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Stranger on the 3rd Floor

(1940 b 64')

En: 6 Ed: 5

A reporter's testimony helps convict a man of murder on circumstantial evidence; but a nightmare leads him to another murder victim.

Reporter Mike Ward (John McGuire) tells Jane (Margaret Tallichet) he found an apartment and they can marry, because his story will help convict a murderer. Mike testifies he saw Joe Briggs (Elisha Cook Jr.) flee from murdered Nick, and earlier he heard Briggs threaten to kill Nick. Briggs testifies that Nick was dead when he arrived. Briggs had denied a previous theft conviction but cries he did not do the murder. Jane gets upset and walks out with Mike. The jury finds Briggs guilty, and Briggs appeals to Mike. Jane won't go out with Mike, who thinks over the case and his life. In his room Mike recalls how his neighbor Albert Meng (Charles Halton) complained to the landlady Mrs. Kane (Ethel Griffies) about his typing. Mike sees a stranger (Peter Lorre) hiding and chases him down the stairs. Mike wonders why Meng is quiet. Mike recalls how he said he wanted to kill Meng. Mike remembers bringing Jane to his room. Meng brings in Mrs. Kane to make Jane leave. Mike threatens Meng. Jane and Mike go out, and she suggests they marry.

Mike dreams men accuse him of murdering Meng, and Jane reads the story and visits him in jail. His lawyer laughs and tells him to plead guilty. Mrs. Kane and Jane testify against Mike, who pleads to jurors ignoring him. Mike is found guilty, but he points to the stranger. The judge sentences Mike to death. Briggs mocks him for not believing him. As Mike is strapped into the electric chair, he sees that Meng is alive.

Mike awakes and goes to wake Meng but finds him dead. Mike packs a bag and calls Jane to meet him with money. Mike realizes that Meng was killed the same way as Nick. Jane persuades him to go to the police. Mike reports it and says he saw a stranger there. They wake the District Attorney (Charles Waldron), and Mike pleads for Briggs. The D. A. suspects Mike and has him held as a witness. Jane gets off work to search for the stranger, but no on can help. Jane sees him buy raw meat for a dog, then sees his long white scarf. Jane realizes he escaped from an asylum and killed Nick and Meng. Mrs. Kane won't her let call the police. He grabs Jane, but she escapes. He chases her but is hit by a truck. He confesses before he dies. In the final scene Mike takes Jane to get married, and grateful Briggs gives them a ride in his taxi.

This expressionistic drama uses voice over for Mike's thoughts and an extensive dream sequence to build a mood of desperation, enabling the audience to see how his subconscious is guiding him to free the innocent Briggs with the help of his sensitive fiancé.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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