RETURN OF THE WHISTLER, THE
(director: D. Ross Lederman; screenwriters: story by Cornell Woolrich/Edward Bock/Maurice Tombragel; cinematographer: Philip Tannura; editor: Dwight Caldwell; music: Wilbur Hatch; cast: Michael Duane (Ted Nichols), Richard Lane (Gaylord Traynor), Lenore Aubert (Alice Dupres Barkley), James Cardwell (John Barkley), Ann Shoemaker (Mrs. Barkley), Wilton Graf (Dr. Grantland), Owlin Howlin (Anderson), Eddy Waller (Sam – the Gardener), Edgar Dearing (Capt. Griggs), Ann Doran (Sybil), Sarah Padden (Mrs. Hulskamp); Runtime: 63; MPAA Rating: NR producer: Rudolph C. Flothow; Columbia Pictures; 1948)
“It was the only episode without the film’s previous star Richard Dix, who retired.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
D. Ross Lederman (“Texas Cyclone”/”Adventure in Iraq”/”Two-Fisted law”)skillfully directs the last of the eight entries in Columbia’s superior Whistler mystery series, that was based on a popular radio show at the time. It was the only episode without the film’s previous star Richard Dix, who retired. Dix’s presence is missed. He was not a continuous character, but he added a certain spark to the characters whether as the dubious private detective or villain. The film is introduced by the voice-over of the unseen Whistler, who tells us “I walk by night.”
During a heavy rainstorm at night in upstate NY, engineer Ted Nichols (Michael Duane) is driving to a justice of the peace to marry a French widow named Alice Dupres (Lenore Aubert), whose American pilot husband was killed on their wedding night a few years ago during the war and is someone he only knows for two weeks. But the justice of the peace won’t be back until the morning, and the couple find they have car trouble after its been tampered with and stay at the only inn in town after Ted bribes the nasty night clerk Anderson (Owlin Howlin). Catch is that since they’re not married, Ted can’t share the room with Alice. The next morning Ted finds that Alice has vanished and Anderson lies that she ran away. Overhearing the disturbance in the lobby, private detective Gaylord Traynor (Richard Lane) offers his services to the distraught Ted and they ride together to NYC to check Alice’s apartment to see if she went there and had cold feet like the detective thinks.
The first half was exciting, but in the second half when we learn what all the mystery means the film loses its power and deadens. We now know that the French widow is the heiress to the American family fortune after her husband’s father’s death, and her husband’s crooked relatives have hired Anderson to concoct the wild story about her departure and for Traynor to locate Alice because they are planning to swindle her out of her inheritance and have placed her in an asylum run by a corrupt doctor (Wilton Graf). The less than compelling payoff has the engineer tracking hisfiance to the asylum and rescuing her with the help of the guilt-ridden private dick, who changes allegiances when he’s convinced the family who hired him are criminals.
REVIEWED ON 10/7/2012 GRADE: B