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STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (1940) – Episode 142 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“The only person who ever was kind to me was a woman. She’s dead now.” Wait. What? Join this episode’s Grue-Crew – Chad Hunt, Daphne Monary-Ernsdorff, Jeff Mohr, and guest host Dirk Rogers – as they witness the brilliance of Peter Lorre highlighted by the dark stylings of cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca in Stranger on the Third Floor (1940).

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 142 – Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)

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An aspiring reporter is the key witness at the murder trial of a young man accused of cutting a café owner’s throat and is soon accused of a similar crime himself.

Stranger on the Third Floor inhabits the creepier side of, shall we say horror-adjacent, film noir. In fact, some experts argue that it is the first example of that dark genre, later to be labeled film noir. It’s a nightmare-influenced murder mystery featuring Peter Lorre chewing on all the scenery he can. Boris Ingster directs Stranger on the Third Floor with all the style that feels as if it could have been an early Val Lewton production. Yup, it’s Hollywood expressionism, RKO-style. This film is worth the watch, even if only for two 7-minute scenes: the nightmare sequence and the interaction between The Stranger (Lorre) and Jane (Margaret Tallichet).

If you have the urge to view this early example of noir filmmaking (or is it “proto-noir?”), and decide for yourself if it is truly horror-adjacent, Stranger on the Third Floor is, at the time of this writing, available to stream from or PPV from iTunes. There is also a Warner Brothers DVD available if physical media is your preference.

For more Peter Lorre goodness, check out these episodes of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era:

Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era records a new episode every two weeks. Up next in their very flexible schedule, as chosen by Daphne, will be Diabolique (1940, Les Diaboliques), the French classic directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, based on a novel by Boileau-Narcejac.

Please let them know how they’re doing! They want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans: leave them a message or leave a comment on the Gruesome Magazine YouTube channel, the site, or email the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast hosts at

To each of you from each of them, “Thank you so much for listening!

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long-time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an Old Boy. Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for and SQ Horror Magazine. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is a co-host of the Decades of Horror podcasts - The Classic Era, 1970s, and 1980s - and the Gruesome Magazine Podcast.