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The fifth entry in the Columbia series based on the CBS radio program, "The Whistler", opens with kindly old music store owner Edward Stillwell (Paul E. Burns) hiring private detective Don Gale (Richard Dix) to find a girl Stillwell hasn't seen in seven years. Gale sends Freida Hanson (Helen Mowery') to pose as the missing Elora Lund (Pamela Blake), and she learns that some items left by Elora's mother are now extremely valuable before Harry Pontos (Mike Mazurki) comes into the room and kills Stillwell. He also kidnaps Freida but releases her when Don announces she is an impostor. With Freida's help, Gale locates Pontos' apartment, who is shot down in a gun battle with the arriving police. Gale returns to his place but is arrested by detectives Taggart and Burns and jailed. The detectives later find the real Elora, who has been in a sanitarium recovering from an accident. Gale is released and Elora is sent by the detectives to see if he will disclose why Stillwell was looking for her.... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
The 1940's were full of private eyes from Sam Spade to Phillip Marlowe. None, however, equals the sheer sleaze of key-hole peeper Don Gale. He's a distinctive creation of writer Eric Taylor's clever little screenplay, with more twists and turns than one of those old Toni home permanents. The brief opening between Gale and his secretary tells all we need to know about his brand of professional ethics and is a great bit of subtle innuendo. Richard Dix is perfect as Gale with all the phony charm and shifty eyes of an oily medicine man. If Gale has any redeeming qualities like Spade or Marlowe, I can't find them, making him one of the most unusual lead characters of the day.
The movie starts off posing a neat little mystery-- why would anyone want to kill for some worthless old keepsakes. The solution is a novel one, although the story sometimes unfolds in a complex fashion that's hard to follow.There're some nifty little touches, such as the trigger-happy neighbor who apparently shoots at anything that moves or the safe-house matron who looks like she could go a few rounds with Mike Tyson. However, not everything is roses. Little old man Stillwell should carry a sugar-overload warning, while plug-ugly Mike Mazurki mugs it up shamelessly as the towering menace. The bare-bones street scenes might blemish most movies, but here they come across as just plain cheap like Gale himself.
How surprising that the schlockmeister of 1950's gimmick movies, William Castle, stands as the moving force behind many of these little Whistler gems. He had a real feel for them. Too bad he's identified now with such exploitation flicks as The Tingler (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960), (Tingler wired certain certain theatre seats for a mild jolt and then insured the patrons! ). Anyway, the ending here is particularly ironical, even for a series that prided itself on irony. As they say, they just don't make 'em like this any more. Too bad.
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