The Spiral Staircase
It was a dark and stormy night … window shutters bang, stairs creak, thunder and lightning are almost continuous, cobwebs coat the wine cellar, and there’s that spiral staircase … thankfully, there is no cat to jump out at you from the shadows. Here is a very nice little suspense thriller that takes place in a spooky old mansion that isn’t inhabited by spooks. The fright here is that a serial killer seems to have entered the house, and looks to be stalking Dorothy McGuire (who I recall mostly from her work in Disney films like Old Yeller and Swiss Family Robinson). Helen is hysterically mute from a childhood trauma, and the killer seems to limit himself to women with disabilities. Cleaning out the gene pool, maybe? Upstairs is Ethyl Barrymore, bedridden, who seems to know more about what’s happening than anyone else, but plays her cards close to the chest. Unless there is some outsider we haven’t seen, there are really only two viable suspects, half-brothers. I couldn’t pick between them, and it kept me going to the end, which is nicely shocking. The photography is spooky. This is not quite in Hitchcock’s category, but quite well done.