Stranger on the Third Floor - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Stranger on the Third Floor Reviews

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½ January 4, 2019
Not a great movie by normal standards, but deserves a ratings bump for the place it has in noir history. The elements that earn it the distinction of being considered the first noir are definitely there and a pleasure to watch. Peter Lorre is the other highlight of the flick, to be sure. All in all, an enjoyable and worthy watch.
December 1, 2018
Acting a little hokey, but well done for its time period.
½ June 30, 2018
Decent murder turned suspense caper where McGuire is a reporter who is the witness against an alleged murderer. Yet, as can be predicted, it may not have been and of course there is another murder and a more nefarious suspect - Lorre. Very pedestrian with an extend dream sequence. Resolves itself in the usual pat manner. Just ok.
½ March 18, 2018
Not quite perfect, but it still has its unique elements that put it above others. The dream sequence is one of those. Lorre's teeth were something too!
March 11, 2018
Character actors Cook Jr, Halton, & our hero McGuire really fill out this film admirably. Tallichet also seems to hit her marks and deliver charming nuances for her role. The cinematography & editing certainly seem to deliver a product the close to what any director should be happy with.

While this is sometimes touted as the first Film Noir, I would say this is a progenitor of the genre. The streets are dim echoes of fritz Lang's M (which also starred Lorre) in which an all night search miraculously uncovers a psychotic - who doesn't scream "Hilfe!" in this film. And a few scenes show a strong influence of German Expressionist cinema - not quite the archetypal American Noir yet. While Lorre does an excellent job once more, it's a shame he took so long to break out of this stereotype. A shame he was ever locked into a stereotype as Lorre was a great character actor who could do everything... except dance.
½ February 7, 2018
Is this the first film noir? Some think so -- but of course, the genre has no real beginning nor end and was never more than a loose association defined by the common elements. Certainly, many of the elements are here, including low key (high contrast) lighting, voice-over narration, a horrifying dream sequence, a man or two poked by the fickle finger of fate, and the presence of Elisha Cook, Jr. and Peter Lorre (both of whom also appeared in another film also identified as a harbinger of the genre, The Maltese Falcon, 1941). Here, Lorre is given top billing (as a result of his starring role in the Mr Moto series), but he has only a few scenes as the titular stranger who ultimately becomes a suspect for the two murders that reporter Mike Ward (played by John McGuire) gets entangled with. But there is quite a lot of action before we ever meet Lorre: Ward is the star witness at a murder trial but he and his girlfriend come to have doubts about whether the poor shmuck who was convicted (yes, Elisha Cook, Jr.) really did it. The style (by cinematographer Nicolas Musuraca) is influenced by the German Expressionist movement (though not to the level of Caligari) and Ward seems genuinely haunted (bring on the dream sequence). But it is all over and done with in about an hour and the ending is unexpectedly upbeat. The best noirs were yet to come!
½ May 18, 2016
Classic example of a psychological noir, really dated but with magnificent cinematography.
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.
June 4, 2014
Ok ... nice dream scenes
November 17, 2013
While the movie as a whole is ordinary, the cinematography is excellent and the dream sequence impressive.
July 9, 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.
June 3, 2013
The only thing standing in the way of a "miscarriage of justice" (a down-and-out, unhandsome young man being executed for a murder he didn't commit) is the bad/guilty conscience/luck of a good-looking, upwardly-mobile, young professional (cum-amateur detective) couple. (I don't know if this film originates the formula, but it certainly expresses it concisely/patly.) A liberal film, then, with a pathetic "solution" to a real problem.
April 14, 2013
'Stranger on the Third Floor' probably wouldn't be remembered outside of its recognition as the first film noir, but on its own it is a stylishly entertaining little B-film nightmare with an outstandingly creepy appearance by Peter Lorre. Clocking in at just over an hour, the picture doesn't overstay its welcome; if anything, the story could have used a little more fleshing out in order to bring its themes of guilt and responsibility to a more palpable level. John McGuire plays Mike Ward, a newspaper reporter who sends a man to death row in order to knock out a big headline and earn a promotion. He seems certain at first, but as the days tick on he begins to wonder if he has framed the wrong man, and he decides to do a little investigation on his own in order to set his conscience at ease. Margaret Tallichet plays Ward's grilfriend, a source of purity and justice who soon becomes the precious stakes in the middle of Ward's case and the killer. There isn't really anything new in this film that wasn't done brilliantly before- by Fritz Lang in his films of the thirties- but this RKO milestone should not be dismissed. It's meeting of aesthetic expressionism and hard-boiled American crime story was revolutionary in Hollywood, and its psychological suggestions probed at a darkness just beneath the surface of a country on the edge of war.
Super Reviewer
½ January 22, 2013
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
November 4, 2012
A powerful film noir masterpiece!
November 1, 2012
lorre delivers the goods here
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