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The Spiral Staircase [1945] [VHS]


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Product details

  • Actors: Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Kent Smith, Rhonda Fleming
  • Directors: Robert Siodmak
  • Format: PAL, Black & White
  • Language: English
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Cinema Club
  • VHS Release Date: 6 Aug 2001
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004RRJU
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,532 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

It is 1906 and three handicapped girls have been murdered in a small New England town. Helen Capel (Dorothea McGuire), mute since childhood, is a servant girl in an bitter widow's household. Caught between the widow's two psychologically opposed sons Helen comes to suspect that the killer might be within her four walls.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Ludvigsen on 4 Feb 2009
Format: DVD
Turn off the lights and get ready for one of the best suspense films of the forties. The Spiral Staircase is perhaps not as well known as some classic Hitchcock movies, but the film is a true gem for aficinados of scary black and white thrillers. I was introduced to the film by my mother who saw it when she was 12 in 1946. It scared the hell out of her then and did the same to us both i 2009. The director is the most underrated Robert Siodmak, proberly best known for The Killers starring Burt Lancaster. The Spiral Staircase has all the ingredienses of a classic suspense film: Insane murderer, creepy old house, several suspects and superb black and white photography. Ethel Barrymore and specially George O'Brian give firstrate performances as two of the main characters in this unforgettable film.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By P. Lawrence on 6 July 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you like good old black and white thrillers then this film is worth getting. It stars Dorothy McGuire as a young woman who helps to look after an elderly lady who is dying. A number of women are murdered but at first there is no connection between the murders. Is McGuire in danger and if so from whom? They are the questions which slowly build the suspense, and like the staircase you go round from one suspect to another until the twist at the end.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Spike Owen TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Jan 2011
Format: DVD
Helen Capel was rendered mute in childhood due to a family trauma, now she acts as a companion to the bed ridden Mrs Warren. She's currently fretful because a serial killer is on the loose and he preys on women with afflictions...

Based on Ethel White's novel "Some Must Watch," The Spiral Staircase harks back to the days of the "old dark house" thrillers and encompasses a German expressionist sheen. The setting is an old Gothic mansion in New England at the turn of the century. Directed by Robert Siodmak, not one spooky house thriller genre convention has been neglected here. The tension builds amid creaking doors and gates, whistling winds, flickering candles, blowing curtains and cut-aways to the eyes of the unseen lurking madman waiting to add poor Helen to his roll call of victims. Mirrors, windows and shadows feature prominently as craftsman Siodmak spins his uneasy expressionistic web.

The cast are uniformly strong. Dorothy McGuire gives one of her best and most convincing performances as the under threat Helen. While Ethel Barrymore (nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Elsa Lanchester and George Brent all turn in brilliant performances. But perhaps it's not unfair to say that the real stars here are the technical staff? Siodmak expands his talent and knowing from his work at Universal Pictures (Son Of Dracula/The Suspect), Albert D'Agostino's sets are wondrous period delights and Nicholas Musuraca's deep-focus photography has the ability to make one keep looking over the shoulder to see if something is lurking in the room with us...

There's quite a few changes in this adaptation from the novel, notably the setting was in England and Helen was a cripple and not mute. But few could seriously argue that The Spiral Staircase in silver screen form is anything but a triumphant piece of classic cinema. 10/10
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 July 2003
Format: DVD
A genuinely scary film that must have been way ahead of its time. Look out for the 'peeping eye' scenes. Made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!!!!!!!!!! Although the identity of the killer was a tad predictable...this did not detract from the point of the film. Great winter's night viewing!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Aug 2007
Format: DVD
A forbidding mansion far from town, a night of driving rain and thunder, a mute young woman who works for the ill matriarch, a spiral staircase that goes down to the shadowy basement...and a killer who strangles women who are "imperfect."

The Spiral Staircase may not be full of frights, but it is an eerie exploration of suspense. The mansion itself is a great prop. Lit by candles and gas light, the rooms, covered with flocked wallpaper, are filled with flickering shadows, deep velvet curtains, carved marble fireplaces and dark oaken tables. Helen Capel (Dorothy McGuire), who became mute when she was a child, works there as a maid. She helps care for Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore), the bedridden, ill and strong-willed matron of the house. Mrs. Warren has a son, Steve Warren (Gordon Oliver), an unreliable ne'er-do-well, and a stepson, Professor Albert Warren (George Brent). She has no illusions. "They are both weaklings," she says.

In the village, young women are being strangled...one had a limp, another was simple minded, one had a scar on her face. It's not long before we realize Helen is on the killer's list, and that the killer is most likely someone who lives in the Warren mansion. One person who seems drawn to Helen is Dr. Parry (Kent Smith), the new physician in the village. He is convinced that Helen can be made to speak and wants to take her to Boston for treatment. Mrs. Warren, although bedridden and often irascible, is no fool about the murders. When Helen is late coming home in the evening from the village, Mrs. Warren tells her, "Come here. I'd hoped you were never coming back. You should run away. Leave this house tonight if you know what's good for you!" During the long night, however, the killer shows his determination to make Helen his next victim.
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