The Spiral Staircase

( 4 )

Overview

The wonderfully suspenseful psychological drama Spiral Staircase is the prototype of the "old dark house, lady in distress" thriller, full of dark corners, flickering candles and featuring a mysterious, menacing killer whose true identity remains hidden until the end. Helen Capel Dorothy McGuire, mute because of a childhood trauma, cares for the owner of the house, the wealthy Mrs. Warren Ethel Barrymore, a demanding, widowed invalid. Helen has quietly fallen in love with one of Mrs. Warren's sons, Dr. Parry Kent...
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Overview

The wonderfully suspenseful psychological drama Spiral Staircase is the prototype of the "old dark house, lady in distress" thriller, full of dark corners, flickering candles and featuring a mysterious, menacing killer whose true identity remains hidden until the end. Helen Capel Dorothy McGuire, mute because of a childhood trauma, cares for the owner of the house, the wealthy Mrs. Warren Ethel Barrymore, a demanding, widowed invalid. Helen has quietly fallen in love with one of Mrs. Warren's sons, Dr. Parry Kent Smith, who she believes to be a gentle and understanding man. Helen's peaceful life is changed forever when three local women, all with physical handicaps, are found murdered. The movie builds to a suspenseful conclusion as Helen finds herself in the midst of a life-and-death battle in the house, as the true identity of the murderer is revealed. Dorothy McGuire is exquisite as the innocent, sweet Helen and gives a totally convincing performance in the difficult role. She uses her expressive face to perfectly convey Helen's emotions, fear and ultimate bravery. Ethel Barrymore won an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Mrs. Warren and plays the difficult "Grande Dame" with great relish. Director Robert Siodmak, noted for his stylish direction of atmospheric suspense films, uses all his plot devices with great skill and craftsmanship, increasing the suspense and sense of foreboding as Helen is observed through the eyes of her stalker, who the audience sees only as a pair of menacing eyes.
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Special Features

Closed Caption
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Adapted from an Ethel Lina White novel, Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase (1946) is an effectively chilling Gothic film noir with an ominous, expressionistic atmosphere. With its questionable group of residents and servants, headed by Ethel Barrymore's crusty matriarch, the Warren household is already as twisted as the title stairs even before they suspect that a murderer is in the house. Enhancing the visual menace of the old, isolated mansion and the climactic dark and stormy night, Siodmak reveals the sinister presence of the killer targeting Dorothy McGuire's mute maid solely through close-ups of his crazed, peeping eyes -- the same eyes that already killed several other pretty young things with physical infirmities. As McGuire skillfully communicates a wide range of emotions through pantomime, and her impairment increases the suspense, her reaction to the final threat becomes all the more potent. It was Barrymore, however, who earned an Oscar nomination for her Grande Dame acting. Greeted in 1946 as a solid thriller regardless of its gestures towards explaining a pathology, The Spiral Staircase was remade, with considerably fewer chills, in 1975.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/4/2005
  • UPC: 027616122537
  • Original Release: 1946
  • Rating:

  • Source: Mgm (Video & Dvd)
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:24:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Dorothy McGuire Helen Capel
George Brent Prof. Warren
Ethel Barrymore Mrs. Warren
Kent Smith Dr. Parry
Rhonda Fleming Blanche
Elsa Lanchester Mrs. Oates
Gordon Oliver Steve Warren
Sara Allgood Nurse Barker
Rhys Williams Mr. Oates
James Bell Constable
Erville Alderson Dr. Harvey
Myrna Dell Murder Victim
Richard Tyler Freddie
Charles Wagenheim Desk Clerk
Ellen Corby Neighbor
Technical Credits
Robert Siodmak Director
Constantin Bakaleinikoff Musical Direction/Supervision
John L. Cass Sound/Sound Designer
Albert S. D'Agostino Art Director
Mel Dinelli Screenwriter
Harry Gerstad Editor
Terry Kellum Sound/Sound Designer
Harry Marker Editor
Nick Musuraca Cinematographer
Jack Okey Art Director
Dore Schary Producer
Harry Scott Asst. Director
Darrell Silvera Set Decoration/Design
Edward Stevenson Costumes/Costume Designer
Vernon Walker Special Effects
Roy Webb Score Composer
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Spiral Staircase
1. Chapter 1 [5:48]
2. Chapter 2 [6:14]
3. Chapter 3 [6:24]
4. Chapter 4 [3:06]
5. Chapter 5 [6:00]
6. Chapter 6 [10:03]
7. Chapter 7 [7:01]
8. Chapter 8 [9:59]
9. Chapter 9 [10:33]
10. Chapter 10 [4:43]
11. Chapter 11 [5:09]
12. Chapter 12 [8:41]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- The Spiral Staircase
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   Scene Selections
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   English Subtitles
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A terrific thriller

    I know it's an older thriller, but it really is a good movie. I thought Dorothy McGuire was so good in this, especially since she wasn't able to speak due to a great shock early in her life. Her expressions and mannerisms speak volumes. I believe this is a great addition to any movie library. I was very sad that, when Dorothy McGuire died in 2002, the Academy of Arts and Sciences, at the time of the Oscars, made no mention of her name and passing. I was even more upset when I found out they didn't forget, they just didn't have "enough time to make mention of it.." That is sad. They mentioned other stars whose trajectory of films was not nearly as long as hers...There are some of us who do remember her foundly...

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A giallo prototype

    This film seems decades ahead of its time. It features many of the tropes and themes that later thriller directors like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and John Carpenter would popularize in the 70s. Wonderful performances all around, particularly from horror vets Elsa Lancaster (the Bride of Frankenstein) and Kent Morris (Cat People). A great, if little seen, film.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Spiral Staircase

    If you like great film noire shadows, this is a classic.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews