The popular radio series was brought to the screen in this low-budget programmer. Dix plays a rich industrialist who learns that his wife has drowned; devastated, Dix contacts Costello and has him put out a contract on his (Dix's) own life. Costello speaks with Naish, a professional
killer, who takes up the contract. Soon after, Costello is killed by police and Dix learns that his wife is not dead after all, but held by the Japanese on a Pacific island. He tries to cancel the contract, but cannot. Now he must avoid the killer, who has decided that he will murder Dix by
frightening him to death. Several times he narrowly escapes death when the mysterious sound of "The Whistler" warns him, although this figure, who also narrates the drama, is never seen. In the end Dix is rescued from his fate by his secretary, Stuart.
Director Castle made his first big impression with this tense little B programmer. Assigned the script by Harry Cohn, Castle recalled in his autobiography: "I tried every effect I could dream up to create a mood of terror: low-key lighting, wide-angle lenses to give an eerie feeling, and a
hand-held camera in many of the important scenes to give a sense of reality to the horror. To achieve a mood of desperation, I insisted that Dix give up smoking and go on a diet. This made him nervous and irritable, particularly when I gave him early-morning calls and kept him waiting on the
set--sometimes for an entire day--before using him in a scene. He was constantly off-center, restless, fidgety, and nervous as a cat. When I finally used him in a scene, I'd make him do it over and over until he was ready to explode. It achieved the desired effect--that of a man haunted by fear
and trying to keep himself from being murdered." The film got rave reviews and Castle, at the beginning of his career, and Dix, at the end of his, worked together on two more films in the series. Forrest, the disembodied voice, never appeared in any of the seven subsequent films. Castle went on to
direct a great many very forgettable schlock pictures (SLAVES OF BABYLON; THE LAW VS. BILLY THE KID; THIRTEEN FRIGHTENED GIRLS; etc.) along with a few memorable ones (THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL; HOMICIDAL; and THE NIGHT WALKER), but never did anything else as effective as this. Dix is excellent as
the man terrorized and unable to do anything to stop it. The production values, considering that the film was shot on a budget of less than $75,000, are excellent. A perfect example of the art that could be created within the strictures of studio B-unit production.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The popular radio series was brought to the screen in this low-budget programmer. Dix plays a rich industrialist who learns that his wife has drowned; devastated, Dix contacts Costello and has him put out a contract on his (Dix's) own life. Costello speaks… (more)