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The Spiral Staircase

This is a smooth production of an obvious, though suspenseful murder thriller, ably acted and directed. Mood and pace are well set, and story grips throughout.

With:
Dorothy McGuire George Brent Ethel Barrymore Kent Smith Rhonda Fleming Elsa Lanchester

This is a smooth production of an obvious, though suspenseful murder thriller, ably acted and directed. Mood and pace are well set, and story grips throughout.

Mel Dinelli has done a tight, authentic-sounding script of a mass-murder story [based on Ethel Lina White’s novel, Some Must Watch] set in a small New England town of 1906. Director Robert Siodmak has retained a feeling for terror throughout the film by smart photography, camera angles and sudden shifts of camera emphasis, abetted in this job by a choice performance of his cast. Film lacks the leaven of a little humor, but interest never wanes.

Dorothy McGuire’s stature as actress is increased by her performance as a maidservant bereft of speech by a shock since childhood, and Ethel Barrymore’s list of pic-portraits will get another gold-framer from her role of bedridden wealthy eccentric. McGuire’s portrayal of a tongue-tied girl in love; the pathos of her dream wedding-scene; her terror when pursued by the murderer – are all etched sharply for unforgettable moments. Barrymore’s awareness from her bedchamber of the insanity and murder going on about her is also acutely set, to give distinction to her part.

1946: Nomination: Best Supp. Actress (Ethel Barrymore)

The Spiral Staircase

Production: RKO. Director Robert Siodmak; Producer Dore Schary; Screenplay Mel Dinelli; Camera Nicholas Musuraca; Editor Harry Marker, Harry Gerstad; Music Roy Webb; Art Director Albert S. D'Agostino, Jack Okey

Crew: (B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1946. Running time: 83 MIN.

With: Dorothy McGuire George Brent Ethel Barrymore Kent Smith Rhonda Fleming Elsa Lanchester

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