Spiral Staircase (1946)

Spiral Staircase (1946)

Toronto Film Society presented The Spiral Staircase (1945) on Monday, April 17, 1978 in a double bill with Goodbye, Mr. Chips as part of the Season 30 Monday Evening Film Buff Series, Programme 9.

Toronto Film Society presented The Spiral Staircase (1945) on Monday, October 26, 2015 in a double bill with Double Door as part of the Season 68 Monday Evening Film Buff Series, Programme 2.

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures.  Producer: Dore Schary:  Director: Robert Siodmak.  Writers: Mel Dinelli (screenplay), Ethel Lina White (novel Some Must Watch).  Photography: Nicholas Musuraca.  Film Editors: Harry Marker and Harry Gerstad.  Special Effects: Vernon Walker.  Art Direction: Albert S. D’Agostino and Jack Okey.  Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera.  Musical Score: Roy Webb.  Musical Director: Constantin Bakaleinikoff.  Assistant Director: Harry Scott.  Sound Recording: John L. Cass.

Cast:  Dorothy McGuire (Helen Capel), George Brent (Professor Albert Warren), Ethel Barrymore (Mrs. Warren), Kent Smith (Dr. Parry), Rhonda Fleming (Blanche), Gordon Oliver (Steven Warren), Elsa Lanchester (Emma Oates), Rhys Williams (Oates), Sara Allgood (Nurse Barker), James Bell (Constble) Charles Wagenheim (Desk Clerk), Ellen Corby (Neighbor), Richard Tyler (Freddie), Erville Alderson (Dr. Harvey).

Spiral Staircase (1946)

As a mute serving girl in a sinister household, where family hatreds are deep and searing, Miss McGuire gives a remarkable lucid performance in pantomime.  Her characterization of one who senses a dread shadow hovering over her but is incapable of communicating her fears, is restrained and effectively pathetic.  In this day of much talk on the screen few actresses would dare to undertake a role which only permitted six words of speech.  Miss McGuire is to be heartily commended for her adventurousness and a high degree of resourcefulness with which she has tackled the demanding and little used art of pantomime.”

In relating this arresting tale about a psychopathic killer who terrorizes a New England town, circa 1906, director Siodmak has literally put the evil eye on the victims.  For he has used his camera to give the spectator a close up of the murderer’s baleful eyes as they strike terror into his helpless victims, who, by the way, all are pretty, young girls.  Whether The Spiral Staircase is a faithful translation of Ethel Lina White’s novel, “Some Must Watch”, we are not in a position to say, but we do know that the film is likely to scare the daylights out of most of its audiences.

New York Times by Thomas M. Pryor, February 7, 1946

Notes compiled by Peter Poles

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