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Stranger on the Third Floor
Newspaper reporter John McGuire plunges into a nightmare of guilt, fearing that his "evidence" has sentenced the wrong man to death. A stunning example of cinematic expressionism, cited by many as the first studio film shot in a completely noir style. Peter Lorre virtually reprises the eerily convincing persona he created in Fritz Lang's M, adding an emotion-wringing melancholia to his performance as a paranoid, lost soul. Featuring the astounding art direction of Van Nest Polglase and the brilliant cinematography of Nicholas Musuraca, as well as reportedly uncredited script work by Nathanael West (The Day of the Locust)!
Stranger On The Third Floor is a strange little film - which I guess is fairly apt give its name. It's certainly one of the oddest noirs that I have ever seen, and I would be surprised if I see many odder.
Newspaper journalist John McGuire catches a big break when he is the star witness at the murder trial of Elisha Cook Jr (I never noticed how much Geoffrey Lewis resembles him before). When he is found guilty, McGuire starts to doubt the verdict under pressure from his girlfriend Margaret Tallichet and he starts to doubt his own sanity when he spots Peter Lorre lurking around his apartment building, as well as fretting about the welfare of a nosy…
How to make a good movie with 64mins, a humble cast and a nice idea. This is Stranger on the Third Floor
Once you watch it, you soon realize why they say this is often categorized as the first noir. The cinematography is credited to Mr. Nicholas Musuraca, a Italian who also worked with Jaques Tourneur in his masterpiece Out of The Past. SotTF already holds the typical high contrast of the noir films, as well as a plot about a certain crime and the presence of a psychotic character. It is a simple movie, but it is completely different than every that has been made before.
The best achievement is has, however, is technical. The light changes, the dreamlike sensation, the boldness of the screenplay's subject and the accuracy of this piercing music. Not a masterpiece, but certainly the right source to create one.
Titles speak most clearly when everything seems so muddled. It takes only a brief glance at the poster to know what one's in for: a dark-horse bout of B-movie pulp fiction. Stranger on the Third Floor must have sounded enticing when it was first released; no one knew what to make of it before John Huston made The Maltese Falcon! Somehow the whole thing's more than a curio. For all of the flaws I could name, this flick's got plenty to say not just about life in transition, but about the emergence of new forms of film-making that gained ground with spiritual successors from Orson Welles and company. Even the cast and crew have legacies of their own.
A newspaper reporter gives evidence at the trial of a murder suspect that helps convict him. He begins to doubt his testimony, especially when a second murder is committed, but the fact that he is linked to both murders means that he becomes a suspect too.
An odd little film noir (often thought to be the first noir, I have no idea if it is or not) with some great dream sequences, and all tied up in just over an hour. 7½/10
You don't have to tell me twice. Under no circumstances will I be drinking coffee before bed. Lesson learned.
Peter Lorre gets top billing, but really isn't in it much. That's a shame because this is a weird little noir that could have used more of his talents.
Billed as the first film noir ever. Weak points in the acting and plot made it laughable at times, but great to see Peter Lorre and the film noir cinematography.
Quite the psychological film noir, but the 60 minute film seemed to have a rushed conclusion.
Worth watching for being an early noir but also for a nightmarish expressionist dream sequence that is pretty fantastic.
Peter Lorre gets top billing here, and he certainly doesn't disappoint, but the real star is John McGuire. That holds true not just because he's who the story follows, but because of the range of character that he goes through, from a sort of arrogant confidence to an almost total loss of his senses. What's more, that entire slide isn't just a personal matter, but carries with it a philosophical and social aspect to it as the whole film centers on accusations of murder and circumstantial evidence.
Even with the crimes involved, it's not too far into the film that the mystery surrounding them is gone, and the focus isn't 'who done it' but who will get caught for them, and it does have some good tension with some nice parallel structure to it.
A shame that the visual bravado contained in"Stranger on the Third Floor" doesn't serve a better story. Peter Lorre steals the film in the last 5 minutes.
There's no femme fatale but all the other hallmarks of film noir are present and correct in this exemplary little movie, years before the term was coined. With Lorre in the cast it's not too much of a surprise when the perpetrator of double murder is revealed but as he appears fleetingly and only gets to speak in the last ten minutes, most of the film is an investigation of the guilty conscience of the apparent hero.
An aspiring reporter is the key witness at the murder trial of a young man accused of cutting a café owner's throat and is soon accused of a similar crime himself. Considered the first film noir, this film needs a lot of work. In the hands of a more capable director, it could be a true classic. Peter Lorre does a fine job, but everything else about the film is dull dishwater crud.
- Out of the Past
- The Maltese Falcon
- Touch of Evil
- 99 River Street
- Ace in the Hole
- Among the Living
- Angel Face
- Armored Car Robbery
(work in progress!) Films are listed alphabetically. (I'm sticking only to '40s and '50s titles.) If a movie is missing…
- Times and Winds
- Ice Palace
One of the best things of my Letterboxd experience so far is having the collective knowledge of dozens of film…