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The Spiral Staircase (1945)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 5,633 users  
Reviews: 99 user | 37 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

When Helen first walks up the main staircase, she pauses to look at herself in the mirror. In the next shot as the camera slowly rolls backwards, she is still looking in the "mirror" but there is no reflection of herself (just a painting designed to look like mirror). See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in Mute Witness (1994) 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

 
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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