This being an Orson Welles film, but not Citizen Kane or The Magnificent Ambersons, it might not be given wuite the attention it deserves. I have seen The Stranger a few times since I first watched it about three years ago, and I always enjoy it all the more each time I view it again. Welles was not able to act as his own producer here, and was making the film for independent studio International Pictures, probably for a smaller budget than he would have liked. It is possible to imagine the film being slightly better had it been made in more ideal conditions, but I consider The Stranger to be an almost perfect film as it is. The film is filled with expressionistic camera angles and wonderful tracking shots, which seem at odds with the small New England town where the film is set, but it somehow works. Welles is flawless as his performance as a Nazi mastermind hiding out as a private school teacher, but the film really belongs to Edward G. Robinson, who steals scenes as an agent for a committee tracking down war criminals.
Similar to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Welles brings evil into a small American town. Unlike Hitchcock’s film, there is not much lingering doubt over whether the central character is actually evil or not. The audience is let in on the fact that the professor really is Franz Kindler, a Nazi official who masterminded the death camp program, and Robinson’s character catches on soon enough. The tension is the rest of the film comes from wondering when this will all be figured out by Mary (Loretta Young), the daughter of a Supreme Court justice who Kindler has married.