The 19th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1946’s Whistle Stop and I’m sad to say that I ran into some trouble when I tried to watch it. As much as I love the Mill Creek box sets, the DVDs within are somewhat notorious for getting easily damaged. That was the problem that I ran into when I tried to watch Whistle Stop. From the minute I hit play, the film would randomly pause. The picture would randomly pixelate. The sound would randomly vanish. As you may have picked up, it was all very random but it also made it impossible for me to watch Whistle Stop.
However, like almost every other film that’s ever shown up in Mill Creek box set, Whistle Stop is in the public domain and, therefore, it’s been uploaded to YouTube by dozens of different accounts. Once I realized that the DVD wasn’t going to work, I switched over to YouTube and I finally got watch Whistle Stop.
Really, I probably shouldn’t have gone to all the trouble. Of the 19 Fabulous Forties films that I’ve watched so far, Whistle Stop is perhaps the least interesting. Half of the film is a film noir and the other half if a small town melodrama but, with its convoluted plot and uninspired direction, it really doesn’t work as either.
Mary (Ava Gardner) grew up in a small town but, eventually, she left and went to the big city, hoping to make a new life for herself. Apparently, she didn’t succeed because, two years later, she returns to the small town. (The town is so small and obscure that it’s mostly known for its train stop. Hence, it’s a “whistle stop.”) When she returns, she discovers that her ex-boyfriend, Kenny Veech (George Raft) has become a loser in her absence. Kenny is still in love with her but he’s also bitter at her for leaving town.
Making things even worse, from Kenny’s point of view, is that Mary is now dating a sleazy nightclub owner named Lew Lentz (Tom Conway). Kenny’s best friend, Gitlo (Victor McLaglen), comes up with a plan, in which he and Kenny will kill Lew and make it look like a robbery. However, Lew has plans of his own and…
You know what? I’m probably making Whistle Stop sound more interesting than it actually is. This is one of those films were the plot manages to be absurdly complicated without actually adding up to much. On the plus side, Ava Gardner, one of my favorite of great femme fatales, is beautiful and sultry as Mary and reminded me of why, for several years, Film Noir Femme Fatale was my default Halloween costume. Tom Conway makes Lew Lentz so amazingly sleazy that you can’t help but admire his commitment to the role. On the other hand, George Raft is totally miscast and way too handsome and naturally rakish to play a total loser like Kenny Veech. Watching the film, you can tell that he wasn’t particularly comfortable playing such an insecure and passive character.
Whistle Stop wasn’t particularly memorable but if you want to watch it, you can do so below. It’s free!