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The Spiral Staircase by Ethel Lina White
#1
This book was published in 1933 as "Some must watch", but the film that was based on it was called "The spiral staircase", and probably more people will be familiar with the movie title.

I've seen the movie several times and was looking forward to reading the original story. Somehow I always expect the book to be better than the movie, but that isn't always the case. I was very surprised to find out that Helen Capel wasn't mute in the book at all! The script writers took the basic ingredients, added some and left some, and created a much better story.

The book isn't bad, though. There's a murderer on the loose and Helen runs around a house where the other residents disappear one by one for some reason, and soon there's nobody left to protect her.

I think the movie is better, more gothic and more plausible than the book. If there hadn't been a better movie to compare it with, I might have given it a higher rating, now it's no more than a 6 out of 10.
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#2
I have not read this one, but I have read the author's THE WHEEL SPINS, which is also the source of a famous film, Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES. I found it almost unreadable, full of archaic slang and references to celebrities and events nobody remembers any more.
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#3
I've just finished listening to the audiobook version of "The lady vanishes", and that way any archaic slang etc. sped by without my noticing. The narrator had a lovely English voice, which suited the book very much. The "heroine", Iris, is totally British and, unfortunately, totally obnoxious. So much so that I began to hate the narrator's voice. I wonder why authors won't make an effort to create likeable main characters. Then again, perhaps she wanted to let us see real people, who never are completely nice. Indeed, I think she wished to portray how the British people behave in certain circumstances, which could have been quite humorous if Ms. White had been thus talented. Iris' being selfish and rude may also have been necessary to the plot, so the other people were more inclined to disbelieve her when she professed her coach companion, Ms. Froy, was missing.
So I credit Ms. White for coming up with a nice little suspense story, but in my opinion the execution could have been done much better. Which is probably why people remember Hitchcock's adaptation and do not even know who Ethel Lina White is.
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#4
I have now read SOME MUST WATCH, and it is certainly much better than THE WHEEL SPINS. The fact that I had seen the ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR presentation "An Unlocked Window," apparently based on a short story of the same name by White, made the experience somewhat confusing for me. I urge to you see "An Unlocked Window" if you can; it has a very curious connection with SOME MUST WATCH, as it is essentially the same story, except that a major red herring of the latter is the actual solution of the former.
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#5
I've just seen it, it's on Youtube. (Where you can also find a newer version, a remake, from the 1985 pilot of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, with Annette O'Toole).

I've googled a bit to find out more about the connection between both stories.
Quote:Confusingly, it appears that White's novel 'Some Must Watch' had already been adapted as a short story and called "An Unlocked Window" long before it became an episode of 'AHH': the short-story version was published in the significantly-named anthology 'My Best Mystery Story' (1939) ...
from http://labyrinth.net.au/~muffin/faqs_c.html

So the book appears in 1933 and the short story in 1939. I think she liked the theme a lot and decided to make a variation. Sadly, the best variation, IMHO, is the one made by the people who adapted the story for the movie.
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#6
(08-12-2012, 08:51 AM)Jojo Lapin X Wrote: I have now read SOME MUST WATCH, and it is certainly much better than THE WHEEL SPINS. The fact that I had seen the ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR presentation "An Unlocked Window," apparently based on a short story of the same name by White, made the experience somewhat confusing for me. I urge to you see "An Unlocked Window" if you can; it has a very curious connection with SOME MUST WATCH, as it is essentially the same story, except that a major red herring of the latter is the actual solution of the former.


I agree! "An Unlocked Window" still gives me goosebumps after all these years. I think that episode WAS based on "Spiral Staircase" by White. If not, it was based on something written by White.
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