Scen.: John Huston, Howard Koch. F.: Arthur Edeson. M.: George Amy. Scgf.: Ted Smith. Mus.: Adolph Deutsch. Int.: Sydney Greenstreet (Jerome K. Arbutny), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Crystal Shakleford), Peter Lorre (John West), Joan Lorring (Icy Crane), Robert Shayne (Fallon), Marjorie Riordan (Janet Elliott), Arthur Shields (pubblico ministero), Rosalind Ivan (Lady Rhea Belladon). Prod.: Wolfgang Reinhardt per Warner Bros. Pictures – 35mm. D.: 93’. Bn
A beautiful woman (Geraldine Fitzgerald), a seemingly respectable businessman (Sydney Greenstreet), and a smalltime criminal (Lorre) meet in London as the Chinese New Year approaches three strangers in the night, imbibing considerable amounts of tobacco and alcohol. Under flickering lights and in the presence of the Chinese goddess Kwan Yin – who, in this particular night, will make the wishes of three strangers come true – the woman proposes a joint bet at the derby races. “And before the picture is ended and before the race is run, the threads of their destinies ravel and unravel surprisingly. Duplicities and violences complicate their lots, but Fate – that inscrutable mystery – deals the final blow. Such is the theme of the story. Never so far away from reason that it is wholly incredible, but obviously manufactured fiction, it makes a tantalizing show, reaching some points of fascination in a few of its critical scenes. Of course, we seriously question whether it was so much the hand of Fate as it was the fine hands of the scenarists, John Huston and Howard Koch, that pulled the strings. Frankly, we suspect the latter” (Bosley Crowther, “The New York Times”, 23 February 1946).
This grayish noir is one of the rare opportunities to see Lorre and Greenstreet in leading parts; they were paired in nine films altogether (including such classics as The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca), where they usually excelled in ‘character’ roles. Lorre delivers one of his most nuanced Hollywood performances here, but the film’s elegance is also a tribute to the talent of its director, Jean Negulesco, who once stated that Lorre was one of his favorite actors of all time. After the equally elegant The Mask of Dimitrios and the feeble Casablanca-rip-off The Conspirators, Three Strangers would be their third and last collaboration.