7.6/10
6,413
102 user 42 critic

The Spiral Staircase (1945)

Approved | | Mystery, Thriller | December 1945 (USA)
A serial killer (circa 1916) is targeting women with 'afflictions'; one night during a thunderstorm, mute Helen feels menaced.

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (novel)
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A man is found murdered, with witnesses convinced about the woman they saw leaving his apartment. However, it becomes apparent that the woman has a twin, and finding out which one is the killer seems impossible.

Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Olivia de Havilland, Lew Ayres, Thomas Mitchell
The Suspect (1944)
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

In 1902 London, unhappily married Philip Marshall meets young Mary Gray, who is unemployed and depressed. Their deepening friendship, though physically innocent, is discovered by Philip's ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Charles Laughton, Ella Raines, Dean Harens
Phantom Lady (1944)
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A beautiful secretary risks her life to try to find the elusive woman who may prove her boss didn't murder his selfish wife.

Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Franchot Tone, Ella Raines, Alan Curtis
Criss Cross (1949)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

An armored truck driver and his lovely ex-wife conspire with a gang to have his own truck robbed on the route.

Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Police Lieut. Candella, longtime friend of the Rome family, walks a tightrope in the case of cop-killer Martin Rome.

Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Victor Mature, Richard Conte, Fred Clark
The Killers (1946)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Hit men kill an unresisting victim, and investigator Reardon uncovers his past involvement with beautiful, deadly Kitty Collins.

Director: Robert Siodmak
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien
Drama | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Whilst on the telephone, an invalid woman overhears what she thinks is a murder plot and attempts to prevent it.

Director: Anatole Litvak
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards
Black Angel (1946)
Crime | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

When Kirk Bennett is convicted of a singer's murder, his wife tries to prove him innocent...aided by the victim's ex-husband.

Director: Roy William Neill
Stars: Dan Duryea, June Vincent, Peter Lorre
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

When a conservative middle-aged professor engages in a minor dalliance with a femme fatale, he is plunged into a nightmarish quicksand of blackmail and murder.

Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey
Sudden Fear (1952)
Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

After an ambitious actor insinuates himself into the life of a wealthy middle-aged playwright and marries her, he plots with his mistress to murder her.

Director: David Miller
Stars: Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame
Fallen Angel (1945)
Crime | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A slick con man arrives in a small town looking to make some money, but soon gets more than he bargained for.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

When a man in mid-life crisis befriends a young woman, her venal fiancé persuades her to con him out of some of the fortune she thinks he has.

Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Helen
George Brent ...
...
Kent Smith ...
...
Blanche
Gordon Oliver ...
...
...
Nurse Barker
...
Mr. Oates
James Bell ...
Constable
Edit

Storyline

Beautiful young mute Helen is a domestic worker for old ailing Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Warren's two sons, Albert (a professor) and womanizing impudent Steven, also live in the Warren mansion. Mrs. Warren becomes concerned for Helen's safety when a rash of murders involving 'women with afflictions' hits the neighborhood. She implores her physician, Dr. Parry, to take Helen away for her own safety. When another murder occurs inside the Warren mansion, it becomes obvious that Helen is in danger. Written by Gary Jackson <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Mystery | Thriller

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

December 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Silence of Helen McCord  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

While this film was based on Ethel Lina White's 1933 novel "Some Must Watch," there are several major differences. In the novel, the maid stalked by the killer was not mute. It was also set in contemporary England, not early 1900's New England. Finally, the title of the film and the idea of incorporating a "spiral staircase" as a thematic element comes from another source entirely: Mary Roberts Rinehart's 1908 novel "The Circular Staircase." The heroine of the book was not mute or crippled, nor were any of the murderer's victims. See more »

Goofs

As the projectionist hand cranks the projector which is on a shaky tripod, the projector wobbles noticeably but the image on the screen is steady. See more »

Quotes

Mrs. Warren: Forgive me, Steven, I thought it was you. He always waited until you came home, so I thought it was you.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Black Christmas (1974) See more »

Soundtracks

Waltz Op. 34 No. 2 in A minor
(uncredited)
Music by Frédéric Chopin
Played during the scene at the silent movie theater
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Atmospheric old dark house thriller...quiet but deadly...
16 April 2001 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

For sheer mastery in the art of black and white photography and its ability to provide the shadowy atmosphere necessary for mood, they don't come any better than this. The house alone is as much a part of the plot as the actors--but everything clicks...the acting, the script, the story, the direction and the brooding atmosphere that lets you know you're in for an intense and absorbingly suspenseful story. All of the suspense is relieved occasionally with just the right amount of humor. Particularly by Elsa Lanchester as the housekeeper who uses trickery to steal an extra bottle of liquor from the wine cellar. While thunder and lightning storms outside the mansion, we know that a serial killer is lurking on or near the premises, one who specializes in murdering women with physical afflictions. At the center of the story is Dorothy McGuire's character, a mute girl who lost her voice years ago during a traumatic experience. Around her are a number of people, all of whom become suspicious as the plot thickens--Kent Smith, Rhonda Fleming, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore and Gordon Oliver. Ethel Barrymore is especially good as a frightened old woman, bedridden and suspicious enough of everyone. For comparison, view the recent color TV adaptation, bland in overall effect. It will make you appreciate this black and white classic more than ever. As with most remakes, it doesn't stand a chance against the original.

My only complaint is that DOROTHY McGUIRE does not have much range in her expressions. Wide-eyed, but seldom wild, her restraint limits the amount of fear her character can express without using her voice. A more over-the-top performance might have been more useful, given the Gothic mood created so well by director Robert Siodmak. She is overshadowed by Ethel Barrymore as a bed-ridden invalid urging her to leave the house and Gordon Oliver, as the playboy step-brother who plays his role to the hilt. GEORGE BRENT does nicely for the most part, but seems too laid back in the final scenes to be as menacing as he is meant to be.

Still, well worth watching for its shadowy Victorian atmosphere alone.


20 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
plot hole ccoutroulos
Ethel Lina White and The Unlocked WIndow on Hitchcock BoomerMovieFan
Is this scene in this movie? charel196
Dorothy McGuire's performance overlooked for Academy Award? TCManiacs
where is this house? carlin4737
Influence on gialli? pstumpf
Discuss The Spiral Staircase (1945) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?