Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Spiral Staircase (1946)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Spiral Staircase (1946)

In director Robert Siodmak's suspenseful psychological drama - a classic, old-fashioned haunted house horror tale with Gothic (and Hitchcockian) elements that involved a threatened female and a serial killer (who specialized in killing imperfect, physically-flawed, handicapped or "afflicted" women):

  • the atmosphere of terror and suspense in an old, large spooky and dark mansion headed by the mansion's wealthy, widowed, bed-ridden invalid matron Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore)
  • the frightening elements - a raging storm outside, high contrast or light and dark shadows, a spiral staircase, closeups of the killer's menacing eyeball, a view of feet behind a heavy curtain, gusts of wind, flickering candlelights, and creaking doors - all tormenting to a young victimized mute servant girl-caretaker Helen Chapel (Dorothy McGuire)
  • the suspenseful climax of Helen's scream at the moment of her greatest peril on the spiral staircase, when she was saved by Mrs. Warren who emerged from her bed, staggered out and shot her stepson, the attacking killer - anti-social, scholarly biologist Professor Albert Warren (George Brent); the old lady then collapsed, fainted (or died?) in the arms of her younger son Steven Warren (Gordon Oliver)
  • in the suspenseful climax, now with restored speech, Helen then uttered her first words since childhood with a phone call to an operator, asking for her bachelor-suitor Dr. Parry (Kent Smith), Mrs. Warren's local physician: ("1-8-9...Dr. Parry...Come...It's I, Helen") - the film's final line of dialogue


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