7.5/10
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The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Approved | | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 31 May 1946 (Argentina)
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 | 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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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

"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 »

Goofs

After Blanche has her argument with Steven, she goes into Helen's room to talk to her. Whilst Helen is packing her suitcase, she takes a picture frame off the nightstand and lays it on the bed twice. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Parry: The only thing that keeps me from cracking you in the jaw is the almost certain possibility that it would break your neck.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Society (1989) 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

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User Reviews

 
A beautiful film
21 August 2005 | by MovieAddict2016See 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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