Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Three Strangers


Three Strangers (1946) They are Sidney Greenstreet, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Peter Lorre. Geraldine lures the two men to her apartment, and then makes a strange bargain with them. The Chinese goddess of luck will grant their wishes if they make an agreement regarding a sweepstakes ticket at the stroke of midnight on Chinese New Year. They are dubious, but what will it cost them? Three shillings each.

Then we follow each of their stories. The lady turns out to be a psychotic who intends to get her estranged husband back, no matter what the cost. He has met a new girl in Canada. Geraldine meets with her and tells her she’s going to have a baby with her husband. And the stupid girl believes her, and sails back to Canada. My opinion: He’s well rid of her if she won’t even take the time to hear from him that it’s a lie.

Sidney has embezzled some money from a trust fund. The way this lottery works is like the Irish Lottery. Many thousands of tickets are sold, and then a ticket is picked for each of the horses running in the Grand National. Once you have a horse, you can sell the ticket, or you can hold onto it and hope your horse wins for the really BIG money. Naturally, their ticket comes up with the favorite horse. But Sidney desperately needs the triad to sell the ticket for ₤10,000 so he can cover his losses …

Peter Lorre is playing against type here. He is a drunk, but an amiable one, and he has a girlfriend who truly loves the little frog-faced troll. He has gotten involved in a murder. Though he is not the killer, he ends up convicted for it and is about to hang.

It all gets very complicated, and a lot of fun. It’s nice to see Lorre playing something other than a nutjob, and he proves he can be funny and sympathetic. Greenstreet is fun to see as he gradually comes apart. The film has a weird back story. Originally intended to be a sort of sequel to The Maltese Falcon, it would have re-united Bogart with his two co-stars. But it turned out the studio didn’t own the rights to Dashiell Hammett’s characters, and he wouldn’t sell them. So John Huston adapted his story idea in a different way. I really can’t see any resemblance to Sam Spade and crew, but that’s the story.