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There's no room in the whole world for imperfection.
~ Warren's delusional philosophy.

Albert Warren is the main antagonist of the 1946 horror film The Spiral Staircase. He is a serial killer who targets those he deems "imperfect", typically disabled or disfigured women, in his home town.

He was portrayed by George Brent, although in various close-up shots of his eye (before his identity is revealed), the film's director Robert Siodmak portrayed him.

Biography

Early life

Albert was born in the late nineteenth century to Mr. Warren. He was brought up by his stepmother Mrs. Warren alongside his stepbrother Steven, who he disliked. His father was a bigoted and possibly abusive man who constantly told Albert that the "imperfect" (defined as the disabled or disfigured) had no place in the world and should be removed. Albert was deeply affected by this, hating guns and hunting due to his father's obsession with strength.

During Albert's childhood, Mr. Warren died. Shortly after, Albert adopted his late father's mindset about the "imperfect" and took it even further, imagining disabled people as literally being without the feature they had no use of. One evening, he murdered a mentally handicapped servant by throwing her into a well. Unknown to Albert, Mrs. Warren witnessed the murder.

Events of The Spiral Staircase

At the start of the film, Albert (now a local professor) kills a crippled woman by strangling her in her hotel room. It is revealed that this is the third in a string of murders committed by Albert, with the first two victims being a girl with a scar on her face and a mentally handicapped woman. It is also revealed that Albert (who has not yet been revealed as the killer) is targeting a mute woman named Helen, who is employed as a live-in companion for Mrs. Warren.

When Albert is introduced, he appears to be a more heroic character, appearing to heed the police's warning that the killer could go after Helen and telling the servants to protect her. However, a tiny part of his true nature begins to show when he reacts angrily to Steven having an affair with his secretary Blanche, who Warren later claims to be in love with.

During the events of the film, Mrs. Warren suffers a fit of the vapours and has to be given ether. However, it is discovered to be missing (Albert is later revealed to have stolen it). This gives Albert an excuse to get rid of Oates the handyman by sending him into town to get some more. He also gets rid of Mrs. Oates, the housekeeper, by manipulating her into getting drunk on brandy.

After an argument with Steven, Blanche asks Helen if she can leave with her that night. Helen agrees, and Blanche goes to the basement to retrieve her suitcase. A jealous Albert then violently attacks her in the dark, choking her to death. Steven discovers the body and is mistaken for the killer by Helen, who locks him in.

A panicked Helen then runs for help and encounters Albert. After Helen frantically writes a note about Blanche's murder, Albert at first appears friendly before dropping the act and revealing his true nature, claiming that Helen "has no mouth" and ranting about his late father. Fleeing, Helen locks herself in Mrs. Warren's room and finds her seemingly unconscious.

After failing to get the attention of a passing police officer due to her muteness, Helen sneaks out and tries to release Steven. Albert finds and attacks her, chasing her up the stairs. Mrs. Warren then appears with a gun and saves Helen's life by shooting Albert in the chest, fatally wounding him.

Quotes

Everyone's out of the way. Mrs. Oates is drunk, because I purposely let her steal a bottle of brandy. And Oates has gone to look for ether, because I made sure there was no ether. And Blanche, whom I loved, didn't love me. So she had to die. She's dead, and at peace. Steven? You took care of him for me. Steven is weak, as I once was. What a pity my father didn't live to see me become strong, to see me dispose of the weak and imperfect of the world who he detested! He would have admired me for what I'm going to do.
~ Warren revealing how he manipulated events in order to kill Helen.
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