You're walking alone on the street at night, but then you hear another set of footsteps and a haunting tune being whistled by an unseen stranger. Fritz Lang used an similar premise in his 1930s German movie with Peter Lorre playing M, a psychopathic murderer of children. But the American radio series was even creepier. The unseen Whistler didn't kill anyone (that we know of), but he certainly loved watching murders take place, narrating them for us, and chuckling at the suffering of others instead of doing anything to stop it. Unlike M, he was never caught. He kept walking the streets every week for thirteen long years, whistling his ominous thirteen notes and telling us another tale of bizarre fate. Perhaps Fate is who the Whistler really was? He never provided any sir name, and the killer was usually punished by some twist of fate that only The Whistler seemed to expect.
It is very likely The Whistler was inspired by The Shadow, which began nearly a decade earlier. Like the Shadow, the Whistler seemed to enter and exit the criminal underworld without ever being seen. He would watch the evil doers carry out their schemes, yet they never saw him, even though he would tell us what they were thinking in their presence. His voice sounded equally sinister to The Shadow, too. It was was a slithering tenor, hissing the "s's" and often laughing "heh-heh-heh-hehheh!" at the foolishness of the guilty. Both series had similar opening lines: The Shadow "knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men", whereas The Whistler "knows many strange tales hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows." When Bill Forman served 1/2 year in the military, Marvin Miller substituted as The Whistler.
Also like The Shadow, several different actors played the title role over the course of The Whistler series. Bill Forman played it the most, but his announcer (Marvin Miller) substituted for him during the six months of his army duty (Buxton, 256). Gale Gordon and Joseph Kearns voiced the Whistler in earlier days, while Everett Clarke played the character in 1947 and Bill Johnstone did in 1948 (Dunning, 719).
The last similarity was the saddest one. Both series ended about the time frame (in the mid 1950s). Crime increased in the following decades, maybe because the guilty felt they were no longer being watched and could get away with murder. Or could it be that the Whistler is saving up some more great stories to tell us about in the future?
Originally posted 2018-01-09 04:57:21.