UPDATE 1/27/2016: New removal. This time it's the 1980 mini-series The Martian Chronicles. Don't know why, since I was under…
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)!
A movie whose watchcount surely hinges more on its 'the first Noir' credentials than any real quality of it's own.
It has a lot of classic/cliched noir visuals and elements, it does in fact come across as quite a tired noir at times despite it's release date, but it also is quite firmly a Peter Lorre shocker that uses Lorre the way something like 'Mad Love' would, as the human horror special effect and in some ways the movie feels more like a (shoddy) Seventh Guest type shocker than anything noir.
Lorre is great, as always, hypnotic and doomed as per normal. He wrings so much from so little, and what is there is pretty much all cliche but it still works. He and the visuals on the dream sequences are pretty much all that you come away with but thats actually still quite a lot for a 60 minute B picture
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.
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…
Stranger on the Third Floor is often cited (according to Wikipedia) as the first "true" noir film of the noir era (1940-1959), so it's the perfect film to hopefully kickstart my Film Noir project. I started this thing more then a few months ago, and this is only the second film I've watched. With any luck, I can start checking a few more of these of my list.
It's easy to see why this is considered the first "true" noir film, because it features just about all the hallmarks of the genre. Amazing set/production design, sumptuous black and white photography, and an exceptionally creepy performance from Peter Lorre (it's almost as if he's playing a vampire). It's also barely over an hour, so give it a shot.
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.
So mannered in execution that it seems like a parody of Noir rather than a pioneering work of the genre. John McGuire's guilt driven paranoia, which consumes his character at a startling rate, motivates some ridiculous behaviour and voice-over narration; but it's also the basis of the bravura dream sequence, overextended though it may be. The dream sequence is aggressively experimental for a mainstream Hollywood film of the period (that's not a Musical). Full of skewed framings and diagonal shadows, the film's fun to watch, including Peter Lorre in full-on psycho mode, but it's bound to illicit laughs rather than chills from the modern viewer. Interestingly, Nathanael West worked on the script. Who knows, perhaps it was originally designed as a satire on psychological melodramas.
Despite some seriously striking imagery and great film noir atmosphere courtesy of a very defined sense of paranoia, nightmarish dream sequences, and a voice over monologue (note this isn't the familiar film noir narration), Stranger on the Third Floor is still remarkably dated and corny, even for a low budget noir from 1940. The shadowy photography is no doubt influential on almost every noir made after but the film itself doesn't stand among the very best noirs. It's really no different from the B movies RKO was pumping out later in the decade and into the mid-'50's, but features howlingly hilarious and theatrical over acting from almost everyone with any screen time. The film is barely over an hour long…
Dat dream sequence....
One of the precursors to Film Noir, Stranger on the Third Floor wields the weight of German Expressionism but houses it in a cage of "gee golly, heaven's to Betsy'ism".
For the brief moments we get with Peter Lorre, this Thriller manages to pull itself out of mundanity. Sadly, for the majority of it's slender runtime it just feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone without the Sci-Fi, or decent writing. The plot and characterisation is about as heavy handed as even a 1940s audience could stomach, with the ending wrapping up far too neatly, making it a bit of a slog.
Regarded as part of the first film noir wave, the movie has a beautiful noir sense. To me the best part (not counting the magnificent tension) was the memories and nightmare mixture (dream sequence) - it was done beautifully.
Oh, and the movie ran for 60 minutes. That is a skill not every director posses.
The reputation of this film seems to increasingly be that it is the first film noir. But there is nothing particularly original about it: it is a bright and breezy RKO B Movie which ticks a number of the boxes that identify a film noir. Noir was always a retrospective genre: although the term was used in France from the late 1940s it didn't reach the English speaking world until the 1960s - then what had previously been thrillers became film noir. In the central section of the film the hero is thrown into an out of control nightmare world of shadows and expressionistic camera angles - but it differs from later film noir in that this nightmare world is…
It may be considered one of the first film noirs but I don't think that should give this a pass. It's annoyingly written and the acting is absolutely brutal. Even Peter Lorre's over-the-top portrayal of a murderous lunatic is dreadful to watch. The only thing I really took away from this was the impressive lighting during the dream sequence.
"-How do you know he did it?
-Who cares? What a story! What a story!"
Jātic Ditai Rietumai uz vārda, ka šī ir man tik mīļā film noir celmlauze. Īsa un rotaļīga gaismēnu spēle, viegla (kaut tēma galīgi tāda nav) un trāpīga.
The movie poster is great. The movie is not.
An odd and extremely stylistic noir - the first (so I've read anyway) real noir - with Lorre receiving top billing for a strange supporting role, but his eerie character does linger in the brain longer than John McGuire's wooden lead performance.
Some fascinating set pieces and the aforementioned Lorre make it an interesting addition to my noir viewing, but the genre didn't produce a grand classic from the get go as far as I'm concerned.
Total Run Time of 90 minutes or less. Have I seen them all? Yes, but that doesn't mean I'll vouch…