“Do you know that some people actually die of fright?”
A man (Richard Dix) despondent over the death of his wife puts out a contract on his own life; when he discovers his wife is still alive, however, he tries to reverse the contract, only to find that the man he originally contacted (Don Costello) has been killed, and a hired hitman (J. Carrol Naish) is determined to complete his job.
Based on one of the most popular radio mystery serials in American history, The Whistler offers a surprisingly effective cinematic translation of the show’s formulaic intrigue and suspense. Director William Castle — who went on to greater glory as the “schlockmeister” behind films such as The Tingler (1959) and Strait-Jacket (1964) — reportedly used “creative tactics” to elicit a suitably haggard and tense performance from wooden leading man Richard Dix, who wanders through the one-hour film desperate to reverse a chain of events he himself has put into motion; we can’t help vicariously experiencing his anxiety. Despite a few minor plot holes, The Whistler is worth a look both for its cultural significance and for the simple yet honest enjoyment it brings. Listen for the iconic opening whistled tune, which surely was an influence on Ennio Morricone’s scores for the “Man With No Name” films.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Effectively stark cinematography
- A clever screenplay with many suspenseful twists
Yes, as a nifty little B-thriller.