July 26th, 2013: The Spiral Staircase (1945)

The Spiral Staircase

Cast and Crew:  Robert Siodmak (Director); George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Kent Smith, Elsa Lanchester,  Rhys Williams

What It’s About:   A serial killer who preys on those he deems “weak”-those with disabilities or disfigurements.  Helen Chapel (Dorothy McGuire) is a maid who works for a rich family in a large old house.  She is unable to talk due to the psychological trauma of seeing her parents die in a fire, and thus an obvious next target for the killer.  When a massive storm strands Helen and her employers in their home, can Helen overcome her trauma and and will she survive?

Why Watch it Today?:  The American Disabilities Act was signed today in 1990.  The Spiral Staircase is a solid entry in the 1940s sub-genre of thrillers with a strong dramatic bent focusing on women in trouble (other examples include Gaslight and Sorry, Wrong Number).

Other Choices:  Crippled Avengers; The Penalty; The Tale of ZatoichiZatoichi the Fugitive; The Blade; The Unknown

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