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The Spiral Staircase (1945)

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

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Writers:

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

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Helen
...
...
...
...
Blanche
Gordon Oliver ...
...
...
Nurse Barker
...
Mr. Oates
James Bell ...
Constable
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Storyline

In 1916, beautiful young mute Helen is a domestic worker for elderly, ailing Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Warren's two adult 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


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

December 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Silence of Helen McCord  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Joan Crawford, after receiving critical praise for her performance in A Woman's Face (1941), at one point campaigned for the role of the mute girl played by Dorothy McGuire. Crawford also owned the rights, but MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer vehemently opposed the idea, telling her "No more cripples or maimed women". See more »

Goofs

When Helen lights the candle in a candle holder in the kitchen, she holds it on the bottom with her left hand, blocking the breeze with her right hand. The next shot is of her leaving the kitchen, still blocking with her right hand but now hold the candle stick near the top of holder instead of the bottom. She starts down the spiral staircase and as she rounds the first turn, she's once again holding the candle holder on the bottom. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in The Black Stallion (1979) 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

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User Reviews

 
excllent psychological thriller
2 April 2001 | by (brighton, ma) – See all my reviews

This is one of the most elegantly crafted, paced, photographed and designed of all lady-in-distress thrillers, a sub-genre I am not altogether fond of, but in this case the result is something near to a masterpiece. The actors, especially Dorothy McGuire, are first-rate. I'm particularly in love with the house, a cavernous Victorian, over-decorated, visually and spatially 'busy' place, full of odd furniture and fixtures, rugs, lamps and mirrors, it is as much a character as any person in the film. Kudos to the RKO art department, fifty plus years later I salute them. The way the house is explored is a fascinating as the way the characters are presented. Bit by bit we grow accustomed to the place and its denizens, and when the inevitable thunderstorm happens we feel comfortable inside, aware of the menace within we are none the less seduced by the grandness of the place, indeed enveloped by it, as the air of danger becomes almost cozy, and the gothic surroundings become as comforting as they are baleful. This is no small trick; it's an art. Name a film of the past thirty years that comes close to The Spiral Staircase in its exploration of the various shades of meaning in what for want of a better term one would have to call the Great Gothic Place.


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