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  • Talk about a Stranger had a lot of very good moral implications. I enjoyed the story, and the characters in it, flaws and all. It was a great reminder to look deeper than what we might project onto others or a first impression and the damage it can do. It became somewhat suspenseful in parts. It did not seem dated to me. A good movie with a good moral lesson...wish we could have more movies like this today.
  • Eric Chapman22 September 2001
    Rather surprising that the director here, David Bradley, would go on to make some notoriously awful films. There isn't quite enough to the story and the ending is a timid disappointment, but the film boasts some unusually powerful, even unforgettable imagery. The kind that, if you see this movie as a child, will probably stick with you for a lifetime.

    Bradley does a wonderful job conveying a sense of how alien and intimidating the world must look through the eyes of a ten year old, especially when that ten year old ventures outside the safe, protected space that is his every day environment. (An environment that seems relatively harmless during the day but hostile and terrifying at night.)

    What images. The boy's head framed against the backdrop of the huge, sinister house next door where the mysterious, ill-tempered man resides. The boy sprinting through a fog-enshrouded orchard toward a raised, judgmental camera. Hitch-hiking on the side of a lonely highway as headlights bear down. A motorcyclist appearing like a ghost. Getting a ride through the dark in the cold night air, the biker's affable ramblings distant, dream-like. A mesmerizing montage of the boy watching his dedicated dad scrambling to heat his orchards on a night when the temperature drops below freezing, lighting flame after flame after flame. A subtle, unsettling sequence set in an abandoned home on the ocean where a creepy older boy scares the living daylights out of him.

    "Father Knows Best" brat Billy Gray plays the lonely boy and he is an odd, atypically intense child actor. At times he is effective, at others he is simply obnoxious. He is one moody little actor in a moody little film. He would probably even unnerve that red-headed demon from those unfortunate "Problem Child" movies. Nobody else in the cast makes much of an impression, though everyone is adequate. George Murphy is the decent dad. Nancy Davis (actually not a bad actress at all) is hardly on screen and when she is she's playing the least pregnant looking pregnant lady you'll ever see. Kurt Kasznar is the strange neighbor, though he's not as ghoulish or ghastly looking as you're supposed to think he is. The child actress who plays Gray's nemesis/sweetheart, a girl named Anna Glomb, looks remarkably like Denise Richards must have looked like at the same age.

    A not-so-distant cousin of "To Kill A Mockingbird". Bradley was clearly a uniquely gifted film-maker, though this may be the only evidence of that talent. What happened?
  • An old dark house in a California orange-growing community gains a mysterious tenant, and, scared on Halloween, the kids take an instant dislike to him. When the mutt belonging to one of them, Bud (Billy Gray), is later found poisoned, Bud fixes on the strange neighbor as its killer. With a November freeze threatening the crop, already restive townsfolk start to gossip, egged on by the implacable Bud. His parents, George Murphy and Nancy (Reagan) Davis -- both actors to become major forces in California and national politics in the next decade -- find him careening out of control. The story starts out as a fairly routine thriller based on a courageous (for its time) caution against McCarthyist hysteria. But then it turns into something more complex and memorable. When Bud sets off to find incriminating evidence, the tone and the images grow more gothic and evocative. John Alton's superb cinematography conjures up masterful effects from the smoke rising from the smudge-pots, the twisted branches and dark foliage, and the beclouded moonlight. (There's much in this movie that steals the thunder from Charles Laughton's solo masterpiece, the 1955 Night of the Hunter). The script deserves credit, too, for resolutely retaining the young adolescent's point of view while never stooping to condescend.
  • Kurt Kaszner who has certainly played his share of villains on the screen has come to settle down in a small California town in the citrus fruit growing area. He's surly, bad tempered, and scares off anyone trying remotely to be friendly to him. Especially young Billy Gray who has a paper route that Kaszner is on. Even Gray's father George Murphy can't get any kind of smile out of him.

    In a small town, a fellow like Kaszner is bound to raise eyebrows, but no one outrightly accuses him of anything until a dog that young Mr. Gray has adopted is poisoned.

    Of course there's a lot more to the story, but I won't spoil anything by going farther. Talk About A Stranger can be deadly if you don't know the facts and let the worst impulses in your mind start taking control.

    Talk About A Stranger is an unpretentious film from MGM's B picture unit which has a simple message and speaks it plainly. Nancy Davis is in this as Gray's mother and Lewis Stone is in this as well in one of his last films.

    The film has a nice moral lessons about jumping to conclusions before all the facts are in.
  • Surprisingly well-made and, at times, subtle and unpredictable Billy Gray vehicle released six months after the spectacular "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Billy was certainly on a roll.

    Although there is a certain Bildungsroman aspect to the film, the emphasis is on plot and intelligent development. Several scenes introduced primarily to increase interest and suspense are brought off very effectively. Bradley's treatment of children is intriguing.

    Photography and music are certainly above average for this era, genre, and budget.

    Unfortunately, this movie does not appear to be available on DVD or video, although if you keep an eye out, you may catch it on TMC.
  • "Talk About a Stranger" is a much, much better film that you might expect. Despite the credits order, it stars Billy Gray (as Robert "Bud" Fontaine Jr.). Mr. Gray would, later, become best known as another "Bud", on the TV series "Father Knows Best". In this film, he plays a boy who adopts a stray dog, which he names "Boy"; then, he finds the dog has been poisoned. Gray suspects a mysterious new arrival in town, Kurt Kasznar (as Matlock). Mr. Kasznar acts, and looks, very much like an outsider; and, he seems to dislike "Boy", and children…

    Gray does a fine job in a difficult role; he has to play the boy as both unlikeable, and likable. The character "Bud" is redeemed (or, made sympathetic) by his caring for his dead "Dog"; and, the film effectively captivates, with its plot developments. Kasznar is great, as usual; he keeps the performance from going in a direction not in tune with the film's ending. Top billed George Murphy and Nancy Davis (as parents Robert and Marge Fontaine) are ordinary; undoubtedly, they are better appreciated in other films. Later, Ms. Davis was, of course, wonderfully cast as the second Mrs. Ronald Reagan. The film's weaknesses might have been arrested by strengthening the "Fontaine" family.

    The other players in "Talk About a Stranger" are terrific. Lewis Stone is at least as "fatherly" as Mr. Murphy; he plays the newspaperman (William J. Wardlaw) Gray runs to for help. Teddy Infuhr has a great little part as a boy who lives near a "Haunted House" Gray visits; watch for their scene in the "San Sala" house. The film is full of weird scenes; and, Gray's trip to "San Sala" is one. Note, also, that Gray is picked up hitchhiking by motorcycling sailor Alvy Moore, who immediately asks Gray if he has a sister! Mr. Moore will, later, become best known as "Hank Kimball" on the TV series "Green Acres". You also get to see Kathleen Freeman, Burt Mustin, and some others…

    Cinematographer John Alton is the film's most valuable player. Mr. Alton, David Bradley (director), Cedric Gibbons (art director), and Eddie Imazu (art director) make "Talk About a Stranger" a great looking film. For this, and its cast, "Talk About a Stranger" is well worth watching.

    ******** Talk About a Stranger (1952) David Bradley ~ Billy Gray, Kurt Kasznar, Lewis Stone
  • This unknown little MGM item is based on a Charlotte Armstrong story (American mystery writer who wrote THE UNSUSPECTED and DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK, among others). The main focus is on the little boy (BILLY GRAY) who thinks the new menacing neighbor is the man who killed his faithfuldog and he's played with professional assurance by Gray. In fact, he has to carry the film since GEORGE MURPHY and NANCY DAVIS are relegated to roles on the sidelines.

    It's directed in competent style by Arthur Bradley, photographed in more than competent style by John Alton, full of moody B&W imagery, but the story is so thin it's almost transparent and winds up in a brief running time of one hour and five minutes.

    The last ten minutes wind up the story in good fashion, although the ending is a bit hard to swallow, as contrived and synthetic as any character-driven tale could be. KURT KAZNAR is the mean looking neighbor who suddenly turns out to be Mr. Good Guy when we learn about his past. The simple moral of this fable is that you can't judge a book by its cover, nor a person by first impressions.

    I have no criticism of Billy Gray's performance in the central role. He was one of the least self-conscious of all the child actors who came along at this time--and probably reached his peak as Doris Day's bratty little brother in BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON and ON MOONLIGHT BAY.
  • In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Billy Gray played a horrible little boy in several movies--most notably the Doris Day films "On Moonlight Bay" and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon". This sort of character was quite a bit different from 'Bud' on "Father Knows Best". Here, Gray is up to his typical sort of character of the day...all boy...and all BAD boy!

    The film begins with Bobby (Gray) and his friends tossing rocks through the windows of a supposedly abandoned house. Imagine their surprise when they see it's NOT abandoned! Bobby has a VERY active imagination (in other words he lies a lot) and tells his dad that the man inside was mean and attacked him!! Well, Bob Sr. (George Murphy) is mad but level-headed and goes to see what is up. Well, the new neighbor isn't very friendly...and slams the door in their faces.

    Later, Bobby comes home with an adorable mutt and the kid loves the thing. However, when the pet dies, Bobby begins imagining that the neighbor poisoned the dog...and he begins telling everyone that he KNOWS this to be true. What's the sad truth? See the film.

    This is a very well written slice of life film..nothing great but well done all around. Gray, though playing a brat, played him wonderfully and the film is well worth seeing. I also agree with another review where it pointed out how amazing the camera-work was in the film. It was almost film noir-like...very artsy and amazingly good for a B-movie.
  • whpratt18 December 2007
    Enjoyed this story concerning a family who lived in an orange growing community in California. The father was George Murphy, (Robert Fontaine Sr.) and his wife Nancy Davis, (Marge Fontaine) and they had a son Bud Fontaine,Jr. (Billy Gray) who was a bratty kid. Bud Fontaine had a little dog who followed him everywhere he went and one day this dog was found dead by poisoning and Bud immediately accused a stranger in the neighborhood of killing his pet. This man was Paul Mahler,(Kurt Kasgnar) who lived in an old dark looking house that all the children called a haunted house. Bud spreads rumors among the local town about Mr Paul Mahler killing his dog and he is advised by the police to prove what he is saying and to bring them the proof of his accusations. George Murphy moved on in life to become a United States Senator and Nancy Davis married Ronald Regan. Great little film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For one horrible moment it looks as if Mason is going to play the whole film in an ill-becoming naval beard. Fortunately he gets the sack early on and is able to shave it off.

    As you know I operate on the principle that any film with Herbert Lomas is an entertaining one. Good old Lomas has a typically spooky informative role here, even if but a brief one. And as for finding my favorite comic detective/spy chaser Tom Walls on the wrong side of the law for once, it's a pleasure...

    If this comedy-thriller is a bit shy in the laughs department — despite (or maybe because of) its hard-working heroine — it certainly delivers the thrills. Three or four scenes (a rendezvous with a corpse in a spooky house; attempted murder on a speeding train; Chesney playing the secret code) are staged with all the flair and panache of the master himself. In fact, when you come right down to it, the script has quite a few echoes of The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Number 17, and Young and Innocent.

    The Director: A refugee from Hitler's Germany who served in the Royal Air Force during the war, Lamac has an extraordinarily large number of distinguished European films to his credit including The Bat, Little Dorrit, White Horse Inn, Hound of the Baskervilles and The Ghost Train.
  • I found this film to be quite boring and the plot just plain silly. Once the boy finds his dog dead, with the expertise of a vet, he exclaims, "My dog has been poisoned!, and it was Dr. Mahler!" Even more ridiculous, his father responds, " I wouldn't put it past him!" Then they go to the mysterious Dr.'s house to confront him, only to hear his denial and leave. Definitely a kids movie to teach the morals of not "judging a book by it's cover". But if anyone

    thinks this is even mildly creepy, you would never survive the Boston subway system. No wonder why the director did not direct any major film for over 8 years after this piece of silliness. Some good camera work, but it still feels like a Leaver it to Beaver episode. Watch it at your own risk.
  • edwagreen26 July 2015
    2/10
    *
    Warning: Spoilers
    Totally miserable film dealing with a young boy's suspicion when his dog is found poisoned. The next door neighbor, a disagreeable, nasty and mysterious man is thought to be the killer and the boy goes out of control whenever he sees the man.

    Nancy Davis, Mrs. Ronald Reagan, played his mother. Her character is outrageously benign here. Even the way she calls out to her son in the film, a mother would be so much more assertive here. As the father, George Murphy is given a poor script to work with. Owner of a fruit orchard, a sidebar theme in this dismal film regards the dropping of temperatures and its affects upon what is being grown.

    Our mysterious neighbor's transition is sudden and while he becomes a sympathetic figure in the end, it's too much to digest and believe.
  • This movie is creepy. To a small degree it's creepy in the way it intends: It does seem as if Harper Lee may have seen this before writing her lovely "To Kill A Mockingbird," also about children (here just one child) wrongly suspicious of an odd neighbor.

    In that novel, and the movie made of it, the children are very likable. Billy Grey is not, though possibly he was at the time. Maybe if I ha been a little boy seeing this at the time I would have identified.

    The fact is, though, the boy at the center of this is very troubled, constantly near the brink of hysterics. When he is acting like a boy, he is shooting a toy gun or making gun sounds. In a time capsule, this aspect would be interesting indeed but today it is distasteful.

    The original may well have had to do with the boy's worries about his mother's pregnancy. Would a new little girl (the whole thing seems very misogynistic) or little boy take away all her attention? Something, for sure, has made his kid a bundle of nerves.

    Nancy Davis has a thankfully small role and so does George Murphy. Kurt Kazsner as the eponymous stranger is good, as are the supporting players.

    The fifties gave us some fine music and art but a little item like this serves to remind, or show someone unfamiliar with that decade, what an unpleasant time it was, also.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A child's pet dog dies of poisoning and young Robert(Billy Gray)points the finger at a mysterious neighbor named "Matlock"(Kurt Kasznar)who lives near where the mutt was found dead. Robert pursues the truth with passion and without restraint no matter the consequences his doggedness brings..but is he correct on his presumption that Matlock committed the deed to start with? Robert didn't see Matlock actually poison the dog, but a few near run-ins with the strange, quiet man who keeps to himself, separated from the little town merely only to drop in for supplies every now and then, motivates his blinded rage for finding the truth against him making up most of this little film. Robert's father(George Murphy) is an orange farmer and when Daddy doesn't charge Matlock for supposedly killing the dog, their relationship is strained. We watch as Robert, Jr. forces his hand around town asking local newspaper publisher William Wardlaw(Lewis Stone)to print the story of Matlock's poisoning the dog. While Wardlaw won't just publish a story based on theory, he does encourage Robert the truth by asking around and fishing for clues. So Robert does, but his anger for the loss of his pet pooch might cause the young lad to make rash decisions he might soon regret.

    Little film barely runs over an hour and has a simple story regarding the reasons for not storming blindly against someone without knowing all the facts just because the accused seems guilty of the crime presented. The boy is the perfect protagonist for his dangerous mission might not yield the results he built up in his little mind..yet his pursuit often causes him to make irrational decisions which could cause multiple harm to others. And, I'm pretty sure many will point out that this whole dangerous mission is over "just a mutt", but I think to a kid who grown to love it with all his heart, that this film is able to capture that. Still, when the result is shown, the child makes a decision out of hatred, and it could possibly affect the farmers trying to make a living with the frost threatening their crops, that the film comes full circle speaking it's peace(the moral lesson this story had been planning to unleash) about finger-pointing without knowing for sure if the one whose getting singled out is actually the culprit. I think this flick is much ado about nothing, but it does build up some tension considering the child's journey into possible(this is the word I'm trying to emphasize) shark-infested waters. Some fabulous photographic work by John Alton bringing a noirish look that actually heightens the suspense which might dazzle some viewers(there is a cool sequence where little Robert is returning home from a California estate that might've pointed out Matlock as a murderer and appears on the verge of being run over just to watch the headlights split under the fog pointing out a young man on a motorcycle, or the scene where it, at first appears, that Robert is being pursued by Matlock in the orange grove), but the film, in my opinion, isn't that lasting..you'll probably forget it shortly after you've watched it.