Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 9th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1940
Director: Boris Ingster
Writer: Frank Partos
Cast: Peter Lorre, John McGuire, Margaret Tallichet, Charles Waldron, Elisha Cook Jr.
DVD released: September 21st, 2010
Approximate running time: 64 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Warner Archive
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: A news paper reporter, who’s testimony is used to convict a man. Finds himself at the center of another murder. In which he is the lead suspect.
Visually Stranger on the Third Floor is a precursor to the style that would later become synonymous with the film Noir genre. The cinematographer on Stranger on the Third Floor was Nicholas Musuraca, who would employ a similar visuals style in other films he worked on like Cat People, The Spiral Staircase and Out of the Past. The film’s most memorable moment is a Salvador Dali like nightmare sequence. In which the protagonist a news paper reporter lets his imagination run wild. Earlier in the evening he encountered a mysterious man lurking in the hallway by his room. Fearing that this mysterious man may have killed his neighbor, who the protagonist character in the past had several arguments with. His inability to decide on what action he should take. Stems back to earlier in the film in which he had witnessed another murdered. And his testimony lead to a man being convicted. His other fear is that his previous arguments may lead to his being arrested for the murder of his neighbor.
Neither of the two murders happen on screen with the all the suspense being derived from a psychological angle. Plot wise everything moves along briskly from one revelation to the next. As good as the visuals are. The real backbone of this film is its cast which are all extremely good in their respective roles. With Elisha Cook Jr. (The Killing), in the role of the man who is convicted because of the news paper reporters testimony and Peter Lorre (Mad Love, M), in the role of the stranger. Peter Lorre’s role was tailored around him with his distinctive physical attributes being woven into the story at hand. Reportedly Peter Lorre had two days on his contract with RKO Pictures. And even though his part is nothing more than a cameo. He still received star billing. Fortunately Peter Lorre makes the most of his limited screen time with convincingly creepy performance. That is cut from the same mold as the other sinister characters that would ultimately pigeon hole him as an actor.
This Burn on demand DVDR from Warner Archive presents Stranger on the Third Floor in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This release is one of the Warner Archive titles that bears the ‘Re-mastered Edition’ banner. Considering the age of this film. This is a solid transfer in details look crisp, black levels and contrast look consistently good. Print debris is minimal, there are no problems with compression and the image remains stable throughout. It should be noted that the opening credits look like they were taken from a rougher source. Then what was used for the rest of the transfer.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Back noise is minimal, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.
This release comes with a static menu that offers only one option play the film. To navigate chapters you have to manually go forward or backwards via your remote control. There is no extra content. Overall Stranger on the Third Floor gets a strong audio / video presentation from Warner Archive.