After Alfred Hithcock, the German Robert Siodmak is probably the most famous and successful master of thriller / horror from the golden age of Hollywood, and “The Spiral Staircase” is still considered one of his best films. In this dark psychological thriller set in Vermont at the very beginning of the 20th century, Siodmark perfectly combined elements and motifs from classic horror and then extremely popular film noir and even melodrama. He brought with him from his native Germany, which he left when the Nazis seized power there, and a touch of Germanic expressionism and the influence of silent film, which is also evident in the main protagonist.
Helen (Dorothy McGuire) is a mute girl, the housekeeper of the elderly and disabled Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore earned a nomination for supporting actress), and it happens on a rainy, stormy, thundering night in which a mysterious serial killer has already found his third victim . Helen is in particular fear because the killer is the latest victim of disabled women, and immediately after learning that the killer has attacked again, she will take refuge in Mrs. Warren’s large, spacious house. There will also be a lot of other characters like the owner’s stepson Albert, her son Steven and a whole army of other servants and guests who will come and go.
At one point, Helen will notice that a mysterious male person is looking into their house through the window, and very soon the residents will find themselves in serious danger. “The Spiral Staircase” also stands out as a kind of predecessor of slasher horror, and stylistically, this film was obviously made under the influence of Hithcock, who had already made a name for himself and mastered the craft. Perhaps following the example of his colleague, Siodmak also briefly appears in the film, or more precisely, we see his eyes in a close-up like those of a killer as he watches Helen. We will find out to the end why Helen does not actually speak and that she was not mute from birth, but survived a terrible trauma in her childhood, and the fact that she does not speak will make her an even easier target for the killer.