Saturday 27 August 2011

The Spiral Staircase [1946]

Robert Siodmak made two of the greatest film noirs of all time, viz. The Killers and Criss Cross. He directed a few more commendable noirs too, making him a legend in this school of filmmaking. The Spiral Staircase, though not in the same league as the above two noir icons, nonetheless remains a taut and effective old-fashioned gothic thriller. A serial-killer is on the prowl in a small American town, and the only kinds of people that he is targeting are women with some physical handicap or other. Helen is a sweet-looking and mild-mannered girl, and lives in the house of a wealthy family comprising of a series of mysterious characters. Helen, unfortunately is mute as a result of a childhood trauma, and thus, as expected, becomes the latest target of the vicious killer. The villain’s identity is revealed in the end, but, like all classic “who is the mysterious killer?” films, not before a series of cat-and-mouse moments ensure the viewer’s suspicion keeps shifting from one character to the other like a game of musical chair. The film comprises of reasonably good performances by the cast and fine indoor shooting, with the tension-buildup nicely brought about. The script does at times border on the cheesy and melodramatic and the film has its share of clichés (perhaps because it was a studio-bound film intended to capture a wide audience base), the final product, despite its few flaws, does manage to stand on its own as a smart and interesting film.

Director: Robert Siodmak
Genre: Thriller/Film Noir/Mystery
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

I'm a huge fan of this one Shubhajit, and consider it one of Siodmak's greatest films. Great cinematography, atmosphere (especially during the storm) and eccentric performance by Ethel Barrymore as the matriarch. Sure we know who the killer is early on, but it makes the film no less effective. Great review.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam for sharing your love and enthusiasm for this movie. This is my 3rd tryst with Siodmak's filmography after The Killers & Criss-Cross. I would therefore place it in the 3rd place in terms of my favourite Siodmak films, but that is not a bad thing at all in my opinion given the 2 exceptional movies that I personally place higher than this one.