Retrospektive 2018

The Stranger on the Third Floor

Boris Ingster
USA 1940
64 min

Ein Reporter in der Gewissenskrise: Seine Aussage hat einen Mann in die Todeszelle gebracht. Während dessen Frau den wahren Mörder sucht, wird der Journalist von seinem neugierigen Nachbarn zur Mordlust getrieben. Von Boris Ingster unter schwerem Einfluss des deutschen Expressionismus inszeniert, von RKO als Horrorfilm vermarktet, später als die Geburtsstunde des Film noir wiederentdeckt. Barockes Jalousienschatten-Chiaroscuro, Entgleiten der Zeit, Klaustrophobie und Schuldgefühle – und Peter Lorre, der als Verkörperung des absolut Bösen durch die Ränder dieses unheimlichen, artifiziellen Nachtmahrs gleitet.



Shadows come cheap, so low-budget movies can afford to use them lavishly. In STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca weaves cages, webs, fractured mazes and looming silhouettes out of nothing but light and shade— an embrace of German Expressionism that led first-timer director Boris Ingster’s radically stylish B thriller to be anointed the first American film noir. What starts as a conventional crime drama about a fresh-faced young reporter who witnesses a murder becomes a nightmare of mounting uncertainty, guilt and paranoia that shatters the seamless, well-balanced style of classical Hollywood. Upstaging the nondescript leads are noir icons who cemented their status soon after in THE MALTESE FALCON: Elisha Cook Jr., whose single scene of pop-eyed hysteria launched his reign as king of the small-time losers; and Peter Lorre who injects pathos and grotesquerie into a role that asks him to do little besides scuttle around looking sinister in a telltale white scarf. It is tempting to find the hand of Nathanael West, who contributed uncredited screenplay revisions, in the film’s abandonment of the whodunit’s comforting clarity for the diffused guilt of noir. (Imogen Smith)


  • Peter Lorre - Roderick Raskolnikov
  • Ethel Griffies - Mrs. Bundy
  • Charles Halton
  • Charles Waldron - General Sternwood
  • Margaret Tallichet
  • Elisha Cook Jr
  • John McGuire
  • Frank Partos
  • Nathanael West
  • Nicholas Musuraca
  • Roy Webb
RKO Pictures
35 mm
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