6.9/10
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Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 16 August 1940 (USA)
An aspiring reporter is the key witness at the murder trial of a young man accused of cutting a café owner's throat and is soon accused of a similar crime himself.

Director:

Boris Ingster

Writer:

Frank Partos (story and screenplay)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Peter Lorre ... The Stranger
John McGuire ... Michael
Margaret Tallichet ... Jane
Charles Waldron Charles Waldron ... District Attorney
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Joe Briggs
Charles Halton ... Meng
Ethel Griffies ... Mrs. Kane
Cliff Clark ... Martin
Oscar O'Shea ... The Judge
Alec Craig ... Defense Attorney
Otto Hoffman ... Police Surgeon
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Storyline

Rising reporter Michael Ward is the key witness in the murder trial of young Joe Briggs, who is convicted on circumstantial evidence while swearing innocence. Michael's girl Jane believes in Joe and blames Michael, who (in a remarkable sequence) dreams he is himself convicted of murdering his nosy neighbor. Will his dream come true before Jane can find the real murderer? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Trailing a "tiptoe" killer! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 August 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El desconegut del tercer pis See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$171,200 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film or The Maltese Falcon (1941) are often cited by film historians as the "first film noir," while M (1931) is considered an important precursor to film noir. Peter Lorre stars in all three and Elisha Cook Jr. is in the two American films. See more »

Goofs

On the rainy night when Michael and Jane go to the room he's renting for the first time, there are different water stains on his coat in successive shots. The left sleeve is dry before they enter the room. Once they get inside, both coat sleeves are wet. See more »

Quotes

Michael: [referring to Meng] Did you ever want to kill a man?
Martin: My son, there's murder in every *intelligent* man's heart.
Michael: He's no man. He's a worm - the kind you ought to jump on with heavy boots.
Martin: You'll have to do an awful lot of jumping. The Earth is covered with 'em.
Michael: [while absentmindedly gesturing with his dinner knife] It'd be a real pleasure to cut his throat.
Martin: Say, you're not kidding. Put down that knife!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Vision Éternel: Pièce No. Trois (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

Subtle and scary
14 April 2001 | by reptilicusSee all my reviews

If Peter Lorre had not spent the early part of his career on the stage he would have been excellent in German silent films, this movie proves it. 95% of his role is silent and he carries it off beautifully. Director Boris Ingster seems to have been influenced not only by the German silents (particularly those photographed by Karl Freund) but also by Jean Cocteau. Certain angles and lighting during the dream sequence that takes up one-third of the movie, and especially the death chamber scene, appear inspired by LE SANG D'UN POET (1930). Mr. Ingster also seemed interested in making a social commentary. Notice how during the trial of Joe Briggs (Elisha Cook Jr. who steals every scene he is in) not only a juror but also the judge himself must be prodded awake. The public defender does not really give a hoot about saving his client and the reporters don't care if an innocent man goes to the chair because either way it will make a good headline. After seeing the buildup to such dramatic intensity with not one but two innocent men accused of brutal murders some people might groan at how things get so neatly wrapped up at the conclusion. If we look at this movie as an early entry in the American "film noir" genre the ending seems perfectly normal with bizarre happenstances solving themselves and Fate taking a hand to release three men from a living nightmare (yes, I am counting The Stranger because he too "escapes" from his torment in a way). If you like spotting character actors look quickly for Donald Kerr (DEVIL BAT) and John Harmon (MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS) in small roles. Watch for Bobby Barber, publicity agent for Abbott and Costello, popping up in a cameo as an Italian grocer!


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