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The Spiral Staircase (1945)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 5,752 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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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 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

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 »

Connections

Featured in Histoire(s) du cinéma: Les signes parmi nous (1998) 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

 
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.


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