The Mark of the Whistler (1944)

Article #1638 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-8-2005
Posting Date: 2-5-2006
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Richard Dix, Janis Carter, Porter Hall

When a bum discovers that he almost shares the same name with someone with a dormant bank account, he is tempted into engaging in fraud to get the money for himself. Unfortunately, complications arise when he discovers that the man he is impersonating has some enemies…

The genre resource which supplied this title for my hunt list admits that it will include all movies of a series if only some of the movies in the series have fantastic elements. This apparently doesn’t apply all across the board; they don’t list every Bowery Boys movie, despite the fact that several of them qualify. But it does include the entire Whistler series, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if a certain movie is included because of elements of its own or due to its connection to the series. This is one of those ambiguous ones.

Granted, the whole Whistler series could be considered fantastic, since they’re all narrated by the unseen, shadowy Whistler, who might be considered a mystical character of sorts. Still, since he serves only as a narrator, this is a fairly weak element. The only other element of this movie that could cause it to even remotely qualify is that the revenge-driven villain of the piece may be mad, but I don’t think he goes over the edge to insane-psycho-killer mad, so that’s another weak element. At any rate, this movie remains extremely marginal to the genre.

Nonetheless, it’s a great little movie about guilt and fate, and it has a good sense of tension and some wonderful plot twists, as well as strong direction from a pre-horror William Castle. Richard Dix is excellent as the bum whose plot to get a fortune backfires on him, and you may want to keep your eyes open for an uncredited cameo by Willie Best. I certainly don’t mind covering marginalia when it’s as good as this one.

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