Rising reporter Michael Ward is a key witness in the murder trial of young Joe Briggs, who is convicted on circumstantial evidence while swearing innocence. Mike's girl Jane believes in Joe and blames Mike, who (in a remarkable sequence) dreams he is himself convicted of murdering his nosy neighbor. Will his dream come true before Jane can find the real murderer? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Peter Lorre is the "Stranger on the Third Floor" in this B movie from 1940 that stars John McGuire, Maria Tallichet (Mrs. William Wyler) and Elisha Cook, Jr. McGuire plays Mike Ward, a reporter who is the key witness in a murder trial that ends with the defendant (Cook) being found guilty. The man's protestations of innocence make an impression on Ward's fiancée, Jane, and it causes a rift between them. Back in his rooming house, Mike realizes that his nemesis next door isn't snoring as usual. Looking out of his room, he sees a man (Lorre) hanging around on his floor. Unnerved from the trial and from Jane's attitude, he begins to think his neighbor is dead and fantasizes that he could, though innocent, be put in the same position as the man he testified against and accused of murder. Then the nightmare turns into reality, and it's up to Jane to try and find the stranger - who killed in the same manner as was used in the murder case just tried.
This is a pretty interesting story with decent performances by McGuire and Tallichet, who retired after the birth of her second child with Wyler. Facially, she is a cross between Ella Raines and Jane Russell, though she gets no glamor treatment in this. Sitting down to watch the film, I was visualizing something like "M" or "The Lodger" - in reality, Lorre doesn't have much to do at all. He does, however, act strangely very well.
Some wonderful photography and interestingly filmed sequences, and a really sweet ending. Catch it the next time it's on TCM.
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