Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)
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Widely considered the first American "film noir", Stranger on the Third Floor is nevertheless a minor work in the genre, but an efficient one that doesn't waste time getting to the point. Between Peter Lorre's sinister presence and the Kafkaesque nightmare sequence in the middle, a direct line is drawn between this film and "M", and thus to German expressionism as an ancestor of noir, as a journalist, feeling guilty about sending a potentially innocent man to the gallows on his testimony - with an assist from a satirically-portrayed court - is then witness to another murder, and this time he's the patsy! Well, the cinematography is great, I like the focus on psychological horror, and though Lorre is a top-billed day player, he still makes an impact. The resolution is a bit pat, but then this thing clocks in at 64 minutes and is a lean story-telling machine. While not as well remembered as other noir classics, it's in no way a stain on its history either.
Considered by many to be the first real film noir, this features a splendid nightmare sequence and a typically deranged Peter Lorre performance. Otherwise, nothing too special.
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In 2 official lists
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This movie ranks #1 in TSPDT's 100 Essential Noir Films
This movie ranks #1 in TSPDT's 1,000 Noir Films