Friday, 31 August 2012

Friday Night Film: The Spiral Staircase

‘The Spiral Staircase’ is a film as twisted as its title. Only an hour long, it is foot down, full tilt gothic noir from start to finish, imaginative, creepy, scary as hell, the Hollywood machine in top gear: and this was a b picture!



George Brent.

Readymade victim, Helen.
Directed by German horror and thriller specialist, Robert Siodmak, ‘The Spiral Staircase’ is a film about a sick serial killer (is there any other kind?) who is obsessed with wiping out ‘imperfect’ young women in a small New England town. It’s just a matter of time before the psycho gets to Helen, a young maid struck mute as a result of a psychological trauma – in fact, it’s surprising he hasn’t got her already as, not being able to scream she’s a readymade victim.

As the killer sees her.

Scream or die.
Helen lives and works in a large, old dark house and is surrounded by odd bods and eccentrics. In fact, everyone in the town seems either cracked enough to be the killer or nice and innocent enough to provide a shock twist. The tension is palpable way before Helen is in actual physical peril, and the odd factor is racked up by point of view shots through the killers warped eyes. It’s actually quite disturbing. By the time we get to Helen being chased around the mansion we’re on the edge of our seats. Will she scream? Will she die? Maybe a bit of both?



Superbly done, the film is awash from gothic signifiers – thunder cracks, lightning strikes, billowing curtains, candles are blown out, all to the otherworldly wail of a theremin. I don’t like to bang on about cinematography and all that because I don’t like to bang on about cinematography and all that, but it’s a work of art, all filigree and shadow and deep focus. A great little film.

1 comment:

  1. If you like this you might want to check out 'The Maze (1953)', watchable on YouTube.