5.6/10
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21 user 2 critic

Shadows on the Stairs (1941)

Approved | | Drama, Mystery, Romance | 1 March 1941 (USA)
Occupants of a London boarding house become suspects as a string of murders are discovered.

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(play), (screen play)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Mrs. Stella Armitage
...
Joseph Reynolds
...
Sylvia
Bruce Lester ...
Hugh Bromilow
...
Tom Armitage
...
Inspector
...
Ram Singh
Charles Irwin ...
Constable
...
Lucy
Mary Field ...
Miss Snell
Paul Renay ...
Hindu Sailor
...
Watchman (scenes deleted) (as Sidney Bracy)
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Storyline

Occupants of a London boarding house become suspects as a string of murders are discovered.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Mystery | Romance

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 March 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Murder on the Second Floor  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The play originally opened in New York on 11 September 1929. See more »

Goofs

(at around 37 mins) A constable has a notepad and pencil in his hands writing down details as he questions 2 ladies & a gentlemen. As the ladies go downstairs, the constable tucks the notepad in his belt as he briefly turns his back to the camera watching the ladies leave. He immediately turns back to the camera to question the gentleman and now has the notepad and pencil in his hands as before without reaching for it in his belt. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Pretty Little Liars: Now You See Me, Now You Don't (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Comin' Thro' the Rye
(uncredited)
Music Traditional
Words by Robert Burns
Sung a cappella by Charles Irwin at the end
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User Reviews

 
Terrific Misdirection
14 November 2014 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Rarely in films do we find a murder plot that misdirects viewers with the finesse of "Shadows On The Stairs". What a delight. Beginning with one particular early scene, the plot cleverly leads viewers down the garden path. And a second twist delightfully compounds the misdirection.

There are eight major characters. At least one is murdered, leaving seven suspects. I was sure I knew who the killer was. I was dead wrong, owing mostly to the shrewdly written script.

Most of the action takes place inside a multistory boarding house. People come into and leave rooms rather often. And the script is quite talky. The film has the look and feel of a stage play, except for the first few minutes. The title is a bit misleading, implying noir lighting that doesn't really exist in the film. There's not much in the way of spine-tingling suspense. The main selling point is the stunning ending wherein viewers learn how they have been duped into making multiple false assumptions. Clearly, that upsets some viewers. But one cannot deny that the misdirection is clever.

B&W lighting is acceptable though conventional. Background music is a tad manipulative, which is consistent with many films from that era. Casting is fine. Acting inclines toward the exaggerated, yet that is subtly consistent with the underlying story concept. The film does not take itself too seriously, and it should be watched as slightly comical.

There's no great thematic depth to the story. The appeal lies entirely in the film's entertainment value. But the surprise ending makes "Shadows On The Stairs" one of the better whodunit mysteries from the 1940s.


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