Stranger on the Third Floor - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Stranger on the Third Floor Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ August 13, 2008
so it's a bit contrived and the lead actress is quite bad but this highly stylized film is considered the first noir with good reason: stunning art direction, especially the remarkable dream sequence, and great expressionist cinematography by nicolas musuraca. makes a powerful anti-death penalty statement as well
Super Reviewer
January 8, 2008
A good little B-movie about a journalist whose eyewitness testimony convicts a potentially innocent man of murder. The journalist himself then becomes a victim of circumstantial evidence after his despised neighbour is murdered. The plot is contrived and overuses both flashback and voice-over, but there's an excellent expressionist dream sequence in the middle. John McGuire makes a dull hero but Peter Lorre walks away with the movie with his 10 minute contribution.
Super Reviewer
December 1, 2007
In some circles, the first film noir movie. The story is nothing special as Maguire plays a reporter who made the big time because of a mistaken identity murder which he later becomes involved in. There are some greatly-lit scenes which became a staple in film noir, but that dream sequence is worth it alone. Peter Lorre is as freakish as ever and Elisha Cook, jr. plays the classic sap perfectly. The story's a little uneven, but if you're a film noir fan Stranger on the Third Floor is a must.
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2010
In "Stranger on the Third Floor," Michael Ward(John McGuire), a reporter, is the chief witness for the prosection in the murder trial of Joe Briggs(Elisha Cook Jr.), a drifter. During the trial, Michael's fiancee Jane(Margaret Tallichet) comes by to lend moral support. After Briggs is convicted of first degree murder and is likely to be sentenced to death, Michael starts to have second thoughts, especially after this strange dude(Peter Lorre) puts in an appearance.

"Stranger on the Third Floor" is a dark little number with a very cool nightmare sequence. The movie is about how often appearances can be deceiving while taking a shot at the strict moral code of the time and this is an important lesson for Michael if he is to be a success at his chosen profession. However, the movie wraps a little too neatly and quickly, as more could have been done with the premise.
June 16, 2013
A pretty good "B" movie starring John McGuire as a reporter who begins to doubt whether the testimony he gave convicted an innocent man of murder. He later observes a stranger, played by Peter Lorre, leaving his neighbor's apartment - hence the film's title - and after experiencing a strange dream sequence, discovers the neighbor dead in a fashion similar to the first murder. He is falsely accused of committing the crime when he reports it to the police.

This film introduces most of the elements of the film noir genre including the an inner city street setting (mostly at night), the use of light and shadows, diagonal lines and camera angles, voiceovers and flashbacks, a dream sequence, winding staircases, and a relatable wrongly accused man that create a spellbinding crime thriller.

Although he doesn't speak a line until more than one hour into the film, Peter Lorre is his typical creepy self and provides the most memorable acting in the film.

This film makes a mockery of the criminal justice system with a serio-comic bent, which is a departure from most film noir stories; specifically shots of he judge and jury sleeping during the trial, the introduction of prior convictions into evidence, and the defendant taking the stand in his defense.
½ October 30, 2011
Hailed as the first "true" film noir, Stranger on the Third Floor contains many of the familiar elements of the noir style (atmospheric lighting, morally twisted protagonists, crime) but it still retains elements of earlier, lighter Hollywood fare, refusing to let its main character succumb to some darker aspects of his personality, and focusing less on the criminal side of the story than on the sense of guilt McGuire feels after helping convict a potentially innocent cabbie for murder.

The highlights here are a fantastic dream sequence, where the most obvious noir elements shine through (brilliantly atmospheric lighting as well as some truly frightening imagery), and Peter Lorre's delightfully deranged performance as the titular Stranger. It's kind of a shame that McGuire is front and center, since Lorre was one of the great character actors and his performance here begs for more screen time. Still, Stranger on the Third Floor is a lot of fun, showing the early signs of what would become known as film noir.
April 23, 2010
In transit between expressionism and noir (as another reviewer says), but it's a pretty hokey melodrama. Great ending and Peter Lorre cameo.
½ January 17, 2010
This was dismissed in 1940, and fortunately is no longer that way. Awesome pace and cinematography, fine performances from all, great lighting and taut direction. Good score and very engrossing.
January 17, 2010
7.5/10. This was dismissed in 1940, and fortunately is no longer that way. Awesome pace and cinematography, fine performances from all, great lighting and taut direction. Good score and very engrossing.
September 23, 2009
A great film with wonderful cinematography and an interesting plot, even if it is threatened by a moderate amount of over-the-top acting.
May 24, 2009
This film treasure may well be the "missing link" or "bridge" between German Expressionist cinema and "film noir". The John McGuire character sports the pasty, clammy face of many an expressionist male lead. Elisha Cook's portrayal as the wrongly-convicted murder suspect is a quintessionally-noir plot device. The sleepy-eyed Peter Lorre, a veteran of both "noir" and "expressionist" styles haunts the film as an amblyn ambassador of both styles. But it is the psycholdelic dream sequences, similar in-part to the carnival montage in Orson Welles, "The Lady from Shanghai" that cement the two styles within this obscure film.
½ August 21, 2008
One of the first noir films, and Peter Lorre is brilliantly creepy as usual. Still, since he's only in the film for a few minutes, it's pretty slow goings for the most part.
August 14, 2008
Neglected RKO B-movie notable for being an early, textbook example of film noir. Great cinematography with nod to German Expressionism, tilted camera angles, surreal dream sequence and Peter Lorre as a charmingly loopy lunatic on the loose from the looney bin. And whatever happened to the beautiful female lead, Margaret Tallichet (Mrs. William Wyler)? What a face!
November 1, 2007
Starts out as a typical early fantasy and enters a dark, noir-ish middle with some arresting cinematography. The silent film influence shows and sometimes feels a little hollow.
½ June 13, 2007
Wonderful atmosphere with an incredible dream sequence that is obviously influence by German Expressionism. The plot is rather straight forward but is executed effectively as we get into the mind of the lead character (literally and figuratively) as he goes over the edge and begins to doubt his sanity - Is Peter Lorre the murderer or is he a figment of McGuire's mind? Stark lightening and twisting locales all reflect the inner turmoil of the lead character. This is indeed a very good and solid noir!
July 19, 2015
Peter Lorre at his creepiest
June 23, 2015
Stranger on a Train is an excellent film. It is about an aspiring reporter who is the key witness at the murder trial of a young man. Peter Lorre and John McGuire give incredible performances. The script is well written. Boris Ingster did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed watching this motion picture because of the drama and mystery. Stranger on the Third Floor is a must see.
June 6, 2015
Stylish and tight little crime thriller where the testimony from a reporter, John McGuire, puts away Elisha Cook Jr. but the reporter second guesses whether Cook is really innocent and he and his girlfriend discover the real killer is the wonderfully creepy Peter Lorre. The potboiler elements of the story aren't that much of a standout, but Lorre's performance makes this film an absolute must see. He's not the haunted child killer he played in "M" but is more of a mentally ill man who doesn't really know what he's doing. The other standout for the film is the stylish direction by Boris Ingster, who's a director who's never really been on my radar, but after looking at his IMDB page, he only ever directed three films and spent most of his career writing and producing low budget film and as a series producer on "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Ingster is not Wells or Lang, but he did provide the film some nice noir slashes of shadow and light. However, I may be giving credit to Ingster when it may be due director of photography Nicholas Musuraca , who also photographed the incredibly stylish "Out of the Past" and "Cat People." Regardless, the film looks great and Lorre is terrific, even if he isn't in the film all that much.
November 3, 2014
Often considered the first 'Film Noir' this 65 minute B movie routinely eclipses its formulaic plot and timid finale with a striking expressionist style. Its use of shadows and lighting conjures memories of Dr Caligari while its deeply cynical, paranoid tone grounds the film in a stark reality of normalised injustice. A surreal dream sequence remains impressive 75 years later and Peter Lorre's small role is memorable and unnerving.
½ September 13, 2014
This weird, pulpy little movie is sometimes considered the first film noir, and I love it. Its story is straightforward and melodramatic, but memorable, and done with considerable style, especially for a lower-budget movie. There are no fewer than three, maybe four flashbacks, as well as a highly stylized dream sequence straight out of German Expressionism. There's paranoia, murder, dramatic court scenes, sexual frustration, and Peter Lorre in full creep mode. What else could you want? It's great. I highly recommend it.
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