7.5/10
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109 user 52 critic

The Spiral Staircase (1946)

In 1916, a shadowy serial killer is targeting women with "afflictions"; one night during a thunderstorm, the mute Helen feels menaced.

Director:

Robert Siodmak

Writers:

Mel Dinelli (screenplay), Ethel Lina White (novel)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Dorothy McGuire ... Helen
George Brent ... Professor Warren
Ethel Barrymore ... Mrs. Warren
Kent Smith ... Dr. Parry
Rhonda Fleming ... Blanche
Gordon Oliver ... Steve Warren
Elsa Lanchester ... Mrs. Oates
Sara Allgood ... Nurse Barker
Rhys Williams ... Mr. Oates
James Bell ... Constable
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Storyline

In 1916, beautiful young mute Helen is a domestic worker for elderly, ailing Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Warren's two adult 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

Taglines:

Conflicts that freeze your emotions! Suspense that takes your breath!


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 May 1946 (Argentina) See more »

Also Known As:

Silence of Helen McCord See more »

Filming Locations:

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Whilst 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 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

Shadow of camera can be seen on the wall of Blanche's bedroom when she goes to talk to Helen. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in Saw (2004) 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
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The World Has No Place for Imperfections
13 July 2008 | by claudio_carvalhoSee all my reviews

In the beginning of the Twentieth Century, a serial-killer is terrorizing a small town, killing women with imperfections. In the Warren manor, the mute servant Helen (Dorothy McGuire) nurses Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore) who is terminal in bed. The newcomer Dr. Parry (Kent Smith) falls in love for Helen and has the intention to take her to specialists in Boston for treatment for recovering her voice and marry her. When the reckless Steve Warren (Gordon Oliver) arrives from Europe, he stays in the mansion with his mother and his stepbrother Professor Albert Warren (George Brent) and has a brief affair with Albert's assistant Blanche (Rhonda Fleming). When a crippled woman is killed in the town, Mrs. Warren advises Helen to leave the house immediately since she is in danger. When a murder occurs in the mansion, Helen does not know who is trustful to help her to call Dr. Parry to rescue her.

"The Spiral Staircase" is a suspenseful stylish movie, with a magnificent black and white cinematography that follows the German Expressionism and wonderful set decoration in Victorian style. It is impressive the use of shadows and lights in many unforgettable scenes, like for example Blanche in the basement or Helen in the spiral staircase. The beginning is an awesome tribute to the earlier days of the cinema. The performances are excellent and it is impossible to individually highlight any actor or actress. The plot keeps the tension until the very end in this great movie. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Silêncio nas Trevas" ("Silence in the Darkness")


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