Rent The Spiral Staircase (1945)

3.7 of 5 from 82 ratings
1h 21min
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Helen Capel is a beautiful young girl who has not uttered a word since childhood. She works as a servant for old, ailing Mrs Warren in the Warren family mansion. When a sinister spate of murders involving 'women with afflictions' hits the neighbourhood, Helen believes she's the next victim. One night, a storm breaks and Helen realises the killer is in the house with her. Unable to scream for help, what can she do to save herself? And just who is the psychotic killer?
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Mel Dinelli, Ethel Lina White
Prism Leisure
Drama, Thrillers
Release Date:
Run Time:
81 minutes
English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.33:1 / 4:3
B & W
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Reviews (1) of The Spiral Staircase

Period Horror. - The Spiral Staircase review by Steve

Spoiler Alert

This is an expressionist horror about a serial killer who is strangling women with physical infirmities. Hitchcock himself must have been impressed by the voyeuristic theme suggested by the huge closeups of the killer's eye observing his victims. The murderer ritualistically pulling on his leather gloves before asphyxiating his victims is a  motif we often see again in seventies Italian giallos.

The story is set in New England in the 1910s. The film opens in a cinema with a silent melodrama showing a heroine in peril, anticipating the terror of Helen (Dorothy McGuire), a mute servant in a gothic house of shadows. When she closes the heavy door of the old, dark mansion it becomes evident that rather than barring the killer's entrance, she has locked him inside.

The madman's obsession is that he must rid the world of people with disabilities. There is a brilliant point of view shot through his eyes of Helen without a mouth which reveals his insanity in an instant. Surely the intension was to critique the cult of eugenics, fashionable in the Edwardian era, which had nourished Nazi ideology.

This is film noir, visually rich in gothic atmosphere and suspense. There is a long, showstopping electrical storm! McGuire is the opposite of the old horror scream-queen. She tries to shout for help, but... nothing is heard. It's easy to guess the murderer, and Ethel Barrymore is rather too annoying as the infirm, irascible matriarch but Elsa Lanchester provides comic relief as reliably as ever and McGuire suffers in silence magnificently.

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