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The Spiral Staircase (1945)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 5,823 users  
Reviews: 100 user | 39 critic

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

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(screenplay), (novel)
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Title: The Spiral Staircase (1945)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Cast

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

 »
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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  »
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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 crippled, 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

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

Connections

Referenced in Rhonda Fleming: A Cinderella Story (2008) 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

 
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!


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