23 November 2014

Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)
64 min.
Directed by Boris Ingster.
With Peter Lorre, John McGuire, Margaret Tallichet, Charles Waldron, Elisha Cook, Jr., Charles Halton, Ethel Griffies, Cliff Clark.
Stranger on the Third Floor is commonly regarded as one of the earliest flicks in the film noir canon.

But any vehicle that features a snivelling, bug-eyed Peter Lorre as its murderous antagonist...well, that's gotta do double duty as a horror film, in our book.

Mike Ward (McGuire) is a reporter who witnesses the tail end of a murder, and decides to testify against the man (Cook) he believes to be the killer.

Soon thereafter, he encounters a creepy stranger (Lorre) skulking about his apartment building, and Mike begins to wonder...

Can he be absolutely certain the man he fingered was actually the murderer? Then, a second man turns up dead. Mike is now convinced: he's aided in the conviction of the wrong man.

The weird, diminutive stranger he's seen walking the neighborhood streets is the psychotic serial killer the police have been hunting all along!

Without a doubt, Lorre is the best thing about this 1940 thriller from RKO; just as in M (1931) and Mad Love (1935), Lorre delivers an outstanding performance here, one that's both coldly controlled and maniacally twitchy.

Kudos also to leads McGuire and girlfriend Tallichet for anchoring the whole thing and lending a sense of believability to the stagy atmospherics.

Great little ending to this one, too.

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