Best of… Series – 1945 – The Spiral Staircase

This review contains spoilers throughout.

The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, 1945)

Okay, I don’t know whether this is really really good, or really really average. To support my average claim this film has a mess of a plot with cheap red herrings that just don’t make sense in the end. Some of my favorite moments are almost for nought when after all is revealed and you have a chance to think back on them. And though the plot was messy, it was also completely obvious. Of course, the murderer is the only character they don’t try to make us think it is.

But then, on the other hand, and why I’m wondering if this is a flawed masterpiece, is the crazy and interesting group of people living and working in this house. They create a sort of weird family with extremely interesting dynamics. Despite the film’s mystery plot, much time is spent focusing on their interactions, playful nuances, and flawed behavior. What I found most interesting was Helen’s nightmare-ish vision of her wedding. In this scene the focus is on her inability to speak, but before this she is seen being walked down the aisle by the Professor – the murderer – who she doesn’t know is trying to kill her, and who she eventually watches die. As the film concludes, and she is weeping by the phone, I have to assume one of the emotions racing through her is the loss of a father figure – one she just learned wanted her dead because of her slight imperfection. Haunting.

Of course, I can’t conclude this without mentioning the jaw-dropping cinematography and frighteningly eerie sets and prop placement – so fantastic. I think I’m leaning towards flawed masterpiece with this one.  8.75/10

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