The Spiral Staircase

About The Spiral Staircase Gripping, revelatory, and inspirational, The Spiral Staircase is an extraordinary account of an astonishing spiritual journey. In 1962, at age seventeen, Karen Armstrong entered a convent, eager to meet God. After seven brutally unhappy years as a nun, she left her order to pursue English literature at Oxford. But convent life had profoundly altered her, and coping with the outside world and her expiring faith proved to be excruciating. Her deep solitude and a terrifying illness–diagnosed only years later as epilepsy—marked her forever as an outsider. In her own mind she was a complete failure: as a nun, as an academic, and as a normal woman capable of intimacy. Her future seemed very much in question until she stumbled into comparative theology. What she found, in learning, thinking, and writing about other religions, was the ecstasy and transcendence she had never felt as a nun.
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The Spiral Staircase

The Spiral Staircase became a blue print for many disabled woman thrillers that would follow in its path, See No Evil, Sorry, Wrong Number, Wait Until Dark and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? to name a few. The film was remade in 1975 with Jacqueline  Bisset and again in 2000 as made for television movie with Nicollette Sheridan.  Almost needless to say neither reached the level of the original film.
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The Spiral Staircase

What a wonderful review of one of my most beloved films. Since I saw “The Spiral Staircase” for the first time I immediately fell under its spell. The interplay of light and shadow, the sheer unbearable suspense, the great actors (this movie immediately made me an admirer of George Brent ) the eery music score – all this is so brilliant.
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Gripping, revelatory, and inspirational, The Spiral Staircase is an extraordinary account of an astonishing spiritual journey. In 1962, at age seventeen, Karen Armstrong entered a convent, eager to meet God. After seven brutally unhappy years as a nun, she left her order to pursue English literature at Oxford. But convent life had profoundly altered her, and coping with the outside world and her expiring faith proved to be excruciating. Her deep solitude and a terrifying illness–diagnosed only years later as epilepsy—marked her forever as an outsider. In her own mind she was a complete failure: as a nun, as an academic, and as a normal woman capable of intimacy. Her future seemed very much in question until she stumbled into comparative theology. What she found, in learning, thinking, and writing about other religions, was the ecstasy and transcendence she had never felt as a nun.
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The Spiral Staircase is an excellent film. Dorothy McGuire gives a great performance as a mute woman in a town where disabled women are being killed, I think she deserved an Oscar nomination. She does a lot of emoting with her eyes and her body language. The technical aspects of this film are amazing. The score is extremely creepy, the camera work is excellent, and the main set is well designed. There are some extreme close-ups of an eye that are very spooky. This is a movie that Alfred Hitchcock would have made. There is a long and extremely affecting dream sequence that is riveting. Elsa Lanchester is very good as servant, and Ethel Barrymore deserved her Oscar nomination for playing the employer of the mute woman. An excellent movie that is a must see.
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It’s a brilliant opening to a magnificent thriller that Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud to have made. Instead, the film is the child of another master of dark suspense, Robert Siodmak and the master of shadows and light, Nicholas Musuraca. It is Musuraca’s evocative lighting, his painting shadows on the walls, combined with the masterful camera placement of Siodmak that make this film so thrilling. A combination of low-angles and stark lighting against wrought iron fences and a circular staircase creates an eeriness that sends chills down the spine. The entire film is painstakingly crafted and well acted. The film is both a throwback to works like The Old Dark House filled with scenes of drenching rain, crackling thunder, candles that mysterious blow out, and the more current cinema of directors of recent thrillers like John Carpenter.

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