The Spiral Staircase (1945)

Approved  |   |  Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller  |  December 1945 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 6,301 users  
Reviews: 102 user | 42 critic

A serial killer (circa 1916) is targeting women with 'afflictions'; one night during a thunderstorm, mute Helen feels menaced.



(screenplay), (novel)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »



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Helen has been incapable of speech since seeing her husband die - will she become the target of a deranged serial killer targeting disabled people?

Director: Peter Collinson
Stars: Jacqueline Bisset, Christopher Plummer, John Phillip Law


Complete credited cast:
George Brent ...
Kent Smith ...
Gordon Oliver ...
Steve Warren
Nurse Barker
Mr. Oates
James Bell ...


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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

December 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Silence of Helen McCord  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


"The Hedda Hopper Show - This Is Hollywood" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on February 15, 1947 with George Brent reprising his film role. See more »


After Helen first fetches the ether from the bathroom cabinet, she leaves the bathroom without closing the cabinet door. No-one goes back to do anything with it, and seconds later the cabinet door has closed itself. See more »


Constable: She's dead!
Dr. Parry: Well, in that case, Constable, I certainly can't do her any harm.
See more »


Referenced in Deep Red (1975) See more »


Waltz Op. 34 No. 2 in A minor
Music by Frédéric Chopin
Played during the scene at the silent movie theater
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Visuals Add To Already-Excellent Film
19 October 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This was an excellent suspense film with outstanding cinematography and interesting characters played by a strong cast.

There are lots of complimentary adjectives in the above sentence but the film deserves it, particularly the photography (see this on DVD). The lighting is as good as anything I've ever seen in film noir (this is not a film noir, as one reviewer correctly points out). In fact, outside of David Lean's "Oliver Twist, " this may be the best-looking black-and-white film I've seen. A good part of the visual treat is viewing the fantastic Victorian house where most of the action takes place.

The lead character, played beautifully by Dorothy McGuire, is one the viewer cares about which helps get one involved in the story. All the other characters are fun to watch, and are detailed here in other reviews. I go along with most in saying Ethel Barrymore was the most likable.

There are a few holes in the storyline, to be sure, but one doesn't care since the film movies rapidly, the story keeps you so involved and the visuals and audio are so interesting. This latter also features the longest thunderstorm on record!

53 of 65 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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