Shadows on the Stairs (1941)

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So many seedy secrets behind a boarding house’s doors!
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vt Murder on the Second Floor
US / 62 minutes / bw / Warner–First National Dir: D. Ross Lederman Pr: Bryan Foy Scr: Anthony Coldeway Story: Murder on the Second Floor (1929 play) by Frank Vosper Cine: Allen G. Siegler Cast: Frieda Inescort, Paul Cavanagh, Heather Angel, Bruce Lester, Miles Mander, Lumsden Hare, Turhan Bey, Charles Irwin, Phyllis Barry, Mary Field, Paul Renay.

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London, 1937, and on the surface Mrs. Armitage’s boarding house appears tranquil enough. But, as we soon find out, not all is as it seems . . .

The movie opens at the docks. One of Mrs. Armitage’s lodgers, Joe Reynolds (Cavanagh), observes as another, Ram Singh (Bey), helps smuggle a small trunk onto the dock and away. Back at the boarding house next morning, it’s clear that the two are in uneasy, mutually suspicious cahoots.

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Ram Singh (Turhan Bey) awaits the arrival of the smuggled box.

Not all is well among the building’s other occupants. Startled while clearing away the breakfast things, the maid, Lucy Timpson (Barry), drops a tray of dirty dishes and is promptly and viciously fired by the landlady, ex-actress Stella Armitage (Inescort). Joe has been carrying on a long-term affair with Stella—in fact, it was he who bought the boarding house for her to run ten years ago when her acting days were over. Stella’s chess-fiend husband Tom (Mander), likewise an ex-actor—he boasts he once played the aunt in Charley’s Aunt—is oblivious to the pair’s shenanigans even after a decade. On the other hand, Stella is equally oblivious to the fact that her lover Joe has been canoodling on the side with Lucy.

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Lucy (Phyllis Barry) is startled by various goings-on.

Also living in the house are Miss Phoebe Marcia St. John Snell (Field)—“I usually leave out the Marcia”—a spinster who sublimates her unmentionable yearnings by reading an endless string of fevered romance novels; and a young, would-be playwright, Hugh Bromilow (Lester). Hugh is carrying on with Stella’s daughter Sylvia (Angel), but at least for the moment in what we might call Continue reading

Stolen Identity (1953)

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An unjustly neglected noir out of post-WWII Vienna that’s sometimes compared to The Third Man.
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Austria, US / 84 minutes / bw / Schoenbrunn, Trans-Globe, Helen Ainsworth Dir: Gunther Fritsch (i.e., Gunther von Fritsch) Pr: Turhan Bey Scr: Robert Hill Story: Ich War Jack Mortimer (1933) by Alexander Lernet-Holenia Cine: Helmuth Ashley Cast: Donald Buka, Joan Camden, Francis Lederer, Adrienne Gessner, Inge Konradi, Gisela Wilke, Hermann Erhard (i.e., Hermann Erhardt), E. von Jordan, Manfred Inger, Louis Ousted.

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This was the English-Language version made in parallel with ABENTEUER IN WIEN (1952; vt Adventures in Vienna) dir Emile E. Reinert, with Gustav Fröhlich and Cornell Borchers rather than the US actors Donald Buka and Joan Camden in the two leading roles, but with the rest of the cast roughly the same. In A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir I gave basic details of Stolen Identity in the Abenteuer in Wien entry, but didn’t have room to give it an entry of its own. So here’s a redressal of that lack. I was prompted to dig the movie out for a rewatch, for the first time in many years, by a fine review by MarinaSofia of the source novel on her findingtimetowrite blog.

It’s New Year’s Eve in Vienna. Karin Manelli (Camden), unhappy wife of the celebrated concert pianist Claude Manelli (Lederer), is expecting the arrival of Jack Mortimer (Ousted), who will whisk her away from the husband who seems so charming but in fact, because of his egocentricity, subjects her to endless psychological cruelty. Unfortunately, Continue reading