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  • telegonus6 September 2002
    Whispering Ghosts boasts some interesting credits, among them screenwriter Lou Breslow, who had a flair for offbeat comedy, journeyman director Alfred Werker, who made some decent films, B producer Sol Wurtzel, and star Milton Berle. Miltie was still a few years away from his his great television success, and here plays a radio actor out to solve a murder mystery aboard a pirate ship. The supporting cast, as is so often the case in this kind of lighthearted borderline horror fare, is first rate: Brenda Joyce, John Carradine, Edmund McDonald, and another Milton, Parsons, without whom this kind of movie wouldn't seem complete. This is an agreeable comedy, not so much hilarious as pleasingly familiar in nearly every respect, as everything about it feels recycled, including the sets, and this is not in itself a bad thing, as Hollywood excelled at this kind of formula in the forties, and handled it better in this sort of cramped, intimate second feature than in bigger budgeted films. This one's done just right, not too big, not too small.
  • Norm-304 November 1999
    Van Buren (Berle) "The Man Who Lifts the Veil" in a weekly radio mystery series, attempts to solve an actual murder that occurred several years before. This film is VERY much like the film "Mystery Broadcast", but the latter is a MUCH better film. Berle seems "out of place" here, and his wisecracks tend to "fall flat" in many scenes (esp. aboard the ship, the "Black Joker"). What saves this film from being mediocre is the "scared reaction " comedy of Willie Best, and the strange assortment of characters. It's quite enjoyable to watch, but is NOT a "classic mystery"! Norm
  • Whispering Ghosts (1942)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Radio host H.H. Van Buren (Milton Berle) does a weekly show where he introduces a cold case and then the following week gives away the real murderer. With the latest mystery expected to bring him a ton a new listeners he realizes that he really doesn't know who the killer is so he heads out to a creepy boat where he comes under attack from a man with a hatchet.

    WHISPERING GHOSTS is a comedy that has several of the "old dark house" elements thrown in for fun. Of course, the biggest difference is that they involve a ship instead of a house but for the most part this Fox comedy is entertaining enough if you enjoy these old time mysteries. It certainly helps that you've got a pretty good cast of characters and plenty of horror elements.

    We should be honest that the entire story isn't anything too great but at just 75 minutes the director and cast get enough out of it to make for an entertaining movie. Berle appears to be having fun playing this wannabe detective and he and Willie Best actually have a very good chemistry together. Their work certainly brings a few laughs from the screenplay. Also on hand is Brenda Joyce as the new owner of the ship of John Carradine gets to play a weird man who ends up on the ship.

    The horror elements are a plenty as there's a lot of fog, mysterious figures walking around, scary glowing eyes and other items. WHISPERING GHOSTS certainly isn't a masterpiece but it's a solid entertaining.
  • "Whispering Ghosts" was an odd movie because although it stars Milton Berle, he isn't very much like you'd expect. While this comedian made his name on stage with his almost encyclopedic knowledge of jokes (a few were even his own), here he isn't exactly doing comedy. And, in fact, sometimes he seems more like a macho hero type! This was definitely NOT what I expected to see!

    The film is a murder mystery film--very much a staple of B movies of the era. In this case, H.H. Van Buren (Berle) has a radio show and through it ends up getting caught up in a murder mystery and hunt for stolen diamonds aboard an old, possibly haunted, boat. On hand to help him is Willie Best--who played pretty much the same sort of role in a similar film, Bob Hope's "Ghost Breakers". The only problem is that while Best's character KNOWS bad things are afoot, Van Buren actually thinks it's all an act and that he's not in any danger at all.

    Overall, this is a mildly interesting film but mostly of interest as a curiosity because it stars Berle...even if he doesn't seem much like Berle here. Nothing outstanding in any way...just a very typical B- mystery with an atypical sort of leading man.
  • 1942's "Whispering Ghosts" served as a rare leading role for Milton Berle, still seven years away from TV stardom as 'Uncle Miltie,' for Sol Wurtzel's 'B' picture unit at Fox. In an obvious nod to Bob Hope's "The Ghost Breakers," Berle plays a radio sleuth, H. H. Van Buren, trying to solve the ten year old ax murder of a ship's captain who had hidden a cache of diamonds on his schooner the Black Joker. Also like Hope, Willie Best is on hand to provide wisecracks aplenty, but here, sadly, the ghosts are nonexistent. Instead, we get a pair of ham actors posing as the dead captain's first mate, Long Jack (John Carradine), and sweetheart Meg (Renie Riano), plus the captain's grand niece and heir (Brenda Joyce). The only real mystery is why nobody found the jewels before, the culprit's identity painfully obvious right from his opening scene. Carradine, Grady Sutton, and Milton Parsons are on hand to prop up the second half, as the picture remains anchored to that houseboat and doesn't budge. More serious and less cowardly than Bob Hope, Milton Berle proves himself capable of carrying a picture, though his material is substandard, his constant racial banter with Best providing the most amusement. For John Carradine, it was quite a comedown from acknowledged 'A' classics like "The Grapes of Wrath" and the recent "Son of Fury" to this ignominious little 'B,' but he's genuinely funny raising his eye patch to get a better look at the note handed to him by Berle. By his second scene, he's already revealed to be an actor named Norbert, so all the ghost talk is a cheat. He was constantly in demand as a freelance actor over the next four years, but many of the Poverty Row choices made resulted in a decline in his screen fortunes, due to his unwavering devotion to Shakespeare, and the company he wanted so desperately to succeed during the difficult war years. Incidentally, 'Long Jack' was also the name given to him in his favorite film, "Captains Courageous," while at one point, he is referred to by Berle as Dracula!
  • JohnHowardReid31 August 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    Producer: Sol M. Wurtzel. Copyright 22 May 1942 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York release at the Rialto: 17 May 1942. U.S. release: 22 May 1942. Sydney release at the Civic: 7 August 1942. Australian release: 13 August 1942. U.S. length: 6,745 feet (75 minutes). Australian length: 6,948 feet (77 minutes).

    SYNOPSIS: Radio comic solves mystery of haunted treasure ship.

    COMMENT: A most enjoyable B-picture with an amusing, intriguing script, a top-flight cast and excellent production values. Milton Berle is at the top of his form and delivers the script's many wisecracks with the same brilliant timing and dexterity as he manually disarms Abner Biberman (whom he mistakenly supposes to be an actor).

    Speaking of actors, there are two deliciously hammy performances from John Carradine and Renie Riano which are spot on in character and reveal a range of subtlety unmarked elsewhere in their careers. Grady Sutton too for one brief flash shows an unexpected capacity to be a menacing heavy. Frank Faylen has a nice cameo as a replacement announcer (the script device that works Faylen into the plot has us puzzling for a while but it turns out to be a typically brilliant piece of Philip N. MacDonald plot construction).

    Milton Parsons has another of his sinister sepulchral roles which Arthur Hohl gives a typical portrayal as the harassing detective — and Harry Hayden as the harassed sponsor. We like Charles Halton's scared lawyer and Abner Biberman scuttling about in the shadows.

    Brenda Joyce gives an attractive performance and whilst her Herschel costumes are now somewhat dated, she still looks pretty good to us. Many of Berle's jokes are made at the expense of Willie Best who provides plenty of chuckles with his deft portrait of a cowardly valet.

    Alfred Werker's direction is considerably above his usual standard — the close-up on Halton as he waits nervously for the lift and glances over his shoulder will knock audiences to the back of their seats, while the tracking and panning shots with torch beams over the rotting hulk keep suspense high.

    The art direction is masterly and is arguably the most lavishly atmospheric ever achieved in a "B" picture and is ably abetted by Lucien Ballard's superbly calculated-for-thrills cinematography. Other production credits are A-1 and production values, even by Fox's high B-feature standards, are exceptional.
  • Watching Whispering Ghosts and Milton Berle's scenes with Willie Best I was put in mind of Bob Hope with Willie Best in The Ghostbreakers. It was obvious that 20th Century Fox was trying to turn Berle into their version of Bob Hope with films like these. But super stardom would have wait until television for Milton Berle.

    That being said Whispering Ghosts isn't a bad comedy. Berle plays a criminologist who solves mysteries on his radio show. But he's advancing theories of crimes where the principals are long dead. When he offers to solve the mystery of Brenda Joyce's uncle who was murdered and left a buried treasure there a few folks still alive who want said treasure.

    Joyce's uncle was a sea captain and he was killed aboard his ship. His will contains the usual cryptic clues as to the whereabouts of the treasure. As is usual a few cast members die before the mystery is solved.

    Uncle Miltie has his usual wisecracks, but the funniest is John Carradine all made up in pirate costume telling Berle and Best he was first mate to Joyce's uncle. Carradine looked like he was having a great old time shivering everyone's timbers as a pirate, Rene Riano comes in a close second as Carradine loony sister.

    Whispering Ghosts while done on the cheap is still a fun film and a must for Uncle Miltie's fans.
  • This is my second consecutive review of a movie starring a comedian who'd eventually become a bigger success on a new phenomenon called television several years later. Milton Berle made one of his few starring features during the '40s in a vehicle which would have been suitable for Bob Hope or Red Skelton-except he seems to play the role mostly straight with whatever wisecracks only intermittently funny. Still, this was a pretty intriguing mystery he did and there's still some pleasures like some of his banter with Willie Best as his servant as well as a player from my favorite movie-It's a Wonderful LIfe-in this case, Charles Halton, appearing in an early scene. Actually, there are also some nice visually chilling and occasionally funny touches to recommend as well. I was surprised to see someone else other than Berle dressed in drag here. Oh, and seeing John Carradine was also a hoot to see! So on that note, Whispering Ghosts is worth a look for any Berle completists out there.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Obviously made as an attempt to cash in on similar themes (comical radio show host solves mystery), this enjoyable comedy replaces Bob Hope (who made similar themed movies with "The Cat and the Canary" and "The Ghost Breakers") and Red Skelton (the "Whistling" series) with Milton Berle whose early film career was a brief blip in his over-all list of works. He's trying to solve an old murder on a seemingly haunted ship, left to pretty Brenda Joyce by her late great-uncle whose mysterious death remains unsolved. Most of the action takes place on this ghost ship, filled with all sorts of creepy people, including two eccentric characters (John Carradine and Renie Riano) who are almost ghost-like in their creepy demeanors.

    Berle gets in a few good wisecracks at Riano's expense (refering to her as "Moronica Lake"), but his slurs towards valet Willie Best (obviously spoofing Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's relationship with Berle's "friendly" rival Jack Benny) are quite racist, even if on occasion quite funny. One gag between Berle and Best is obviously lifted straight from the Humphrey Bogart comedy thriller "All Through the Night", taken from a scene where Bogart's valet (Sam McDaniel) is amusingly confronted for wearing Bogart's clothes. Best takes each stereotype tossed at him in stride, making his cowardice hysterically funny even if it tears away at his dignity. While I wish these actors had been treated better in playing less dignified parts, I have to give them credit for their personal integrity in adding a soul underneath the writers' interpretations of these parts, sometimes adding in a silent look or attitude that makes their obvious intelligence come through even in spite of the deliberate slurs tossed their way.

    As for who the guilty party is in the gruesome murder (involving a hatchet), there are so many red herrings that it is surprising that the water surrounding the ship doesn't look like blood. One funny theory is thought of with the suicide of the victim (how does one stab themselves in the back with a hatchet? Toss it up in the air and bend over so their back will catch it?) John Shelton is wasted as Joyce's love interest who seems to be the obvious killer, while funny man Grady Sutton has some amusing lines as a milquetoast visitor on the boat who seems to really have no reason for being there. The rapport between Berle and the detective (Arthur Hohl) investigating the case is also amusing. While this is certainly an overall enjoyable comedy thriller, it is the chilling photography and eerie atmosphere which makes it work and makes it more than just another rip-off of a plot line you've seen many, many times.
  • This is a good film and a fine example of the scare comedies popular in the 1940's. Bob Hope specialized in this type of comedy and he would have been much better in this. Milton Berle is OK but his jokes aren't as good and his acting is too broad. Of course Berle always did broad comedy and deliberately overacted and it usually worked. Look at "Mad, Mad World" for example. Here his bad acting weakens the film. On the plus side the blond is nice to look at and Willie Best steals the film with his brilliant comedy reactions. Willie Best was always the best thing in every movie he was in. I don't know what they paid this guy but it wasn't enough.
  • Milton Berle is the star and writer of a radio true-crime show. A police inspector tells him that his "murderer" of a ship's captain thirteen years ago was an alias of that captain. He's announced that he'll provide the murderer's name on the next broadcast, so he heads out to the grounded ship to look for a fresh solution for his audience.

    It's a B movie from Twentieth-Century Fox, based on recent thrill comedies that had been successful: THE GHOST BREAKERS and WHISTLING IN THE DARK, with Sol Wurtzel trying to promote his comedian as an answer to Bob Hope and Red Skelton. The script is decent and Berle's delivery of wisecracks is fine, but the aren't that funny. Some sound like someone who had looked at the scenes he wasn't in, and "the Thief of Bad Gags" is a decent enough actor. Credit Fox's under-rated director Alfred Werker. Management would slot him into any project, even ones that were partially shot, and he would deliver a seamless movie without much fuss. It was that very faculty that kept him in the Bs. In this one, he balances the ghostly atmosphere and gags very well.