The Spiral Staircase
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Time Out saysSuperb thriller about a manic killer dedicating himself to beauty by ridding the world of maimed or disfigured women. Hitchcock couldn't have bettered the casual mastery with which the opening defines not just time and place (small town, turn of the century) but the themes of voyeurism and entrapment as a carriage draws up outside a hotel, the townsfolk assemble inside for a silent picture show, and the camera lifts to a room above where a crippled girl is being watched by a malevolently glaring hidden eye as she undresses. This first murder, discreetly executed as the girl pulls her dress over her head and we see her arms convulsively cross in agony, introduces a note of expressionism which Siodmak uses sparingly but with unfailing elegance throughout as the shadows close in on McGuire's mute, terrified heroine. It's one of the undoubted masterpieces of the Gothic mode, even if the happy ending comes more than a shade too pat.