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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Stranger [Blu-ray]

 

(Orson Welles, 1946)

 

1) HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - LEFT

2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: RKO Radio Pictures

Video: HD Cinema Classics / Kino Classics / Studio 4k (Italy)

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:34:58.150 / 1:34:27.328 / 1:34:04.472

Disc Size: 17,247,871,853 bytes / 47,818,216,241 bytes / 24,295,526,183 bytes

Feature Size: 16,634,990,592 bytes / 28,636,854,720 bytes / 20,631,744,384 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.56 Mbps / 33.89 Mbps / 25.00 Mbps

Chapters: 12 / 10 / 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case Standard Blu-ray inside cardboard case / Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 15th, 2011 / October 15th, 2013 / February 4th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

Dolby Digital Audio Italian 512 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1618 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1618 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 512 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps

 

Subtitles:

Spanish, none

None

Italian, none

 

Extras:

• Restoration Demonstration (split screen - 1:14 in 1080P)

Trailer (1:06 in 1080P)

• Postcard with the poster

DVD of the film included

 

Audio commentary by film historian Bret Wood
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• "Death Mills" (1945, 21:30), an informational film on the Nazi death camps (produced by Billy Wilder), footage of which appears in The Stranger
• Orson Welles's Wartime Radio Broadcasts. Four complete programs exemplify Welles's blending of propaganda and entertainment: "Alameda" (Nazi Eyes on Canada, 1942 - 28:52), "War Workers" (Ceiling Unlimited, 1942 - 14:33), "Brazil" (Hello Americans, 1942 - 28:52), and "Bikini Atomic Test" (Orson Welles Commentaries, 1946 - 14:38)

 

"Death Mills" (1945, 21:30), an informational film on the Nazi death camps (produced by Billy Wilder), footage of which appears in The Stranger

• Trailer (2:05)

 

Bitrate:

1) HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Description: This package includes a Blu-Ray and DVD of The Stranger, in which an ex-Nazi war criminal assumes a new identity and a new life in suburban America following World War II. But an agent from the U.N. s War Crimes Commission is on his tail, threatening to expose the lurid past and true identity he keeps secret. Orson Welles directs and stars as Charles Rankin, a professor residing in a quiet Connecticut town with his new American wife, Mary (Loretta Young). Rankin has held strong to his fascist ideals but left nary a shred of evidence, not even a photograph, to identify him as the notorious Franz Kindler. Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), the man determined to find him, has a plan. But when that plan disappears in the woods, Wilson is left with little hope of convincing the townspeople, or Kindler s naive new wife, who this stranger in their midst really is.

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

The Film:

The legendary story that hovers over Orson Welles's The Stranger is that he wanted Agnes Moorehead to star as the dogged Nazi hunter who trails a war criminal to a sleepy New England town. The part went to E.G. Robinson, who is marvelous, but it points out how many compromises Welles made on the film in an attempt to show Hollywood he could make a film on time, on budget, and on their own terms. He accomplished all three, turning out a stylish if unambitious film noir thriller, his only Hollywood film to turn a profit on its original release. Welles stars as unreformed fascist Franz Kindler, hiding as a schoolteacher in a New England prep school for boys and newly married to the headmaster's lovely if naive daughter (Loretta Young). Welles the director is in fine form for the opening sequences, casting a moody tension as agents shadow a twitchy low-level Nazi official skulking through South American ports and building up to dramatic crescendo as Kindler murders this little man, the lovely woods becoming a maelstrom of swirling leaves that expose the body he furiously tries to bury. The rest of film is a well-designed but conventional cat-and-mouse game featuring an eye-rolling performance by Welles and a thrilling conclusion played out in the dark clock tower that looms over the little village.

Excerpt from Sean Axmaker's review at Amazon located HERE

 

 

"Not considered by Welles to be one of his finer efforts, and made only as a studio concession, 'The Stranger' still has elements of film-noir greatness, both behind the camera and in front as a more svelte thespian than in his later years. Edward G. Robinson as the doggedly pursuing detective using his strong instincts to ferret out a hiding ex-Nazi war criminal in a sleepy US small-town. Loretta Young looks great even if the soft-focus on her close-ups seems a trifle heavy. I enjoyed it immensely and the final clock-tower sequence is yet another element that sets it, and Welles, apart from his peers."

Gary W. Tooze

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Stranger appears very soft - akin to a DNR-like waxi-ness - and has no texture on Blu-ray from Home Cinema Classics.  I suggest the 'restoration' should have avoided over-digitization. It's horrible. This is more readily apparent in the comparison we have done with 7 different DVDs and this Blu-ray of the film located HERE. Grain may look rougher but it shows the integrity of the film and gives it substance - it's missing here. This is only single-layered - although a decent bitrate - and while showing sparks of taking advantage of the high-res format - it is just too soft/smooth to fully endorse visually. What a shame. There is no depth and the image quality remains notably flat although it is very clean (probably terranex'ed). Contrast has some flaring - it is too bright in many spots. This may have been the only print they had available and being a PD film there are plenty of inferior ones around. I'm sure there is better to be had... come' on.

 

I don't need to make any comments - the Kino is superior by orders of magnitude. The HD Cinema Classics looks pitiful beside it - cropped, totally scrubbed with the more robust Kino showing grain and immensely superior contrast. The HD Cinema Classics also looks horizontally stretched as well as incredibly soft and one-dimensional. The only negative I see in the Kino is a large vertical scratch that surfaces near the conclusion about 7/8th from the left edge. You can see it on our last 4 screen captures. It is unfortunate but I'll take it along with the fabulously crisper dual-layered visuals.

 

Time to face the music - Studio 4K seem similar to the Spanish Blu-rays we have compared recently (The Big Heat, Secret Beyond the Door) - a duplication of, usually Region FREE, US or UK production encode. I only compared the very first and last 4 captures and you can see it's is exactly the same - duplicated rounded corners  and damage marks etc. It is less-robust technically and hence will show more artifacts, but otherwise is the same video presentation - but less so. What a shame. This certainly put as damper on their upcoming Lady From Shanghai - no doubt it will be only equal to, or less than, the TCM from January of this year.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

Overly bright HD Cinema

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 

1) HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Audio :

No lossless - and that is another point against. The 5.1 bump is accompanied by a 2.0 channel stereo option. The former actually sounded okay but this is a missed opportunity when it could have been a buoyant linear PCM track. The sound is a bit hazy but reasonably consistent providing an unremarkable aural presentation. Strangely, Spanish subtitles are an option (No English) in a bright, gaudy yellow font (see sample in the comparison HERE). My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

A linear PCM 2.0 channel - reasonably buoyant. Bronislaw Kaper's (Them!, The Naked Spur, Mutiny on the Bounty) score has some depth and sounds as good as I have ever heard for The Stranger. There are no subtitles and, unless my Oppo is mistaken, is region FREE.

 

Studio 4K add a Dolby Italian DUB and optional Italian subtitles.

 

Extras :

Supplements consist of a split screen comparison demonstration - that, frankly. doesn't who too much even though it is in 1080P. There is an HD trailer and the case contains a nice postcard with the film poster on it and they have included a DVD of the film in the package.

 

WOW - Kino go above and beyond with a bunch of supplements including an audio commentary by film historian Bret Wood, the "Death Mills" short with footage of that appears in The Stranger plus four complete Orson Welles's Wartime radio broadcasts totalling almost 1.5 hours. There is a trailer and image gallery all housed in a stand Blu-ray case inside a handsome cardboard package.

 

Studio 4K 'borrow' Kino's Death Camp extras as well as a trailer.

 

(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - LEFT vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT)

 

 

Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray EXTRAS

 

 

Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Yes, this is a little cheesy but I am still a big fan - despite Welles' dismissal. Performances are strong - Loretta Young is always ravishing and Edward G. is great. I wish Welles had redone this film to his own satisfaction and I feel the same way about the Blu-ray - only to MY satisfaction. This was pretty interesting to revisit in this format but the best thing about it is the price. Fans of the film, less sensitive to DNR and digital manipulation, will probably give this a spin.

 

The HD Cinema Classics disc is a coaster. I await winter so I can hurtle it into a snow bank before urinating on it. The Kino offers immense improvement - despite the prevalent scratch damage - a commentary, 1080P image, lossless sound, a great cover, menus and extras. Recommend until someone uses MGM's source in the new format!

 

No reason to speculate further on 'Studio 4K'. I don't think these people should be encouraged by purchasing their products. My advice is to ignore them.

 

NOTE: We should note that many fans of the film greatly prefer the MGM DVD (compared HERE) for its superior source - that doesn't show the distracting damage in the latter 3rd of the film including the important finale.   

Gary Tooze

February 4th, 2011

September 27th, 2013

March 22nd, 2014

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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