Stranger on the Third Floor Reviews
"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.
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.
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.