Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||William Castle|
|Produced by||Rudolph C. Flothow|
|Screenplay by||Eric Taylor|
|Based on||The Whistler|
1942-55 radio series
by J. Donald Wilson
J. Carrol Naish
|Narrated by||Otto Forrest|
|Music by||René Garriguenc|
|Cinematography||James S. Brown Jr.|
|Edited by||Jerome Thoms|
Larry Darmour Productions
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
The Whistler is a 1944 American mystery film noir directed by William Castle and starring Richard Dix, Gloria Stuart and J. Carrol Naish. Based on the radio drama The Whistler, it was the first of Columbia Pictures' eight "Whistler" films starring Richard Dix produced in the 1940s.
Industrialist Earl C. Conrad, who failed to rescue his wife at sea and now suffers from grief and guilt, arranges to have a hit man end his life. He does not know how he will be killed, but knows that it will happen within days. Suddenly Conrad learns that his wife is still alive, and he tries to call off the hit. Unfortunately, the underworld go-between who made the deal with him has been killed in the meantime, leaving Conrad unable to learn the identity of the actual hit man.
The pathological hired killer, obsessed with carrying out his mission, stalks Conrad as the frightened industrialist stays on the move. Always looking over his shoulder and trying to think of a way to survive, Conrad keeps running into other dangers, including the vengeance of the dead man's wife.
When the film was released, film critic Bosley Crowther panned it, writing, "Such is the miserable expedient to which Richard Dix is reduced in this weary, illogical imitation of an Alfred Hitchcock (plus an early Fritz Lang) film. For an hour or thereabouts he starts and stumbles just out of reach of a relentless J. Carrol Naish, who first has the original intention of frightening Mr. Dix to death. Along that line, the producers might have made a likely serio-comic film, but they change Mr. Naish's mind too quickly and send him--and the picture--in for a real kill. And so we get the routine spectacle of a dragged-out killer-and-victim chase, all very serious and phony--and, consequently, very dull."
More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a more favorable review, writing, "This action-packed one-hour mystery story was the first film in a series spun off from the successful radio program of the '30s and '40s. It starts off with some whistling and a monologue by the unseen Whistler, just as it was done on radio: 'I am the Whistler...and I know many things, for I walk by night.' ... This well-done suspense story continues with the panicky Earl trying to track down the killer to cancel the contract, while the killer thinks he can scare his target to death by just tailing him. The film's theme is that man cannot change his destiny, and if his destiny is to die by murder...that's what it will be. The Whistler states at the end: 'I know because I am the Whistler.' The result is an entertaining B film."
Film critic Leonard Maltin gave it three out of four stars, writing: "[This] tense and moody tale of fate sets the ironic tone for the rest [of the Whistler series]. Naish shines as the principal hit man."
The film was a popular box office attraction and seven sequels were produced over the ensuing four years.