An investigator from the War Crimes Commission travels to Connecticut to find an infamous Nazi.An investigator from the War Crimes Commission travels to Connecticut to find an infamous Nazi.An investigator from the War Crimes Commission travels to Connecticut to find an infamous Nazi.
Charles Rankin (Orson Welles) is a professor in a respectable Connecticut town about to marry the daughter of a U.S. Supreme Court justice. But his name is fake and his past is filthy. An earnest convert to Christianity (Konstantin Shayne), who once ran a Nazi concentration camp, is capable of exposing him. "Rankin" kills this little old man and buries his body in the forest. But he isn't safe because an investigator (Edward G. Robinson) from the War Crimes Commission is on his tail. Rankin needs his own wife (Loretta Young) to help him elude capture. But his fascination with the local clock tower may prove his undoing.
As a director, Welles strains a bit too hard for effect in this film—and much too hard in everything but "Kane" and "Ambersons." In those two films all of his technical effects, striking as they are, seem effortless and exactly the right choices. Here, he has imperfect moments—such as the scene where his character is frantically, and inexplicably, trying to pick up pieces of paper—but everything else is splendid, especially the climax.
As an actor he's always compelling, but I think he makes one bad choice here. He's too guilty-looking in the early scenes. It makes us wonder why no one suspects him; and it robs us of a dramatic contrast when he begins to realize he's in imminent danger.
Loretta Young is generally a dull actress. She doesn't have enough skill to make an impression in the early scenes; but once the part requires histrionics she performs her duties well enough. Certainly her character is morally dubious and therefore fascinating in itself.
The best performance by far is Edward G. Robinson's. One of the great actors of his time, this ugly man has enough talent and star quality to underplay his role to great effect.
Orson Welles fans might find this exciting, well-plotted thriller too un-Wellesian to suit them. Otherwise, this is highly recommended.
- J. Spurlin
- Mar 1, 2007