Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Spiral Staircase (1945)

Someone is murdering women with afflictions, and hot mute Helen is cautioned to stay inside the spooky mansion where she tends to a crazy old invalid. Soon, the audience learns that the serial killer may be inside. Quickly this becomes a whodunnit with a small number of suspects.

I can’t say enough of Elsa Lanchester. She had a fairly small character role and was delightful. She makes me what to take up drinking brandy. Also here, as the crazy old invalid, is Barrymore sister Ethel. Not a famous as brothers John and Lionel, but she outlived them and worked right up to the end. Aging leading man George Brent was showing his age and longtime readers will remember Kent Smith as Doctor Hunky love-interest from such works as Cat People and to a lesser extent Curse of the Cat People.

Dorothy McGuire shined as the pretty mute. Did some great face acting, as they would say. She used her “I suspect him” face when looking at a suspect that she suspects with great effect. A forty year old Joan Crawford wanted the role but I think we’re better off that she didn’t get it.

Not a lot to say about this one. Spooky mansion, questionable characters, murderer on the loose, we’ve seen these tropes before. The Spiral Staircase wasn’t an amazing mystery, but it did keep you guessing and the reveal didn’t cheat. The overall film making was good as was the acting for the most part (Kent Smith notwithstanding). I would have preferred one or two more legitimate suspects, and it was a little melodramatic at times, but it all worked in the end. AMRU 3.

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