Skip to content

Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

The Whistler

1944 | United States | 59 min | More...
A still from The Whistler (1944)
  • Watched on C-: 3 stars (out of 5)
    on Mon Sep 19, 2022 via Watch TCM

    Richard Dix plays a grieving widower who hires a hitman to kill him only to discover his wife is alive, and he has no way of rescinding his execution request.

    Based on a then-popular radio series, the film crams a lot of plot into its hour-long running time. The titular whistler proves an omniscient off-screen presence whose whistling provides a subtle nudge to key plot moments.

    Dix convinces early as a depressed man too scared to take his own life. His decision to commit suicide by proxy proves novel, as does the series of circumstances that leave him without a way to call off the hit. I even liked the hitman, who poses as a life insurance salesman early, pointing out myriad ways Dix could die. Nice touch.

    The film wastes little time establishing the situation and placing Dix in perpetual flight. As he flees the ever-present assassin, he grows more desperate. His hair becomes disheveled. He grows stubble. His clothes tear. He flops in homeless shelters and shacks. The film contrasts the earlier luxurious life he was eager to abandon with the gritty existence he clings to now.

    But the production bumps up against its limited budget. This manifests in the recycled sets and odd cuts. In one sequence, characters appear to run down an alley and onto a western backlot.

    It’s not a bad little movie. More akin to an average Twilight Zone episode: entertaining but forgettable.