The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935)

Article #811 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-4-2003
Posting Date: 11-1-2003
Directed by Berthold Viertel
Featuring Conrad Veidt, Anna Lee, Frank Cellier

A strange man comes to live at a boarding house and has a profound effect on the lives of its residents.

Title check: It’s a British movie, and I’m not sure whether “Passing” is a British slang or not; to these ears, it makes for a somewhat odd title, though I’m wondering if it has something to do with the fact that the stranger is not a permanent resident, but just “passing through.”

A look at the plot description above may well clue you in that we’re in “angel” territory again, though the movie does not make this explicit. Though the character played by Conrad Veidt doesn’t have any obvious powers, things do seem to happen when he’s around, and his dark stare certainly leaves a deep impression on you; Conrad Veidt was very well cast in the role. The characters are pretty unlikeable at the beginning, but the stranger’s presence allows us to see the whys and wherefores of their behaviors, and also their potentials for redemption. The movie has the good sense to enhance its power at the halfway point by having one of the characters manifest himself as the real antagonist; after all, it’s only fitting that a movie about an angel (even a vague one) should end up pitting him against a devil. The ending feels a little convenient, but it is satisfying nonetheless. Good performances abound.


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