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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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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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 »


Mrs. Warren: Forgive me, Steven, I thought it was you. He always waited until you came home, so I thought it was you.
See more »


Version of The Spiral Staircase (1975) See more »


Waltz Op. 34 No. 2 in A minor
Music by Frédéric Chopin
Played during the scene at the silent movie theater
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A beautiful film
21 August 2005 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

"The Spiral Staircase" starts off with an afflicted woman being murdered, and right from the onset I was surprised at how explicit it was for its time - by today's standards it's nothing you don't see every day on television, but 1946 was a very different time.

It then moves onwards and we are introduced to a young woman who is mute and lives in a mansion with a long, spiraling staircase. (Hint: this pays off later in the movie.) When it's made known that a killer is making his rounds murdering afflicted women, the owner of the mansion fears for the mute woman's life - and after a string of more murders occur they realize she's next.

RKO's picture was far ahead of its time. Someone on here said it's not a film noir and commanded that people stop calling it one. I'll disagree. I think it IS film noir, in the sense that it's a personal struggle for one person who's surrounded by death and murder. I don't think it should be left up to one person to decide what "film noir" really means. I do think there are limits of course ("Batman Returns" is NOT film noir, it just tries to come across as one) but no one should say, "This isn't a film noir because it's a thriller." So what? Loads of film noirs are thrillers.

I personally feel the stylings, the themes and the motif of the movie could be classified as "film noir." It's a beautiful movie to look at, very well filmed, and the ending is probably one of the best I can remember ever seeing.

It's had a few remakes over the years, but the first remains the best - by a long shot.

Highly recommended.

28 of 36 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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