The Stranger on the Third Floor

( 2 )

Overview

Though he doesn't speak his first line of dialogue until the film's final ten minutes, Peter Lorre spiritually dominates the fascinating RKO melodrama Stranger on the Third Floor. The plotline is carried by John McGuire, playing Ward, a newspaper reporter whose courtroom testimony sends the hapless Briggs Elisha Cook Jr. to the death house. Ward is certain that he saw Briggs leaving the scene of a murder, but as the days pass, he is tortured by guilt and doubt -- especially during the film's surrealistic knockout...
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Overview

Though he doesn't speak his first line of dialogue until the film's final ten minutes, Peter Lorre spiritually dominates the fascinating RKO melodrama Stranger on the Third Floor. The plotline is carried by John McGuire, playing Ward, a newspaper reporter whose courtroom testimony sends the hapless Briggs Elisha Cook Jr. to the death house. Ward is certain that he saw Briggs leaving the scene of a murder, but as the days pass, he is tortured by guilt and doubt -- especially during the film's surrealistic knockout of a nightmare sequence. When another murder is committed, Ward finds himself as much a victim of circumstantial evidence as the unfortunate Briggs. The reporter's girlfriend Margaret Tallichet tries to clear Ward....and that's when she first makes the acquaintance of Lorre, who is heard ordering a pound of raw meat! Stranger on the Third Floor was a "film noir" long prior to the genesis of that cinematic movement. Long ignored or trivialized by film historians, this 7-reel quickie has in recent years graduated to classic status.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Often though debatably classified as the first true film noir, The Stranger on the Third Floor is an uneven but fascinating example of that fascinating genre. Boris Ingster, in his directing debut, makes quite an impression, and one wishes he had directed more movies subsequently. Very obviously a B-movie -- a great deal of the picture is comprised of street scenes, due to budgetary restrictions that limited the number of sets that could be used -- Stranger's cheapness doesn't prevent it from being inventive and, the ending aside, quite effective. Ingster and writer Frank Partos do an excellent job of creating a film which creates a heightened reality and which changes tone dramatically. Indeed, at the beginning Stranger has a lightheartedness which is rather off-putting; a man is on trial for his life, but he seems to be the only person other than the girlfriend of the star witness who realizes the seriousness of what is going on. That lighthearted tone shifts dramatically as the film progresses, becoming increasingly dark and horrific. Ingster doesn't achieve these shifts seamlessly, and there are some who will find the exaggerated effects he uses distracting, but on the whole, his work here is quite impressive. The nightmare sequence is especially well done, giving cinematographer Nick Musuraca a chance to really let loose. Musuraca's work is quite good throughout, however. Stranger also features a memorable psychotic turn from Peter Lorre and good supporting work from Elisha Cook Jr. Where the film falls seriously down is in the casting of its lead. Neither John McGuire nor Margaret Tallichet are better than adequate, when considerably more is demanded. The aforementioned weak ending is also a detriment, as is a general hastiness and some sloppiness in the storytelling. Still, if it falls short of being a classic, The Stranger on the Third Floor is well worth watching to see noir in its early infant stages.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/21/2010
  • UPC: 883316270905
  • Original Release: 1940
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Remastered / B&W / Pan & Scan
  • Time: 1:04:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 38,916

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Peter Lorre Stranger
John McGuire Mike Ward
Margaret Tallichet Jane
Charles Waldron District Attorney
Elisha Cook Jr. Joe Briggs
Charles Halton Meng
Ethel Griffies Mrs. Kane
Cliff Clark Martin
Oscar O'Shea Judge
Alec Craig Defense attorney
Otto Hoffman Police surgeon
Bobby Barber Italian grocer
Lee Bonnell
Harry C. Bradley Court Clerk
Lynton Brent Cabdriver
Jack Cheatham Detective
Ray Cooke Drug Store Attendant
Robert Dudley Postman
William Edmunds Gardener
James Farley Policeman
Betty Farrington Stout Woman
Greta Granstedt Housekeeper
Frank Hammond
Dell Henderson Detective
Max Hoffman Jr.
Gladden James Reporter
Charles Judels Nick
Jane Keckley Landlady
Don Kelly Policeman
Donald Kerr
Paul McVey Lt. Jones
Frank O'Connor Policeman
Broderick O'Farrell Minister
Bud Osborne Bartender
Emory Parnell Detective
Lee Phelps Cabdriver
Henry Roquemore Mr. McLean
Ralph Sanford Truck driver
Herb Vigran Reporter
Bessie Wade Charwoman
Robert Weldon Reporter
Frank Yaconelli Jack
Technical Credits
Boris Ingster Director
Lee Marcus Producer
Harry Marker Editor
Nick Musuraca Cinematographer
Frank Partos Screenwriter
Van Nest Polglase Art Director
Renie Costumes/Costume Designer
Darrell Silvera Set Decoration/Design
Vernon Walker Special Effects
Roy Webb Score Composer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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