Movie Magazine

Headbanger Movie Review

By Mad Professor Mike

Stranger on the Third Floor

USA - 1940

Hello, America!! This is Mad Prof. Mike with the Headbanger Video Capsule!! You loyal movie fans have all heard of director Boris Ingster, Right? No? How about screenwriter Frank Partos? Well, if you have a hankering to remember Captain Kirk's defense attorney, Elisha Cook, Jr. (who died this week), you might want to also remember Boris Ingster and Frank Partos--two guys who have fallen into oblivion, but who invented a movie genre.

Because these are the two guys responsible for 1940's STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR... a movie most fans cite as the first *true* film noir, and which is a pretty brilliantly dark urban horror story in its own right.

STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR is an RKO B production about hard working reporter John McGuire having second thoughts about his testimony in a murder trial... testimony which sends a shrieking, sweat-drenched Elisha Cook, Jr. up the river for gashing a guy's jugular. Cook is amazing as the trapped-rat of a murder suspect. He looks crazy enough to have cacked the guy... but desperate enough that you believe he didn't do the dirty deed.

So McGuire goes home to his seedy, crappy apartment... and it turns out there's another case of applied neck ventilation in the neighborhood that just might get his own neck stretched a few inches. And if that weren't bad enough... Peter Lorre is sniffing around his building, making the character he played in M look like someone you'd gladly have run a daycare center. Pretty soon, a crashing tidal wave of Expressionist-influenced montage scenes spills off the screen... which all leads to a creepy Amateur Night man hunt for the murderer.

STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR is both one of Lorre and Cook's finest moments--at least we saw them both again in THE MALTESE FALCON.... As for whatever happened to Boris Ingster and John Partos, two guys movie lovers the world over owe for inventing film noir... who knows? On our headbanger scale of 1-4, STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR gets four Headbangs. With The Headbanger Video Capsule, I'm Mad Prof. Mike for Movie Magazine.

© 1995 - Michael Marano - Air Date: 5/31/95

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