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The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Approved | | Drama, Horror, Mystery | 7 February 1946 (USA)
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. Another 1 nomination. 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 | Add 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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Did You Know?

Trivia

The close-ups of the killer's eyes and hands actually show those of director Robert Siodmak. 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 holding the candlestick near the top of the 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

Version of The Spiral Staircase (2000) 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 »

User Reviews

 
Silent Terror
3 February 2005 | by sol-kaySee all my reviews

(Slight Spoilers} Effective turn of the century thriller set in New England about a killer on the loose murdering young women in the community who have imperfections in their mental or physical abilities. It's as if this murderer, like mimicking the actions a wolf pack, is attempting to cull out the sick and the weak reindeer or caribou to keep the rest of the herd strong and healthy for future breeding.

After murdering three unfortunate young women the murderer zeros in on young Helen Capel, Dorothy McGuire, a mute young women who works as a maid for the old and bed-ridden Mrs.Warren, Ethel Barrymore, at her estate outside of town.You begin to realize that the killer is in a way imperfect himself and by trying to eliminate those he deems imperfect is making up for his own imperfections.

Dorothy McGurie in one of her best roles as the mute and pretty Helen is stalked all through the movie by the killer in the shadows of the Warren Mansion and in the woods around it. There's a really scary scene early in the movie when the killer in the pouring rain follows Helen through the woods at night as she momentarily drops her key to the Warren home only to back off at the last minute when someone else unexpectedly arrives.

Ethal Barrymore is also very effective as the sick and bed-ridden Mrs. Warren who has some idea who the killer is and wants Helen to leave the house as soon as possible in order not to end up being his next victim. Both George Brent and Gordon Oliver are fine as the two step-brothers and sons of Mrs Warren in their roles as the serious Prof.Warren and his globe-trotting and fun-loving brother Steve. Who have very deep and troubling insecurities about themselves due to their late authoritative father's high standards that he set for them that they both couldn't live up too.

There's also Kent Smith as Dr. Parry who knows the real reason for Helen's loss of speech, she tragically saw her parents die in a house fire at a very young age. Dr. Perry wants to help Helen get her voice back by having her see a vocal specialist that he knows in Boston. It turned out at the end of the movie that it was shock therapy that did the trick.

Spine-tingling final when the killer comes out of the shadows and closes in on the terrified Helen for the kill chasing her up the spiral staircase of the Warren house. It's then the killer finds out only too late that he, not Helen, has gotten himself trapped in the cross-hairs of a deadly ambush.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 February 1946 (USA) 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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