(director: William Castle; screenwriter: Eric Taylor/based on the story by Eric Taylor; cinematographer: Philip Tannura; editor: Dwight Caldwell; music: Wilbur Hatch; cast: Richard Dix (Don Gale), Barton MacLane (Detective Taggart), Nina Vale (Joan Hill), Pamela Blake (Elora Lund), Regis Toomey (James Summers), Mike Mazurki (Harry Pontos), Charles Lane (Detective Burns), Helen Mowery (Freda Hanson), Kathleen Howard (Rose Denning), Harlan Briggs (Mr. Brown), Paul Burns (Edward Stillwell), Arthur Space (Davis, Summers’ Henchman), Otto Forrest (Whistler, voice); Runtime: 61; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rudolph C. Flothow; Columbia Pictures; 1946)

“Enjoyable minor film noir.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was the fifth episode in Columbia Picture’s “The Whistler” series, and is one of the better ones. William Castle (“The Tingler”/”Strait-Jacket”/”Shanks”) directs this low-budget black-and-white enjoyable minor film noir, that comes with a choice narration by the disguised Whistler (Otto Forrest). It’s based on the story by Eric Taylor, who also writes the screenplay.It has a good performance by Richard Dix as the unscrupulous private detective and a plausible surprise ending.

The elderly proprietor of a music store, Edward Stillwell (Paul Burns), hires wise-guy private detective Don Gale (Richard Dix) to locate Elora Lund (Pamela Blake) who vanished seven years ago when she was fourteen at a time her widowed mom, a regular customer, suddenly died. The cynical snoop takes the case when told Elora is now a rich girl who will make it worth his while when located. The rogue P.I., anxious to find out how so, hires the shady fashion model Freda Hanson (Helen Mowery) to pose as Elora for Stillwell. When convinced of her identity Stillwell, shows the poser a newspaper clipping that says a Swedish tycoon will pay $100,000 a piece for the invaluable Jenny Lind wax recordings made just before her death in 1887. It seems Elora’s mom gave Stillwell the records of the famous Swedish singer to sell, but the old man knew they were too valuable to sell and kept them. When Stillwell read the newspaper article, he put an ad in the newspaper to locate Elora but received no replies.

Warning: Spoiler in the next paragraph.

Pothos (Mike Mazurki), a vicious local maniac murderer, shows up in the music store, as he got tipped off by Freda’s boyfriend that Stillwell was sitting on a fortune. In a vicious act, Pothos stabs Stillwell to death after he shows Freda the newspaper clipping. Hard-nosed detectives Taggart (Barton MacLane) and Burns (Charles Lane) investigate the murder and list the unethical P.I. as a leading suspect. When the 21-year-old Elora is discovered recovering from an automobile accident in a sanitarium, the heiress is told she most trust the P.I.’s questionable actions even if it’s not clear that the detective is honest and that his true motivations in this case is to do the right thing. This ambiguity will in the end turn out bad for the scrappy detective, as he locates the two gentlemen who partnered with Freda and rubbed her, Pothos and a furniture store owner (Harlan Briggs) out so they could grab all the money by stealing the Lind recordings. After Gale kills the two murdering thieves, the cops raid Stillwell’s store and not only kill Gale when he mistakenly in the dark cellar fires at them but the cops’ bullets penetrate the music box and damage the recordings beyond repair.