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The Spiral Staircase [DVD] 
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This superb Hitchcockian thriller shocked critics and audiences on its initial release. With superb performances from the cast (Dorothy McGuire in particular); a wonderfully eerie gothic mansion and a chilling atmosphere of fear and suspense, it is easy to see why the film stands as one of the classic tales of terror.
Helen Capel (DOROTHY McGUIRE) is a beautiful young girl who has not uttered a word since childhood. She works as a servant for old, ailing Mrs. Warren (ETHEL BARRYMORE), in the Warren family mansion. When a sinister spate of murders involving 'women with afflictions' hits the neighbourhood, Helen believes she's the next victim. One night, a storm breaks and Helen realises the killer is in the house with her. Unable to scream for help, what can she do to save herself? And just who is the psychotic killer?
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Top Customer Reviews
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
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
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
GREAT WHO IS THE KILLER MOVIE LOOKS GOOD CLASSIC WELL WORTH YOUR TIME,WHERE'S THE BLU RAY!Published 2 months ago by stephen 1
Almost fulfilled my chilling memories of it when I first saw it as a 13 year old.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Two unsolved murders happening in the local village and the police haven't yet solved them. The big mansion feels unsafe. The Lady asks her servant to leave. Read morePublished 4 months ago by David
very GOOD SOUND ETC. EVEN ALTHOUGH it was an oldie.....thanks.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
well worth watching to see how this type of film has improved over the years!Published 6 months ago by ann harris