The Cruel Tower

The Cruel Tower” (German: “Turm des Todes“) by Lew Landers is the third film in “The Blue Series” of the film label “M-Square Classics“. The film, which is based on a novel by William B. Hartley, is being released for the first time in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and has been recut in the cinema version on DVD. The leading actress Mari Blanchard had great success as an actress in the 60’s: You could see her next to John Wayne in “MacLintock” or next to Vincent Price in “The Poison of Evil” as well as in the long-running TV hit “77- Sunset- Strip“. John Ericson became famous through “City in Fear” next to Spencer Tracy and in the 60s and 70s through countless guest roles in well-known TV series like “Bonanza“, “Smoking Colts“, “The Streets of San Francisco” or “Vegas“. Charles McGraw on the other hand drew attention to himself especially through roles in “Spartacus“, Alfred Hitchcock‘s “The Birds” or the TV series “The Untouchables“. The sometimes breathtaking high altitude shots were staged by camera legend Ernest Haller, who won two Oscars for “Gone with the Wind” and “Jezebel“.


The unemployed tramp Tom Kittredge (John Ericson) joins three assembly workers who repair giant chimneys, steel towers and high-voltage lines at dizzying heights. However, Tom is constantly struggling with his fear of heights, which his supervisor Stretch (Charles McGrawn) makes fun of all the time. When he falls in love with Stretch‘s girlfriend Mary (Mari Blanchard), catastrophe strikes…

About John Ericson:

John Ericson (* 23 September 1926 in Düsseldorf as Joseph Meibes) emigrated with his family to Antwerp in 1931 and to the USA in 1934. Here he took his stage name and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York together with later stars like Grace Kelly and Jack Palance. Afterwards he worked as a theater actor, among other things on Broadway in the original production of the play Stalag 17, later filmed by Billy Wilder.

Ericson made his highly acclaimed film debut in “Teresa” in 1951. This was followed by roles at the side of world stars such as Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor or Barbara Stanwyck and directed by greats like Fred Zinnemann, John Sturges or Samuel Fuller. However, he never made the big breakthrough into the A-League of Hollywood stars. Ericson often played elegant, self-confident and hard acting men, often in westerns. Besides, Ericson played in numerous TV series like “Airwolf“, “Murder She Wrote“, “General Hospital“, “Knight Rider“, “Smoking Colts“, “Bonanza” and “The A-Team“. In the TV series “Private Detective Honey West” he played the male lead role alongside Anne Francis between 1965 and 1966. His last of over 100 film and television appearances he made in 2008 in the series “L.A. Crash“.

About Mari Blanchard:

Mari Blanchard (*13 April 1923) was an American film and television actress, best known for her roles as B-movie Femme Fatale in American productions of the 1950s and early 1960s. At the age of nine she fell ill with polio. After her health improved, she ran away from home as a teenager and joined a circus. She then studied at several universities before becoming a successful model and film extra in the late 1940s. A producer discovered her in an advertisement and hired her for the big screen. From 1950 to 1951 she took small roles in a series of movies at MGM, RKO and Paramount until she was signed on by Universal International in 1952. Her first movie at Universal was “Back at the Front“, followed by the romantic adventure “The Veils of Baghdad” in 1953 in which she played the leading role at Victor Mature‘s side.

Original Title: The Cruel Tower

Director: Lew Landers

Screenplay: Warren Douglas

Novel: William B. Hartley

Actor & actresses: John Ericson, Mari Blanchard, Charles McGraw, Steve Brodie, Peter Whitney, Alan Hale Jr., Diana Darrin, Carol Kelly, Barbara Bell Wright, Rico Alaniz, Kay Brown, John Indrisano, Stafford Repp, Dick Rich, Tim Ryan

Producer: Lindsley Parsons, John H. Burrows

Cinematography: Ernest Haller

Sound: Tom Lambert

Editing: Maurice Wright

Technical departementt: Lloyd Garnell

Decoration: Ben Bone

Art Director: Bill Ross

Make-Up Departement: Willard Colee, Madine Danks

Music: Paul Dunlap

Casting: Fred H. Messenger


Production company: Lindsley Parsons Picture Corporation

Year of production: 1956

Genre: Drama, adventure

Country: USA

Language: English

Dubbing: German


Length: 79 Min

Rating: FSK 16

Aspect ratio: 1.85 : 1

Sound: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Color: black/white

Resolution: SD

More titles:

German: The Cruel Tower

Italian: La torre crudele

Filmlabel: M-Square Classics


Premiere USA: 28.10.1956

Premiere Deutschland: 24.07.1957

DVD-Start: 24.01.2020 (Deutschland)

VoD-Start: 24.01.2020 (Deutschland)

Many more leading roles followed, later she began to concentrate more and more on appearances on television. In 1963 she was diagnosed with cancer and retired from film work, but continued to appear in several television series until her health finally forced her to end her career. She died on 10 May 1970 in Woodland Hills, California, and according to her wish, her remains were cremated and scattered at sea.

About Charles McGraw:

Charles McGraw (* 10 May 1914 in Des Moines, Iowa) went to sea from the age of 18. After that he moved to New York where he made his stage debut in the play “The Golden Boy“. After an interruption because of World War II he returned to Broadway, worked for the radio and got several extra roles in film productions. The film producer and scriptwriter Mark Hellinger persuaded the actor to go to Hollywood where McGraw appeared in 1946 with the supporting role of Al in Robert Siodmaks‘ film noir “The Killers“, which was nominated for several OscarsFurther appearances in the film noir followed in which McGraw was mostly cast in the supporting role of the tough guy because of his distinctive voice and the emotionless face. McGraw played one of his few leading roles in Richard Fleischer‘s film noir “The Narrow Margin” (1952), an appearance for which he received great criticism.

From the mid-1950s McGraw worked more and more for US television. With increasing age McGraw also took on character roles in the cinema, among them the part of Marcellus in Stanley Kubrick’s prize-winning monumental film “Spartacus” (1960). McGraw died at the age of 66 when he fell through a glass shower door in his house. During his four-decade career he starred in over 140 film and television productions.

Trailer (German)

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Press reviews and quotes

“A fast-paced and beautifully photographed melodrama.” (

“Sexy skyscraper thriller – not for the faint of heart!” (

“Mary Blanchard shines as femme fatale in Tower of Death.” (

Technical data

Uncut cinema version, for the first time in cinema format on DVD, now digitally remastered | Picture format: WS 1.37:1 (Open Mattered original format), black and white film | Running time: 79 min | Sound format: German DD 2.0, French DD 2.0 | Original trailer, artwork gallery | Rating FSK 16 | The blue series no. 3


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