For this edition Shadows of Film Noir, we take a look at William Castle's The Mark of the Whistler (1944), produced by the "B" unit at Columbia Pictures in 1944. It's a terrific, compact, intense little knuckle-biter about greed and its terrible consequences. It has never been available on video or DVD, though it recently screened at San Francisco's Roxie Cinema as part of an extraordinary new film noir series, "I Still Wake Up Dreaming." Here's hoping that someday Sony will be able to release a "Whistler" box set.
Behind the Scenes
"The Whistler" series comprised eight films, released between 1944 and 1948. They were more or less like "The Twilight Zone," with different stories and different characters each time, although actor Richard Dix played the lead character in seven of them. (Each movie ran about 60 minutes.) The "Whistler" character (played, without credit, by Otto Forrest) is more or less a narrator, a figure who only appears as a shadow, lurks just outside the story, and who "sees all and knows all." The movies were inspired by the successful radio show (1942-1955) of the same name, which in turn was inspired by The Shadow radio show. Considered one of the best of the series, The Mark of the Whistler came from a story by Cornell Woolrich, one of the great crime writers of his era. He wrote many novels and stories, and several of these were adapted to movies, such as The Leopard Man (1943), Rear Window (1954), The Bride Wore Black (1968) and Cloak & Dagger (1984).