• Stranger At My Door



    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: March 31, 2015
    Director: William Witney
    Cast: Macdonald Carey, Patricia Medina, Skip Homeier, Stephen Wootton, Louis Jean Heydt, Howard Wright, Slim Pickens, Malcolm Atterbury
    Year: 1956
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    The Movie:

    The Clay Anderson Gang robs a small-town bank and flees on horseback. Unfortunately, the leader of the gang, Clay Anderson, suffers a setback when his horse is injured. Forced to seek the aid of a farm boy, Dodie Jarret, Anderson also develops a sexual fixation on the boy’s stepmother, Peg, unaware that she’s married to the local preacher, Hollis. And speaking of Hollis, he’s building a church on his property. Hollis sees through Anderson’s ruse but agrees to help him anyway, believing that he can save the man’s soul. Anderson, on the other hand, sticks around because he has designs on Peg.

    Stranger at My Door is a hoot, thanks in part to the insipid direction of William Witney, who had gotten his start with Mascot as a producer of serials. Long known for his ability to direct action sequences, the director didn’t spare this particular feature his trademark, to ill effect. When the film is being melodramatic, it’s mildly—and unintentionally—humorous; when the action kicks into high gear, it’s downright hysterical. Take, for instance, the scene in which an untamable Mr. Ed (that’s our code for horse; his actual name is, appropriately enough, Lucifer) breaks free to terrorize witless Peg and even more witless Dodie after Hollis tries to bareback it (that’s our code for breaking the horse in). For just a brief moment, the film slips into nature-run-amok terrain, which ends only when the Jarrets’ loyal doggy is injured and the horse subdued by studly Anderson, who’ll do anything to turn Peg on. The incident also—unbelievably—results in Hollis losing faith and Anderson gaining it, or least the rudimentary foundations of it. After all, there's nothing Jesus loves more than a reformed sinner, especially one with big sins to give up.

    Things go from bad to worse, and from hysterical to surreal, when the sheriff shows up to arrest Anderson for his part in the bank robbery. Instead, the long arm of the law carelessly shoots Dodie in a scene that should be dour but instead proves to be gut-busting. Anderson threatens to kill the sheriff for his mistake, but, as usual in the world of cinema, things don’t quite work out as planned.

    The performances are just as eclectic as the film’s melodramatic hijinks. Macdonald Carey is pretty good as Hollis, but Skip Homeier seems intent on turning the villainous Clay Anderson into a two-bit John Wayne knockoff. Stephen Wootton, as Dodie, is every bit as bad as Homeier, while Patricia Medina doesn’t seem to know what to make of her character. Then there’s the dog, whose acting is so bad he’s replaced by a stuffed animal at one point. Okay, okay, that’s not the real reason he was replaced (let’s face it, no one wants to see a real dog get stomped by a real horse), but his replacement is every bit as emotive.

    Now, none of this is to suggest that Stranger at My Door should be avoided. Just the opposite, really: Viewers looking for a good laugh should rush out and buy it immediately. It’s entertaining on a number of levels, none of them high art.

    Audio/Video/Extras:

    Stranger at My Door looks splendid in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio in a new hi-def (1080p) transfer. The MPEG-4 AVC encode is something to write home about. Despite the film being placed on a 25GB disc, there are no noticeable compression issues or artifacting. The black and white imagery is crisp and detailed, with deep black and gray levels. Thankfully, the image has not been scrubbed of detail through excessive DNR, and the source material lacks undue speckling or print damage after the first few opening seconds. The grain level jumps a couple of notches in a few sequences, mostly at night, and during such sequences the detail dips, resulting in mild crush. In general, however, the film looks wonderful. Stranger at the Door might be a second-rate feature in every other way, but it never looks like it. For people interested in viewing classic b/w westerns on BD, few are as sharp as this one.

    The aural presentation is as solid as the visual presentation. Olive has chosen to release the film with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, which does well by both the dialogue and the score. Sound effects have a decent amount of depth, and dialogue is clean and clear. There’s no hiss or compression problems. Subtitles are not included.

    There are no extras.

    The Final Word:

    Stranger at My Door is a wildly entertaining film for all the wrong reasons. And that’s exactly why fans of classic and/or older films should give it a chance. Helping move it along is a strong transfer (taken from a great print) and solid sound. Extras are lacking, but better to get the film sans extras than not at all.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!