Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Richard Dix
THE WHISTLER (1944). Director: William Castle.

This is the first of several Columbia films (and later a TV series) based on the radio show where a weird, whistling figure narrates mystery stories, as he does in this film. Earl Conrad (Richard Dix) is despondent after the death of his wife, Clair, and arranges to have a hit man murder him. Then Conrad discovers that Clair is still alive, and tries to call off the hit man. Unfortunately the go-between, Vigran (Don Costello),  has been killed by the police, and the hit man (J. Carrol Naish), who has been paid, thinks it is a point of honor to finish his assignment. The basic premise of the film was undoubtedly used in other movies both before and after The Whistler, but it has effective variations, Castle's direction is adroit, and the acting is generally good. Naish is a bit miscast as the hit man, a role that would have been better played by Peter Lorre. Joan Woodbury has a vivid turn as Vigran's angry wife, who blames Conrad for her husband's death, and Trevor Bardette scores as a sinister bum in a men's shelter where Conrad is hiding out. Billy Benedict, Byron Foulger, Cy Kendall, Alan Dinehart, and Gloria Stuart (as Conrad's secretary, who is secretly in love with him) also have roles of varying importance. One puzzling aspect of the film is it is never fully explained how a woman, Claire, who supposedly drowns on a vacation winds up in a Japanese POW camp. Later Whistler films include The Secret of the Whistler and The Return of the Whistler.

Verdict: Interesting low-budget suspense film. ***.

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