scholars for being too “commercial,” it may be Welles’s most explicitly political work, made at a time when his activism was at its height. Robinson is a soft-spoken agent of an international war crimes commission who comes to a small village in Connecticut in search of one of the architects of the Holocaust, the notorious Franz Kindler, and finds him (Welles, of course) teaching at a boys’ school under an assumed name and about to be married to the daughter (Loretta Young) of a Supreme Court justice.
If The Stranger feels like the most conventional of Welles’s films, it may be because it is told in chronological order, without the flashbacks and competing narrators that give his work its cross-stitched density. But his distinctive storytelling technique remains intact, as he passes the point of view from character to character, offering a span of perspectives. He begins with Robinson’s investigator, shifts to the war criminal (made strangely sympathetic, like Norman Bates in Psycho when we see him cleaning up neatly after a murder) and finally adopts the point of view of Ms. Young’s character, an angelic figure (named Mary) who refuses to believe in her husband’s guilt.
Welles did not control the editing (a prologue, showing Kindler in South America, was chopped off) and his depth compositions are relatively restrained. But so is his taste for the bizarre and carnivalesque, making this his most naturalistic film. He seems surprisingly comfortable in this register, though he would never again return to it. (MGM Home Entertainment, $19.98, not rated)
As Kehr astutely notes, Welles did not edit the final film, nor was the film told in his usual flashback style, as Welles intended. To see exactly what we are missing, here are the opening three pages from Welles script, written with John Huston and Anthony Veiler. But what may be even stranger, is how the descriptions in Welles' script seems to foreshadow The Other Side of the Wind, his much later collaboration with John Huston. The wind and moon seem to become characters into themselves in these opening script pages, and what's even more bizarre, is how, taken out of context, the script descriptions might seem to have a distinctly sexual overtone to them, especially in light of the sex scenes Welles included in The Other Side of the Wind.
For example: ...as the girl mounts the stairs... she climbs (climaxes) and then she comes... With her free hand the girl grasps what still stands upright...
FADE IN DURING
The distant sound of a great clock tolling the hour. On a white field we see the twisted silhouette of a demon. CAMERA, moving down shows this to be cast from a tree from the window outside. The curtains, full of moonlight, are blowing in the wind. A beautiful girl is lying in bed (MARY) - Her eyes are open. She is counting the hours as the clock strikes. Something in the sound of it makes her wince with pain. On the sound track (filtered) breathing, like the wind itself, over the strange, light music we hear the voice of a man...
MAN’S VOICE (RANKIN'S) : It's beautiful... It's beautiful that way... Through the woods, over the little brook and through the cemetery...
EXTERIOR: LONGSTREET HOME – NIGHT
The terrace is bright with moonlight. Slowly the French doors from the living room open and the girl comes out. She is fully dressed. She carries a small package under one arm. CAMERA follows her as she moves across the terrace across the lawn and off towards the fields and woods stretching into the distance. A gust of wind blows the door shut with a loud bang.
EXTERIOR WOODS – NIGHT
A ghostly figure under the moon, the girl emerges from the shadows of the trees and reaches a little stream at the edge. There is no hesitation as she crosses on the stepping stones, only grim determination. Reaching the opposite bank, she hurries on towards the church whose spire points toward the moon in the middle distance.
EXTERIOR - THE CEMETERY – NIGHT
Unhesitatingly the girl picks her way through the rows of tombstones. Again she hears, weirdly, through the faint complaint of the wind, a man's voice.
MAN’S VOICE (RANKIN'S) : James Longstreet, 1896-1917. Died for his country. Noah Longstreet, 1842-1863. Died for his country. William Longstreet, 1713-1794. Died for his country... Ahead of her looms the church, its rear door plainly in view. For a moment she hesitates, then continues.
INTERIOR CHURCH NIGHT
It is full of ghostly shadows and ominous half-tones from the moonlight diffused through the stained glass windows. The girl enters the empty church. She moves down the side aisle and goes across a row of pews and goes down the center aisle toward the open door leading into the vestibule.
INTERIOR VESTIBULE NIGHT
The girl, holding her package very carefully, begins to mount toward the belfry. CAMERA stays on her as she climbs. She comes finally to a ladder. One of its rungs is missing. With her free hand the girl grasps what still stands upright and continues on - up into the belfry.
A TOWN SQUARE - NEW ENGLAND – NIGHT
Townspeople are gathering under the moonlight — men and women alike. They carry shotguns, rakes, baseball bats - any kind' of hastily gathered weapon of protection. Some are in various stages of hasty dressing. All are moving toward the church.
EXTERIOR - CHURCH – NIGHT – FRESH ANGLE
The townspeople are converging on the church from all directions.
EXTERIOR- CHURCH - NIGHT - STILL ANOTHER ANGLE
A piercing scream is heard.The scream is so high that it is impossible to tell whether it was uttered by a man or woman. Dimly on the ledge below the clock we see, high above us, two figures apparently locked in a death struggle. It is difficult to see much in the shadows but it looks as though these figures are, respectively male and female. A huge gasp breathes from the crowd below as the two figures, seeming to clutch at each other teeter and fall toward us through the darkness. CAMERA swoops down with this but we cannot see the figures fall to earth. They are blocked off by the backs of the townspeople which now are silhouetted sharply against the sky. A low excited muttering runs through the crowd, then voices are distinguishable - New England voices.
FIRST VOICE: I didn't see it. You say they both fell?
ANOTHER VOICE: Yes, both of them. Together.
ANOTHER VOICE IN THE CROWD: Know who they were?
The murmur ceases here. There is a short pause.
ONE OF THE VOICES: I don't know anything about it. Think we'll ever know what really happened?
STILL ANOTHER VOICE (slowly) : I wonder... Who was he?
FADE IN - MAIN TITLE
(As the screen darkens, a sort of combination FADE OUT and DISSOLVE), there now glows out of the screen the distorted face of a grimacing demon. CAMERA races back to disclose the demon made of iron emerging through a dark portal through the side of the same massive clock we saw in the belfry. Superimposed over this are:
THE MAIN TITLES
The CREDIT TITLES are superimposed over the following - The iron devil moving across the face of the clock exits through the opposite portal as there emerges form the first another automation, a gilded iron angel. Sword in hand the angel pursues the demon as the heavy chimes within sound stridently the hour of midnight.
On the final credit (Directed by ORSON WELLES) we