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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Peter Lorre owed RKO two days on his contract and was given this role with few scenes and few lines, but received top billing. See more »
When Jane leaves the coffee shop to follow the Stranger, the shades on the doors are shown to be higher from the outside than they were from the inside. See more »
They send you to take me back?
Don't you know? The people who lock you up.
Why do they want to lock you up?
Oh, so they can hurt me. They put you in a shirt with long sleeves, and they pour ice water on you.
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The Stranger On the Third Floor may be the first film noir. It's certainly one of the earliest American pictures that can be defined as such. The story revolves around a young reporter who is responsible for the conviction of an ex-con who, as things turn out, seems not to be a murderer after all. As the film develops the reporter himself becomes a suspect for the murder of a particularly obnoxious neighbor with whom he'd had a number of confrontations. The reporter's girl-friend becomes his savior, and she traps the real killer, Peter Lorre (who else?) and saves the day. The movie is splendidly dark and foreboding, deliberately unrealistic, like an experimental play, and it has a full-scale nightmare, very well-done, in the bargain. It is thematically similar to mostly much later and somewhat more elaborate films of the forties by Siodmak, Lang, Dmytryk and Dassin, and in its modest way it can hold its own with the best of them.
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