The other day Daughter called in a panic. I was alarmed by the very fact that she had called, since her generation does not use the phone unless absolutely necessary. She sounded agitated, and described the problem: she had come home, the toilet was running, she took the top off the tank
I thought she had dropped it, and it shattered, and there were sharp porcelain shards everywhere. This happened to me when I was young - I stood on a sink in the basement bathroom to reach something, and the sink turned out to be held to the wall by small rusty brackets. (Rusty Brackets, by the way, made some naughty “party records” in the 50s. She was funny, but they sound pretty tame today.) The sink fell, shattered, and I fell on it, gashing my leg horribly close to important tubes. It bled like hell. I was 13 or so, I think. I knew I would not be able to do my paper route, so I called my friend Peter to sub, and he came by to get the list of subscribers. While it would be accurate to say he went white at the sight of all the blood, he was always white, milkily so, with that sort of sickly BO, plaid fashion sense, dork glasses, plaid shirt, and all the other signifiers of geek hood back then. Loved Sci-fi and was a very good artist. Now, I understand, a Lutheran minister involved in ecological justice. His father had a peculiar tic that involved stretching his neck in a grimace, and it was understood that he developed that in a POW camp.
It was normal growing up to have a friend whose dad was in a POW camp.
They went to our church, although I’m sure they thought of it the other way around. The last time I saw his father was at my mother’s funeral; he had tears in his eyes. I’ve always wondered about that.
Before I could tell daughter not to sever an artery on the porcelain she told me that she’d jiggled the thing, the thing in the tank, and it snapped off, and now there was water shooting out everywhere and the water was rising and she didn’t know what to do.
Ah. Well, I didn’t know what Thing had snapped off, but the water-rising problem could be solved by shutting off the supply, so I described how to do that. She said it was still making noise. It wasn’t rising but it was still making noise. After telling her to put buckets under everything leaking, I concluded my business at work and went home.
First thing I heard was water GUSHING through pipes. Erhm. Not good. Upon examination: the mechanism that regulated the water level - the Thing - had indeed snapped off. It was a metal rod with a plastic balloon. You know what I mean. There was no way to repair it, so I figured I’d replace it. But why was the water GUSHING?
Because the valve that controlled the water supply to the toilet wouldn’t shut off. It had two positions: lots of water to the tank, and less water but gushing from the valve. OH GREAT. So, down to the basement to cut the main. This, to Daughter, was High Level Dad Expertise: I put my hand into an ancient crevasse and cranked the lever, putting the whole house into a parched state.
Then I put down buckets and towels and cleaned everything up and took a nap.
I mention this because I went to the hardware store to get a replacement, and talked to a clerk about the hole in the tank, and asked whether the aperture was standard. For some reason I couldn’t say hole. I said aperture. The same clerk had helped me three days before when I was looking for a hex wrench set, because I was missing the wrench I needed to fix Daughter’s bike.
“I don’t know if it’s the 7/32. I only know it’s the penultimate one in the row of the set I have. That doesn’t mean it’s 7/32.”
Am almost certain that I am now regarded as Penultimate Aperture Man at the hardware store.
Ah, another programmer based on a popular radio show everyone's forgotten except for those who are interested in this rich, bygone medium:
The poster has it wrong. But don’t they usually have it wrong?
The Whistler doesn’t stalk his prey. He’s not a malevolent force. He is a pitiless observer of human failings. The unseen character was the narrator of the radio dramas.
|| At least in this programmer they get the theme right . . .
Although it’s not whistled . . . until it is. And that’s the standard open, word for word.
Whoa; the schlockmaster himself.
I'm not a fan. But apparently he was proud of these little films. So let's be kind, until we needn't be.
We meet a timid old man who goes to see a private dick:
Castle isn’t bad at this noir stuf, to be honest.
But he’s also not very good, because the detective gets up, goes to the window, lies down as he listens to the client. It’s odd.
He wants to have a young lady traced. He will pay a hundred dollars. But there’s more!
What the hell was that?
We jump ahead three days; Mr. Stillman - that’s the old guy - “has almost given up hope of finding Elora Lund,” as the Whistler tells us. After seven years, he expects results in three days. Huh. Well, we see a young blonde enter Mr. Stillwell’s music shop, and note she’s being tailed by a guy who wants to make sure he stays discreet by lighting his cigarettes with road flares:
It’s Mike Mazurki! Last role: “Old Man in Hotel” in the 1990 Dick Tracy.
She goes to the back of the music shop, and wakes up the old guy. Calls him “Daddy Stillwell,” and says she’s Elora. He’s happy to see her! She explains that she ran away from him because she was afraid she’d be put in an orphanage after her mother died. He said he saved the trinkets her mother had given him, and you know what? They’re actually worth a fortune.
By now Mike Mazurki has entered the building, no doubt looking for treasure:
I should note that everything here is dark; everything takes place at night. It’s hard to make out, and it’s not just the print. Well, Mike comes up the stairs, stabs the old man, and takes Elora. Except she’s not Elora, says the detective to the press, and we don’t know how he knows.
But. Here’s where it goes to Whistler territory: The detective goes to the apartment of the girl who’d come to see the old man. He'd paid her to go the store and pretend she was the long-lost girl.
So the detective is corrupt, and so is the woman. This is how Whistler stories unspool. Bad people with secrets, inevitably undone.
Beyond that? It gets wordy and complicated. Nineteen minutes into the movie, the lack a competent hand is apparent.
And this was his fourth Whistler pic.
Castle gained a reputation for being able to make films under budget and quickly. In addition, he worked as an associate producer on Orson Welles's film noir The Lady from Shanghai (1947), doing much second unit location work.
I know he’s loved for his showmanship, but I never got it.
I had to smile at this, though:
And what do you know, it’s Barton MacLane from the Torchy series. Upon looking at his imdb page, I was surprised to learn this:
He had a recurring role on “I Dream of Jeanie.”
HEY, IT’S THE FORTIES. PUT A WINDOW PATTERN ON THAT WALL
Here’s the thing about Whistler scripts: they are lean, fast, single-minded, and careen towards a twist. This thing is a plate of cold spaghetti. But I’ll give it this: now and then, it brings the Radio Whistler nicely to life.
But it’s been so long since we saw or heard from the Whistler that this seems out of place.
That'll do, right? See you around.