Even More Horror Westerns – “Whispering Skull”
April 28, 2010
Tag-line: “Blazing Six Shooters were the only means of smashing this Phantom-like figure!”
“Phantom-like?” It’s a rider with a skull for a head! (No hat.)
The 1944 Tex Ritter western “Whispering Skull” seemed promising for its horror potential. I mean, there’s a SKULL in the goddamn title!
And it whispers! How scary is THAT!
Tex’s partner Dave (Dave O’Brien) sums up the mystery right up top: “A skull that rides at night, a horse that makes no noise and leaves no trail…it makes no sense.” We learn that Whispering Skull has killed ranchers and held up a stagecoach. He leaves notes for the remaining residents of Piyoute which read, “Leave town or you’re next.”
If you smell a lame plot device, you’re right. It’s another “crook dresses as phantom to scare off honest folk” movie.
Can I get a Scooby Snack?
The town’s sheriff couldn’t solve this one so he sent for our heroes. For most of the film, these two lurk around, doing a little investigating and a lot of idle speculating about the identity of the Whispering Skull.
Question: just how did our villain get the “Whispering” part of that moniker? Was it to distinguish him from “Shouting Skull”, “Bellowing Skull” and the all-too-familiar party buzzkiller “Drunkenly Verbose Skull”.
1) the film opens with W. Skull riding around at “night”.
2) a corpse disappears from a locked room and reappears in the street in front of the saloon.
3) W. Skull opens a safe!
4) that’s it.
Is the villain scary? I couldn’t tell you simply because I couldn’t see him. Really cruddy Poverty Row production value. Crap day for night. Shoddy ADR.
None of which is the worst thing about this film. Remember the mystery up top? “A skull that rides at night, a horse that makes no noise and leaves no trail.” In the final scene, Tex and Dave discover that the skull is a mask and it’s just a guy. The end.
What?!?! What about the bit with the noiseless, trackless horse? Roll credits.
MUSIC: Tex sings two songs which are randomly stuck into the action. He sings one of them sitting behind a desk in a dark room.
COMEDY: from some idiot named Utah, sort of a dumber thinner Arthur Hunnicutt. He has one good line: “I want to die with my boots on so I don’t hurt my toe when I kick the bucket.”
STARRETT CONNECTION: Tex Ritter made a brief appearance in “Cowboy Canteen” with Charlie that same year.
Yep. He did.