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Friday, January 6, 2017

Short Film Review: The Whistler (2015)


Eugene Penrose (Arthur Hanket), Alan Brooks (Doctor Patterson), Donald Agnelli (Neighbor), Stephanie Erb (Nurse Jingle), Doug Kayne (Detective), Kathryn Harry (Delivery Girl), Jill K. Allen (Patient)

"He was flat, so I killed him... if you're out of tune, you're out of here."

The Short Version: Not to be confused with the 7 1/2 minute horror short of the same name also from 2015, Lee Harry's mini-movie is a whimsical tale of revenge with a dollop of snark and a touch of Serling. It's a darkly humorous short symphony centered around Eugene Penrose, a mentally unstable music conductor and former chemist who has a unique method of dispatching anyone who crosses him; this includes those who would snatch his fabled orchestral arrangement and a noisy, off-key neighbor. Professor Penrose might disagree, but THE WHISTLER is music to one's ears.

Fresh out of a sanitarium against his better judgment, former chemist and musical genius Professor Eugene Penrose moves into a neighborhood cottage where he attempts to settle into a life of normalcy. Initially, all is quiet on the suburban front as Penrose enjoys activities like gardening and reminiscing his conductor performance of a rare symphony once thought to be lost. A much coveted, rare, multi-million dollar example of musical genius, a great many prying hands wish to snatch it from the Professors possession. Unfortunately, the Professor's solace is short-lived when an annoying whistling sound coming from the neighbor across the street slowly, and torturously, sends Eugene over the edge. 

From the director of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 2 (1987) comes THE WHISTLER, a wonderful, darkly comical short film that's the director's first work at the helm since 1991. A director and an editor is a powerful combination and this is apparent in virtually every frame of this 26 minute mini-movie.

Based on a short story Harry had written when he was younger, the sparkle of imagination and creativity packs more characterization and exposition into its brief running time than many full-length features. Plot and character motivations are occasionally unveiled via newspaper clippings and other paraphernalia using little to no dialog to propel the narrative. If you're not paying attention you may miss some of these details. A more comprehensive synopsis is below, and spoiler free....

Some years prior, Penrose discovered an historically significant piece of musical history, the 'Symphony For Strings'; residing in the collection of an antique dealer. For years the famed musical arrangement was hidden away from the ears of music lovers the world over. Penrose proclaimed to conduct the symphony for one night only, before hiding it away for years, leaving it for some other musical scholar to discover it just as he did. Purportedly worth 50 million dollars, other interested parties wish to lay their hands on the ultra-rare find for reasons other than the sound of music.

While imagining himself conducting his sole performance one evening, Professor Penrose is interrupted by an irksome whistling sound. He can't eat; he can't garden; he can't perform any of his day-to-day activities for the confounding lipular turbulence emanating from the mouth of his obnoxious neighbor across the street. The Shakespearean tapping, rapping at his ear chamber door becomes such an amplified annoyance the crazed conductor re-creates a contraption that led to his arrest and indefinite stay at the Sunnyvale Rehabilitation facility. This devilish device deals instant death to those who have wronged him... including his bullying neighbor whose whistling dissonance has a Roderick Usher effect to the Professor's ear canal....

After spending approximately 10 minutes getting to know Penrose, Lee Harry keeps the hilarity and witty dialog coming at a steady pace, right up to the double-sweet revenge of the final moments. 

Brilliantly brought to life by Arthur Hanket, he has very little dialog, utilizing facial tics and expressions to gauge his emotional state (which is never balanced). One of the best moments is Penrose viciously stabbing into the soft dirt in his garden as the unholy sonic onslaught pierces his ears ad infinitum. Combined with the irritating 'whistling tea pot' of the brutish neighbor, there's more than a few moments of knee-slapping humor to be had. At the end, though, Professor Penrose gets the last laugh.

The music heard throughout was the work of Mr. Hanket's father-in-law, Donald Erb. THE WHISTLER had its premiere at the Burbank International Film Festival on September 11th, 2015.

At 26 minutes in its unedited form (later festival showings were cut down to 10 minutes), Lee Harry--again performing multiple duties--shows a deft hand in realizing his own short story. Acting, direction, writing, photography, editing.... all strongly represented, culminating in a superlative, short film symphony of sights, sounds, and unhinged minds. A highly recommended cinematic concerto.

To watch THE WHISTLER click HERE and type in whistler123 for the password. 

To see THE WHISTLER facebook page, click HERE.

Running time: 00:25:56

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