The Gaunt Stranger

The Gaunt Stranger (released as The Phantom Strikes in the US) is a 1938 British mystery thriller film directed by Walter Forde. It stars Sonnie Hale, Wilfrid Lawson and Alexander Knox.

The Gaunt Stranger
British poster for The Gaunt Stranger
Directed byWalter Forde
Produced byMichael Balcon
Screenplay bySidney Gilliat
Based onThe Ringer [1]
by Edgar Wallace
StarringSonnie Hale
Wilfrid Lawson
Louise Henry
Alexander Knox
Music byErnest Irving
CinematographyRonald Neame
Edited byCharles Saunders
Distributed byABFD (UK)
Release date
  • 10 January 1939 (1939-01-10) (UK [2])
Running time
74 minutes [3]
CountryUnited Kingdom


A notorious killer, long believed to have died in Australia, returns to England seeking revenge for the death of his sister. The "Ringer" threatens to murder the criminal mastermind Maurice Meister. Detective Inspector Alan Wembury is assigned to the case and despite his strong dislike for Meister attempts to protect him with the reluctant assistance of another criminal, Sam Hackett, who has been released from prison as he is the only man able to identify the "Ringer". Even with his help Wembury struggles to unmask their target before the time at which Meister is due to be killed.


Production and release

The film was made by and at Ealing Studios,[4] and was the company's first release after Michael Balcon's appointment as head of production. It was based on the 1925 novel The Gaunt Stranger by Edgar Wallace, which had been renamed The Ringer in 1926, and which Forde had previously adapted as The Ringer in 1931. So the 1939 film used the original novel title, although the opening credits state that it is based on Wallace's novel The Ringer.[1] The film was screened by the censors on 4 October 1938,[3] but didn't premier until 10 January 1939, when it opened at Gaumont Haymarket as second film in a double bill with The Cowboy and the Lady.[2] It was, however, popular enough for a British re-release in 1945.


  1. As stated in the opening credits
  2. The Times, 10 Jan. 1939, page 10: Picture Theatres - Gaumont Linked 2015-04-27
  3. BBFC: The Gaunt Stranger Linked 2015-04-27
  4. Wood p.98


  • Low, Rachael. Filmmaking in 1930s Britain. George Allen & Unwin, 1985.
  • Perry, George. Forever Ealing. Pavilion Books, 1994.
  • Wood, Linda. British Films, 1927–1939. British Film Institute, 1986.
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