|S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
The Stranger [Blu-ray]
NOTE: We have removed the 'Studio 4K' Blu-ray from Italy from this comparison as it appears to be a bootleg. 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 2014. 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.
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: RKO Radio Pictures
Video: HD Cinema Classics / Kino Classics /Odeon Entertainment / Olive Films
Region: FREE! /'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:34:58.150/ 1:34:27.328 / 1:33:57.875 / 1:35:16.168
17,247,871,853 bytes / 47,818,216,241 bytes /24,544,750,012 bytes / 23,420,598,893 bytes
16,634,990,592 bytes / 28,636,854,720 bytes /16,057,319,424 bytes / 22,408,796,160 bytes
Video Bitrate: 21.56 Mbps / 33.89 Mbps / 19.99 Mbps / 25.48 Mbps
Chapters: 12 / 10 / 11 /
Case: Standard Blu-ray case Standard inside cardboard case / Standard /Standard
Release date: February 15th, 2011 / October 15th, 2013 / May 4th, 2015 / August 29th, 2017
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
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
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio English
1978 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1978 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 /
48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1975 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1975 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
• 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
• "Death Mills" (1945, 32:42), an informational film on the Nazi death camps (produced by Billy Wilder), footage of which appears in The Stranger
• An excerpt from the TV series:
Around the World with Orson Welles (Bull
Fight in Madrid) - 15:14
• War Workers
• Bikini Atomic Test
• Theatrical Trailer (1:17)
• Stills Gallery
DVD of the Feature and extras (Dual-Format)
•New audio commentary by Nora Fiore
• “The Stranger: Murderers Among Us” – essay by Dr. Jennifer Lynde Barker author of The Aesthetics of Antifascist Film: Radical Projection (text screens)
• Trailer (2:09)
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.
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.
"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."
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
HD Cinema: 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.
Kino Lorber: 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.
Odeon Entertainment: It appears to come from the same 'Library of Congress' source as the Kino Lorber, slightly less technically robust - but has the same marks and damage - namely in the form of long vertical scratches at key points in the climax of the film. Otherwise, like the Kino - it looks very pleasing with nice grain. Unfortunately, the MGM DVD is still the best in terms of consistent image quality. I should note that as I was anticipating the later scratches (seeing them in the 45-minte mark) I still thoroughly enjoyed my viewing. So many things about this film I appreciate.
The new Olive transfer is both softer than the Kino/Odeon 1080P, and is cropped on the side and bottom edges. This was said to come from the MGM source - and does start with that logo. While the darker look is probably more accurate - it definitely loses sharpness against the Kino/Odeon. I zoomed-in to seek DNR-type digitization (rife on the HD Cinema Classics BD) but I still see, what appears to be, grain. Although it appears to have less texture than the Kino/Odeon. Thankfully, it is devoid of the scratches prevalent on the Kino/Odeon source and it has the longest running time (presumably no sequences or shots, are absent.) The Kino showed rounded corners which could be one reason that the Olive is cropped beside it - but it seems more than it should. It is only a single-layered disc with a supportive bitrate. There are sequences of pleasing depth. I think the heavy and soft image, which can vary and look decidedly poor around the 42-minute mark SEE HERE, will be a disappointment to some.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Subtitle Sample Olive Films - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Blown-out HD Cinema visuals
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 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.
Odeon Entertainment use a similar linear PCM to Kino Lorber and it sounds just as gripping. No subtitles offered and the disc is region FREE.
Olive use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 at 1978 kbps (24-bit) and it sounds excellent with Welles deep voice resonating with emphasis in the lossless.Bronislaw Kaper's (Them!, The Naked Spur, Mutiny on the Bounty) score sounds very strong and I noticed no dropouts or similar flaws. There are, finally, optional English subtitles - see sample above. The Blu-ray disc is labeled as Region 'A'-locked on the back cover. I will verify.
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.
Billy Wilder's Death Mills again, but longer than on the Kino, a 15-minute excerpt from the TV series: Around the World with Orson Welles, the same four appreciated Radio broadcasts by Orson Welles, a trailer, Stills gallery and the package is Dual-Format containing a PAL DVD of the feature (with extras).
Fans of the film, and Welles, will get a new audio commentary by Nora Fiore. It's excellent analyzing specific shots, identifying expressionist shadows, disorienting Noirish scenes, Welles, Mercury theatre, and delving into the political interpretations. I was impressed although I do have a complaint. When she pauses - and there are gaps - to let the film run, the volume is almost non-existent - the film audio doesn't come up. It wasn't edited-in correctly. There is also a text screen essay; “The Stranger: Murderers Among Us” – essay by Dr. Jennifer Lynde Barker author of The Aesthetics of Antifascist Film: Radical Projection but I am not a fan of this format - preferring to have written text in a liner notes booklet. There is also a trailer.\
(HD Cinema Classics - Region FREE - Blu-ray - LEFT vs. Kino - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT)
Kino - Region FREE - Blu-rayEXTRAS
Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Olive - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
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!
Okay, so what does this all prove? We know that the HD Cinema is a total DUD, Studio 4K are bootleggers, Kino and Odeon used the same source (and have mostly the same extras). Kino win in theBlu-ray category with the more robust technical transfer and the commentary but we continue to 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. I like Odeon Entertainment and enjoyed this release.
There was a lot of anticipation for this Olive release. It will underwhelm many but I can see some liking the heavier, albeit softer, look. It is cropped but the marring vertical scratches are absent. It offers subtitles and a new commentary. Always good to have choices... perhaps Criterion, MoC, Arrow or Indicator can do this Public Domain title in the 9's and give it the justice it deserves.
February 4th, 2011
September 27th, 2013
August 21st, 2015
August 22nd, 2017
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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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