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.