6.9/10
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Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 16 August 1940 (USA)
An aspiring reporter is the key witness at the murder trial of a young man accused of cutting a café owner's throat and is soon accused of a similar crime himself.

Director:

Boris Ingster

Writer:

Frank Partos (story and screenplay)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Peter Lorre ... The Stranger
John McGuire ... Michael Ward
Margaret Tallichet ... Jane
Charles Waldron Charles Waldron ... District Attorney
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Joe Briggs
Charles Halton ... Meng
Ethel Griffies ... Mrs. Kane
Cliff Clark ... Martin
Oscar O'Shea ... The Judge
Alec Craig ... Defense Attorney
Otto Hoffman ... Police Surgeon
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Storyline

Rising reporter Michael Ward is the key witness in the murder trial of young Joe Briggs, who is convicted on circumstantial evidence while swearing innocence. Michael's girl Jane believes in Joe and blames Michael, who (in a remarkable sequence) dreams he is himself convicted of murdering his nosy neighbor. Will his dream come true before Jane can find the real murderer? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Trailing a "tiptoe" killer! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 August 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El desconegut del tercer pis See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$171,200 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film marked the directorial debut of writer and future television producer Boris Ingster. He would direct only two more films. See more »

Goofs

When the prosecutor cross-examines defendant Joe Briggs during his trial for murder, he cites Briggs's previous criminal record of one robbery conviction. Citing a defendant's prior criminal history is inadmissible during a criminal trial, and Briggs's attorney should have objected to the prosecutor's statements and questions about the defendant's prior criminal convictions. See more »

Quotes

The Judge: [noticing a sleeping juror] Juror number two! The jury will pay strict attention to the evidence.
Juror #2: [sheepishly] I'm sorry, your honor. I was up all night with a terrible toothache.
The Judge: Well, that's too bad. But it's your duty to stay awake. And try and follow the evidence with as much intelligence as you've got!
[the spectators snicker]
See more »

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User Reviews

Subtle and scary
14 April 2001 | by reptilicusSee all my reviews

If Peter Lorre had not spent the early part of his career on the stage he would have been excellent in German silent films, this movie proves it. 95% of his role is silent and he carries it off beautifully. Director Boris Ingster seems to have been influenced not only by the German silents (particularly those photographed by Karl Freund) but also by Jean Cocteau. Certain angles and lighting during the dream sequence that takes up one-third of the movie, and especially the death chamber scene, appear inspired by LE SANG D'UN POET (1930). Mr. Ingster also seemed interested in making a social commentary. Notice how during the trial of Joe Briggs (Elisha Cook Jr. who steals every scene he is in) not only a juror but also the judge himself must be prodded awake. The public defender does not really give a hoot about saving his client and the reporters don't care if an innocent man goes to the chair because either way it will make a good headline. After seeing the buildup to such dramatic intensity with not one but two innocent men accused of brutal murders some people might groan at how things get so neatly wrapped up at the conclusion. If we look at this movie as an early entry in the American "film noir" genre the ending seems perfectly normal with bizarre happenstances solving themselves and Fate taking a hand to release three men from a living nightmare (yes, I am counting The Stranger because he too "escapes" from his torment in a way). If you like spotting character actors look quickly for Donald Kerr (DEVIL BAT) and John Harmon (MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS) in small roles. Watch for Bobby Barber, publicity agent for Abbott and Costello, popping up in a cameo as an Italian grocer!


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