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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy classic with topnotch acting and directing
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...
Published on 4 Feb. 2009 by Thomas Ludvigsen

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Someone pegged this film as very Hitchcockian but I found ...
Someone pegged this film as very Hitchcockian but I found it just didn't have it. I've seen a lot of gripping black and white movies what kept me on the edge of my seat but this just didn't have it. The story dragged along at a snail pace, and the acting was a little bland for my liking. I didn't find it very atmospheric either, for some reason. I'm sure many other...
Published 4 months ago by GratuitousViolets


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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy classic with topnotch acting and directing, 4 Feb. 2009
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Thomas Ludvigsen "b/w aficinado" (Oslo, Norway) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] [1945] (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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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spiral Staircase, 6 July 2009
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P. Lawrence (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] [1945] (DVD)
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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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gothic, Noirish, Hitchcockian Masterpiece., 23 Jan. 2011
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] [1945] (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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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy gothic chiller., 6 July 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Who will live, who will die in this eerie mansion during a storm-swept night?, 17 Aug. 2007
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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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.

It's not too hard to figure out who the killer most likely is. Since Dorothy McGuire is the star of the movie, it's also unlikely that her character will be killed. What makes this movie work so well, in my opinion, are several elements. First, not whether Helen will be killed, but what dangers will Helen face unable to call for help, including a final confrontation with the killer? Second, who among the supporting cast will be killed? There is the professor's secretary, Blanche (Rhonda Fleming), the cook (Elsa Lanchester), her husband (Rhys Williams) and the nurse (Sara Algood). It's unlikely all will live. Third, the production values of the movie. The Spiral Staircase is beautifully staged and filmed, with each shot framed for maximum creepy effect. The descent to the basement, where one killing takes place and another is attempted, is almost worth the price of the DVD itself. The place is deeply shadowed with wooden trusses and brick walls, piles of cut wood and an axe, heavy casks and rows of cobwebbed wine bottles...so many places to hide, and the only light coming from candles so easy to blow out. Fourth, the killings are subtly handled, which makes them all the more unsettling. The murderer is never shown until the end. Before then we only see his eyes. We never see the actual killings, either, only black shadow and white hands clutching at the air. And fifth, the performances of Dorothy McGuire and Ethel Barrymore. McGuire, in my view, was a fine actress with an innate quality of goodness about her. We worry about Helen because of McGuire's skill and personality. Barrymore was a dominant actress in all her roles. Here, bedridden, she must act with her eyes and her face. She becomes an implacable old woman who sees that justice is done.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Watching, 26 April 2012
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] [1945] (DVD)
I must admit that over the years I have seen this many times on the telly, so I was more than happy when I decided to see if it was on dvd, and found it. This black and white film is based on the novel ‘Some Must Watch’ (by Ethel Lina White), and was directed by Robert Siodmak.

In a small American town a serial killer seems to be on the loose, his penchant is for young women who have disabilities. Helen Capel who has been a mute since childhood, due to events that she witnessed is an obvious victim for the killer. Helen is a servant in the Warren household, which is pretty much isolated. On a stormy night there is already one murder in the house, will Helen be the next?

Perhaps a bit too melodramatic at times, this is a film that many have enjoyed since it was first shown at the cinema back in 1946. Fans of Hitchcock should enjoy this as it a good little thriller, full of suspense. With gothic undertones and a good cast, this is something that is always worth watching.

The sound and picture quality are good on this, but a warning as to the sound level, you may have to significantly turn up the volume level as it is very quiet.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely entertaining thriller, 7 Jun. 2004
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] (DVD)
This is a clever clever film. It grips from the word go.
All the classic ingredients of gothic melodrama are here - wind, rain, mansions, deranged killer on the loose. Dorothy Maguire's central performance as a traumatised young woman who is unable to speak ratchets up the thrill level without any of the usual campy cliches.
This is a stylish and absorbing film. Beautifully presented and with wonderful central roles. A genuine classic and thoroughly recommended
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars deliciously creepy!, 18 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] [1945] (DVD)
Saw this film on tv back in 1961 and it scared the life out of me! I was only 11yrs old and it was on a Christmas eve, my mother was in the kitchen preparing the veg for the next day so I was alone watching one of the creepiest black and white films I'd ever seen......made quite an impact and I never forgot it.......and its still an unerving experience....marvelous!!!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than today's cinema, 6 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] [1945] (DVD)
If your requirements are a good storyline that keeps you interested until the end, decent acting and you don't mind black & white cinematography, this could be the perfect film for late night suspense. Dorothy McGuire is fantastic in this gem of a film that Hitchcock would have been proud of. Atmospheric, haunting with that impending sense of doom, together with tight performances from the supporting cast including the legendary Ethel Barrymore, make this iconic film a one to savour.

Considering the film was made in 1944, the black and white print is exquisite as is the dvds audio.

Grab a truly great film and treat yourself to a wonderful experience that you can return to on those dark winter nights.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 1940s Film Noir At Its Best, 29 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: The Spiral Staircase [DVD] [1945] (DVD)
A serial killer commits a spate of murders of young women possessing disabilities in turn of the 20th Century New England and a young, mute serving girl (Dorothy McGuire) is the next target of his attentions. From a night out in town, she returns to her employer's creepy Gothic mansion in the middle of a thunderstorm and is followed along the way. Once home she needs to attend to the bed-ridden Family matriarch (Ethel Barrymore) who knows more than she's letting on, but warns the girl she must leave that very night if she's knows what's good for her. In the meantime the other servants are called out or leave.

Despite the 'Gothic house in a thunderstorm' cliché, this is a superbly plotted, acted, directed and filmed suspense thriller. The emphasis is very much on the cinematography and the visual stylisation. Ethel Barrymore was nominated for an Oscar and Dorothy McGuire should have been too. Being mute she has virtually nothing to say. All her acting is in her movement and facial expression and she is very clever in this. The rest of the cast are very capable too. Directed by Robert Siodmak, this is likened very much to the best of Alfred Hitchcock, but if anything, it surpasses him up until Psycho (1960). It keeps you guessing up until the end, but my lasting impression of this thriller is the creepy eyes looking through the key hole at various times.

This film is the epitome of 1940s film noir and thoroughly deserves five stars. My only misgiving is that Widescreen filming hadn't been invented at the time. That really would have been the icing on the cake.
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