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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Spiral Staircase (1975)

Traumatized by helplessly witnessing the death of her husband and young daughter, a young woman (Jacqueline Bisset) finds herself unable to speak. On a dark and stormy night in her sickly grandmother's (Mildred Dunnock) old mansion, she may be the next victim of a serial killer who preys on disabled or handicapped women. A remake of the classic 1945 Robert Siodmak thriller which was set in the early 19th century, this new version makes the error of updating the story in more ways than one. Thus we get references to Viet Nam, sex scenes and Bisset's character switched from a paid companion to a granddaughter. What we don't get is suspense, just a lot of unnecessary flashbacks on Bisset's accident. A talented cast save one (Sam Wanamaker doesn't even try, he lets his chewing gum do his acting for him) have their hands tied by Peter Collinson's flabby direction and a pedestrian script. Elaine Stritch as a sassy nurse comes off best. The trite underscore is by David Lindup. With Christopher Plummer, John Phillip Law, Gayle Hunnicutt, John Ronane, Sheila Brennan and Ronald Radd.

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