Friday, June 08, 2012


The fifth movie in the Whistler series, a string of B-thrillers related only by a narrating character known as the Whistler whom we only see in shadow.  In this one, Richard Dix is an aging and somewhat shady private eye who agrees to help an old man who runs a phonograph store who is desperate to find a young girl from his past named Elora Lund.  A couple days later, someone claiming to be Lund shows up and the old man tells her he has some valuable property that once belonged to her mother, but before he can get it, a thug named Pontos breaks in, kills the old man, and kidnaps the girl.  It turns out the girl was just an accomplice of Dix's named Freda so she's freed, but soon the real Lund shows up, having read a newspaper story about the incident.  The treasure is a small stash of rare wax cylinder recordings made by famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind.  Pontos winds up killed by the cops, and Freda, who's not been on the up-and-up about her role in all this, isn't long for the world, either.  Who is Dix going to work for, himself or Lund?  And who is the mysterious person willing to kill to get the recordings?  The mystery story is fairly well worked-out, and there's a good supporting cast here, including Mike Mazurki as Pontos, Regis Toomey as Freda's landlord, and Barton MacLane and Charles Lane as the cops.  Dix is the weak link; playing a second-rate Sam Spade (of more ambiguous morality than Bogart's detective), he's drab and sluggish, and MacLane and Lane outshine him, though a cardinal rule of this kind of movie is that the detective, whether he's good or bad or conflicted, should always be more interesting than the cops.  This is not a total failure, but despite its short running time (60 minutes), it drags more often than it should.  [TCM]

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