The Spiral Staircase - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Spiral Staircase Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ March 30, 2012
Noticeably less eventful than one might expect, but by no means boring, with an unsurprising ending. The cinematography, however, is almost to die for.
Super Reviewer
February 9, 2011
Excellent chiller with an outstanding Dorothy McGuire in the lead. Fantastically moody settings and a real sense of dread permeates the proceedings under Siodmak's solid direction. It's the women in the cast who stand out here, aside from McGuire there's a young and very beautiful Rhonda Fleming, a quietly iunderstated but still scenery chewing Ethel Barrymore, and the humourous duo of Elsa Lanchester and Sara Allgood. All the men are rather stolid but it doesn't detract much from this superior and classy fright flick.
Super Reviewer
January 17, 2009
An atmospheric whodunit that has very little to do with a spiral staircase.

Someone is knocking off women with 'imperfections'. A woman with a scar on her face, a 'simple minded thing', a cripple... and now, someone is trying to kill Helen (Dorothy McGuire), the gorgeous mute servant of rich old Miss Warren (Ethel Barrymore). Good luck trying to figure this one out - there is a plethora of suspects, and no butler!
Super Reviewer
½ January 8, 2008
good creepy thriller in a spooky old mansion
June 8, 2012
Excellent serial killer thriller set in an old dark mansion. Many current slashers have borrowed from this movie. Loved Elsa Lanchester as Ms Oats.
January 7, 2012
The Spiral Staircase is an effective, classic thriller with perfect atmosphere. The film maintains a brisk pace up until the final moments when the mysterious killer is revealed. The strength of The Spiral Staircase lies in its simplicity. There are no convoluted twists or reveals, just straight-forward, efficient storytelling.
½ July 6, 2011
Caught this enjoyable film on TCM last night and I was amazed at the style and grace with which they used to produce such entertaining little shockers. "The Spiral Staircase" (1946) is a whodunit... an old dark house movie, and it's full of delicious delights. A young girl (Dorothy McGuire) made mute by past trauma, works at a large country estate where a bed-ridden matron (the superb Ethel Barrymore) rules over a household of borderline dysfunctionals. Also on hand, a small band of domestics played by wonderful, mostly British, character actors, among them the Bride of Frankenstein herself, Elsa Lanchester as the brandy-sipping cook.

Well wouldn't you know it, there have been a series of murders in town lately of young girls with physical or psychological defect, and as we learn early on through subjective tracking, the killer has followed our young mute heroine to the country estate where she works. There's a horrific storm rolling in. Coming and going guests include a constable with dire warnings, not one but two country doctors (one of whom loves our heroine), a large and lazy English bulldog, and a dark figure lurking in the shadows. In closeups of him we see only a sinister eye. Add a few screams and bumps in the night, and you have a recipe for real excitement. The films of this period liked to move things along quickly, and soon there's a body in the cellar, snuffed out candles, mysteriously opened windows, thunder and lightning, wind and rain. "You must leave this house tonight," our heroine is told, but will she get out in time? Perhaps the answer lies at the foot of the shadowy spiral staircase.

Great atmosphere, effective suspense, accomplished acting by all, and the masterful direction of Robert Siodmak make this small classic the one to see on "a dark and stormy night."
½ June 29, 2010
Dorothy McGuire plays a mute housemaid who is being hunted by a serial murderer targeting victims with physical and mental disabilities. Tame by today's standard, this classic tale of suspense and murder would not satisfy the bloodthirsty appetite of today's thriller audiences but it is definitely a good story and for fans of old classic movies, it is a good watch. It has an air of Hitchcock with its dark shadowy feel and eerie dramatic music.

If you liked Pyscho, then give this a watch.
February 13, 2010
Its ok ??? I Diddnt think it was all that great ??
Ive seen Better spooky Black and whites.. She is soo pretty You know she is going to say something any minute .. This woman cant talk And Is Being Persued By a savedge Killer..
Who Mainly only kills wimen with a phisical flaw?? And cant fight back.. Kind of like The lion Waiting to pounce On The weak .. Is Cute VINTAGE Horror *
½ July 9, 2009
Unfortunately, The Spiral Staircase is very disappointing. Everything about it sounded so excellent and suspenseful. I was so excited to see it. Maybe my expectations got the best of me? This review may make it seem that I hated it, which is definitely not the case. I actually really liked this, but I felt that it could have been so much more. The build up took practically an hour, which would have been fine if it were a longer movie. But since it was so short it left a very short climax and suspense part. So I ended up feeling like it ended too quickly.
½ June 22, 2009
I was hoping for a bit more of a Hitchcockian type feel. It was ok, for a movie of this period. Mean old lady, sweet and sensitive heroine who has to deal with her demons, dirty and randy male relative and a fatherly figure. The typical, but not really all that suspenseful, esp with all the foreshadowing they tend to do in these older movies.
½ March 25, 2009
Over 30 reviews behind! This time, I'm blaming Facebook and all it's addictive applications. So the reviews will be short and sometimes sweet, but I'm going to try to catch up a bit today.

[b]Billy Liar[/b] was the last of the flimspotting Angry Young Men marathon. A young man with dreams of becoming a screenwriter fantasizes his way through a day of his humdrum existence. Again, though I can respect the quality of the filmmaking, I just did not understand the character motivations. I'm starting to think it's because we don't really have a class system in America and so I can't really grasp the pain of the working class in Britain.

Sean Penn ("All the King's Men") totally deserved the Oscar for his turn in [b]Milk[/b]. He transforms into Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to hold elected office. The film doesn't show Milk's entire life, but begins when he moves to San Francisco. And though it focuses on the politics, it's also a bit of a love story, showing how Milk's relationships were affected by his running for office. Very well done film. Moving with lots of food for thought.

[b]The Spiral Staircase[/b] is a tense little thriller that relies more on shadows and suspense than jump-out scares. The plot involves a series of murders in which all of the victims have been handicapped in some way. The heroine has lost her voice and we watch her navigate a dark, scary house unable to call for help as the murderer stalks her.

Harrison Ford ("Crossing Over") really is the epitome of action star. In [b]Clear and Present Danger[/b], he plays CIA agent Jack Ryan who must uncover a plot that goes all the way to the presidency. And though much of the time Ford is embroiled in office politics, he makes it look tense. And then it's time to kick butt and he's good at that too. Some of the computer stuff is dated and seems silly now, but for the most part, the film holds up.

I remember really liking[b] Wolf[/b] when I saw it upon it's initial release. It's still entertaining, but now dated. Jack Nicholson ("The Bucket List"), who looks the part and I think is the inspiration for Wolverine's make-up in X-Men, stars as an aging editor who's bitten by a wolf and then begins to change. Along the way, he bites a very smarmy James Spader ("Shadow of Fear") and they both inappropriately sniff Michelle Pfeiffer ("Stardust").
February 1, 2009
Mind-numbingly stupid. I refuse to justify this film with a review. Comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock are ludicrous.
½ July 16, 2008
This was definitely one of those "DON'T GO DOWN THERE, STUPID!" "TURN AROUND HE'S RIGHT THERE!" type of murder movies and it was amazing. Also, I'm completely obsessed with the lighting.
May 17, 2008
Robert Siodmak influenced a lot of filmmakers, from Tarkovsky to Melville. Even if he didn't invent film noir by himself, he definitely took it further. This production is one of his older efforts and is more gothic and whodunit-esque than film noir (spooky home, dark interiors, stock characters, nailbiting finish), but you can still his genius that was to be fully represented in 'The Killers' (of the same year).
March 27, 2008
I've seen it twice, and I think that the scriptwriter thought the audience was stupid. So many times they allude to the upcoming events. But alas, it is a very well made movie with very good acting. Good use of music too. Many good camera angles to intensify the mood.
October 11, 2006

Not quite the Hitchcockian thriller I thought it would be The Spiral Staircase reminded me more of Gaslight and other female-empowering thrillers with lots of cliches and cheese, particularly towards the end. Definitely an enjoyable experience but it's not a film I'd be at all eager to repeat.
October 25, 2015
A great film without any exaggeration All actors and actress in this great film acted very well, the story itself is very exciting, music, direction, you can say that from first moment in the film you feel that you are in front of great work. Special thanks to Dorothy McGuire as her role was very natural and expressed very well feelings of being mute and helpless she made tears come to my eyes at the end of the film.
½ May 27, 2015
A melodramatic but effective thriller that establishes great atmosphere with its use of mood lighting and music.
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