Stranger on the Third Floor

Stranger on the Third Floor ★★½

Cited by its own back cover as the first true film noir (which I've seen claimed by a few films so take that with a grain of salt) this has pretty much every hallmark of the genre but still manages to be pretty messy despite the excellent premise of reporter Mike Ward (John McGuire) being the key witness in a murder investigation after fingering someone but then becomes the key suspect himself after a second body turns up that he also finds. The fact that Peter Lorre plays The Stranger should give little doubt as to whether Mike is innocent and while all the trappings are here (wrong man has to clear his name, long ass dream sequence that brings everything to a halt, harsh lighting) it doesn't quite come together since so little is known about Mike or his girlfriend Jane (Margaret Tallichet) who has to investigate and try to clear Mikes name after he's locked up so there isn't really any investment in the outcome for me as the characters were so underdeveloped and the 63 minute runtime could have used just a couple of minutes added on to flesh out the protagonist.
That ending was also particularly poorly done with an out of nowhere resolution and it didn't help that everyone aside from Lorre was kind of flat and wooden but Lorre can play a creep in his sleep and was excellent as per usual. Anther positive besides the one good performance was the way this shows what a joke the justice system is with jurors falling asleep and the judge not paying attention at the initial trial. And I liked how Mike had doubt after his initial testimony and questioned if he really helped put away the right person.
Still, a bit scattered in execution and really only recommend for hardcore noir fans who want to see the very first one. Unless you've seen any of the other firsts, in which case skip it.

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