Monday, February 11, 2008

The Spiral Staircase

When people say "they don't make 'em like that anymore," this is the kind of movie they're talking about (the 1945 version, not the later ones). It has just about everything: A small town just after the turn of the 20th century. An old dark house. A dark and stormy night. A serial killer on the loose. Beautiful B&W photography, as atmospheric as you'll ever see. Spooky soundtrack. Eccentric characters. A cute dog. Plenty of suspense. Good performances all around. A heavy dose of Freud. And probably stuff I'm forgetting.

Dorothy McGuire is the young woman who works in the old dark house for Ethel Barrymore, an invalid. McGuire's character can't speak because of a traumatic childhood experience, so that adds to the complications. Barrymore's two sons, Kent Smith and George Brent alternately menace and charm. Rhonda Fleming plays a secretary who practically has "Doomed" tattooed on her forehead.

I had some serious problems with the plot, but I still liked this a lot. As I've said before, I'm an old-fashioned guy, so you have to take my recommendations with that mind. In fact, I'm so old-fashioned that I'm listening to the top 30 songs of 1948 as I write this. Kay Kyser at the moment. Great stuff.


jjs said...

I'd watch Dorothy McGuire with my mouth hanging open if she was covered in mud and crawling with flies.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Don't forget that the film was based on Ethel Lina White's _Some Must Watch_. You might know White's more famous book, _The Lady Vanishes_.

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