Columbia Pictures produced a total of eight “Whistler” films between 1944 and 1948, seven of which starred veteran actor Richard Dix (he died in 1947 and was replaced by Michael Duane for the final Whistler picture) in a variety of roles, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes psychotically villainous. He was never “the Whistler,” as many erroneously assume.
What all of the films in the series have in common is their basic connection to film noir cycle. Deeply and darkly fatalistic, these tightly constructed films are among the finest “B” noirs of the period. (The second film in the series, MARK OF THE WHISTLER (1944), is based on a story by Cornell Woolrich.)
MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER, the fifth film in the series, from 1946, is one of my own personal favorites of the eight. Dix stars as Don Gale, a seedy, corrupt private detective who stumbles onto a missing persons case that also involves a lost fortune. Gale will stop at nothing to get as close to the money as he can and his bumbling intensity is a joy to witness. Dix was a truly fine actor and he invests each of his performances in the Whistler films with an uncanny blend of menace and mirth. The supporting cast — Barton MacLane, Regis Toomey, Nina Vale, Mike Mazurki, and Charles Lane — is , as usual, top notch.
The primary director for the series was William Castle who, of course, would go on to further fame as one of Hollywood’s most successful creator of exploitation horror films beginning in the late 1950s. His work in these unusually dark noir melodramas is tight and atmospheric, giving ample proof to his stature as one of the original Kings of the Bs. MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER is a minor masterpiece of “B” movie-making and an absolute delight to behold.