6 SEPTEMBER 1946, Page 11


"The Stranger." At the Gaumont, Haymarket and the Marble Arch Pavilion.—" London Town." At the Leicester Square Theatre.

ONLY the unnecessary improbabilities of The Stranger preclude it from being rated as on of the best-made thrillers of the past few years. In every other respect it fulfils all the requirements—that is, it has suspense, excitement, violence and intelligence. The first sequence is low-keyed, menacing and mysterious in the extreme ; and it opens out into a situation of the most promising sort. " Here is a top Nazi living incognito as a teacher in a small New England township, conserving his• energies against a third repetition of Der Tag. To him in his hide-out comes an erstwhile colleague who has gone mad during his imprisonment by the Allies, and is now a religious maniac. He has been deliberately allowed to escape on the assumption that he will make for his master. This he does, and, being inconvenient, is murdered and buried in a wood near the school. With Orson Welles as the top Nazi (and also as director of the film) and with Edward G. Robinson as the detective on his track, the film seems set for a work-out which will out-do Hitchcock. But improbability follows improbability, and not even the acute filmic ingenuities deployed at all times by Welles can cover the fact that it rapidly settles into a morass of unconvincing melodrama. We are left with Loretta Young (daughter of a Supreme Court judge and married to the Nazi) leaving her closely-guarded bedroom to keep a rendezvous with her murderous husband at the top of the church tower. The Hitchcock laurels remain unwithered, and our own Withers unwrung. This does not alter the fact that to anyone who enjoys the pure technique of film-making The Stranger is rewarding and often en- grossing entertainment. Welles has an immense pictorial sense allied to an unconventional use of sound ; unconventional because he insists on extreme naturalism. His use of general conversation as a factor in the scene, instead of as a blurred background, is always exciting.

In this respect the scenes in the drug store are especially noticeable.

London Town is Britain's first bid to challenge Hollywood in the genre of super-musicals. It is, I should say, a great success, and visually provides the best Technicolor since Lady in the Dark. It is highly spectacular, makes no demands on the deeper emotions or on any particular level of intelligence, and, if you like a good musical in colour, gives you all you require. It provides no more than the ghost of a story. It consists in fact of a series of set pieces of great gorgeousness, ranging from an elaborate scene in a daffodil field to a ballroom dominated by a fourteen-man grand piano. There is also an ingenious number shot almost entirely on location, depicting the pleasure of the Thames near Windsor.

In all this one particular point is noticeable. The colour is not only faithfully reproduced; it is also in good taste. Fegte, the designer, has a penchant for the less glaring tints, and his use of off-whites, dull yellows, dark blues and dull greens is most satisfactory. Holly- wood can learn a lot from his general design and colour control. The cast includes Greta Gynt, Tessie O'Shea, Claude Hulbert, Sormie Hale and Sid Field. The last-named makes his first screen appearance and is pretty nearly as funny as he is on the stage ; which means that he is a wild success, notably as a fussy portrait photo- grapher. He has not yet learned to adapt himself fully to the tech- nique of the screen ; his humour remains true to the technique ot the music-hall, and is overseen by the cameras rather than combining with the particular values of cinema. It remains to be seen whether he will, by experience, develop a movie sense equivalent to that of other graduates from the stage—for instance Danny Kaye.

London Town, directed by an ace American director, Wesley Ruggles, apart from Sid Field's particular turns, does little to live s truly up to its name. But it is undoubtedly good entertainment, and is likely to cause considerable alertness amongst the Californian