The Spiral Staircase
I hadn't seen this classic for around 20 years, and only then on TV, so
it was good to see it on the big screen. Stunningly directed by Robert
Siodmak, with superbly creepy music by Roy Webb, and murky, shadowy,
Gothic cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca, this film still frightens
the daylights out of you.
The producer at RKO for this 1946 classic was Dore Schary, who later
headed up MGM. Robert Siodmak, a German director steeped in the shadows
and angles of German expressionism brought his considerable skill to
this old-dark-house-style thriller. Schary and Musuraca love the
shadows so much that even in the final scene, when the tension is over,
the telephone is duplicated in a huge misshapen shadow.
Dorothy McGuire gives a lovely, sensitive performance as the mute
servant. Her final scenes are quite heartbreaking. Ethel Barrymore
stands out as Mrs Warren. She brings a certain sense of strength
mingled with mystery, so she keeps you guessing til the end. Elsa
Lanchester does a wonderful turn as a tippling servant. And Myrna Dell
turns up again in a bit part as a victim.
The way the director and the cinematographer photograph the three
staircases in the house provide endless delights for the eye. But the
best, and most horrific, is that of the killer's eye. That one haunts
you long after the film has ended.