The Spiral Staircase (1945)

Approved  |   |  Mystery, Thriller  |  December 1945 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 6,307 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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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


Mystery | Thriller


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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 close-ups of the killer's eyes and hands actually show those of director Robert Siodmak. 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 »


Mrs. Warren: [fires her gun] Murderer, you killed them. You killed them all.
See more »


Referenced in The Black Stallion (1979) 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

The World Has No Place for Imperfections
13 July 2008 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

In the beginning of the Twentieth Century, a serial-killer is terrorizing a small town, killing women with imperfections. In the Warren manor, the mute servant Helen (Dorothy McGuire) nurses Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore) who is terminal in bed. The newcomer Dr. Parry (Kent Smith) falls in love for Helen and has the intention to take her to specialists in Boston for treatment for recovering her voice and marry her. When the reckless Steve Warren (Gordon Oliver) arrives from Europe, he stays in the mansion with his mother and his stepbrother Professor Albert Warren (George Brent) and has a brief affair with Albert's assistant Blanche (Rhonda Fleming). When a crippled woman is killed in the town, Mrs. Warren advises Helen to leave the house immediately since she is in danger. When a murder occurs in the mansion, Helen does not know who is trustful to help her to call Dr. Parry to rescue her.

"The Spiral Staircase" is a suspenseful stylish movie, with a magnificent black and white cinematography that follows the German Expressionism and wonderful set decoration in Victorian style. It is impressive the use of shadows and lights in many unforgettable scenes, like for example Blanche in the basement or Helen in the spiral staircase. The beginning is an awesome tribute to the earlier days of the cinema. The performances are excellent and it is impossible to individually highlight any actor or actress. The plot keeps the tension until the very end in this great movie. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Silêncio nas Trevas" ("Silence in the Darkness")

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