• The "Whistler" series of mysteries in the 1940s was one of the immediate ancestors of "film noir." The stories were usually dark, the characters were morally ambiguous, and the shadowy, anonymous narrator ("I am the Whistler") added an extra touch of creepiness.

    This last entry in the series is different from the others. It's lighter, in both senses of the word. Though it's an adequate "B" mystery, it's no grimmer than an Agatha Christie film.

    The difference is partly due to the writing and directing, but the absence of Richard Dix, the aging former star who played the leads in the previous films, is a big factor. Dix had a "noir" persona if ever there was one. He looked like a man haunted by the past and worried about the future. Here he's replaced by fresh-faced young Michael Duane, who just doesn't have the same gravitas.

    The plot is a variation on a familiar theme. A man's new fiancée vanishes, and he quickly realizes how little he really knows about her. The more he learns what seems to be the truth, the more it makes sense simply to forget all about her, but he can't get past the feeling that somebody is lying to him.

    The mystery woman is played by Lenore Aubert, who was sort of the poor man's Hedy Lamarr in the 1940s. She's supposed to be a French widow here, though she doesn't sound terribly French. (She was actually born in Slovenia and raised in Austria, and her Gallic-sounding screen name was dreamed up by Hollywood.)

    This is a decent little crime story, but it's not representative of the "Whistler" movies. If you don't happen to like it, at least give another film in the series a look.