Spiral Staircase, The (1946)

The Spiral Staircase (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak.

A serial killer is preying upon disabled women. During a long dark and stormy night in the big old house we become concerned for mute Dorothy McGuire, still suffering from childhood trauma. Strangely enough, everyone worries about her: don't trust anyone, they say. And get out of that house.

The setup reminds me of a memorable episode of the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "An Unlocked Window" with Dana Wynter. In fact, Ethel Lina White, the writer of this film is also credited for the TV episode, for the same story or another, I do not know.

The first and last acts are good. The middle section goes slack; we're probably supposed to examine each character and suspect everyone in turn of being the psycho-killer. Nicholas Musuraca has his dramatic lighting and shadows and makes inventive use of a moving camera, putting us into the scene.

With Rhonda Fleming, age 23, Elsa Lanchester, and Ethel Barrymore, last seen in The Paradine Case (1947). Kent Smith made a living dealing with psychological trauma: see Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944).

Nicholas Musuraca photography and Roy Webb score: that formidable RKO combination. A theremin means insanity.

Available on DVD.