Stranger On the Third Floor (Boris Ingster, 1940)


One of the earliest examples of Noir, Stranger On the Third Floor is more than a collection of tropes still in the rough – the voice-over narration is used very effectively as a medium of psychological realism, reflecting paranoia in an unjust world; this gives way to a kaleidoscopic expressionist whirlwind of a dream sequence that rivals the much more famous Dalí-designed set-piece of Hitchcock’s Spellbound. I can’t help but be annoyed at the underuse of Peter Lorre, especially considering his hiring being based upon the force majeure of his performance in M, but he is still wonderful as a pitiable, even kindly, but very dangerous figure who may or may not be a figment of the protagonist’s imagination. Mixed in with some effective social critique regarding the treatment of the accused man in the courts, Stranger On the Third Floor is only really let down by an over-quick and much too upbeat ending, that so significantly jars with the rest of this nicely paced film about the relativism of justice in a sea of circumstantial evidence.