Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Prowler (1951)

Leave it to director Joseph Losey to bring a healthy dose of darkness to the screen.  With The Prowler, he doesn't disappoint, with a tale that makes James M. Cain look optimistic. At least in the case of the scribe's Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, the murderous couples were always on the level with each other. Not in this movie.

Let me back up a bit: After Susan (Evelyn  Keyes), the wife of a disc jockey, spots a prowler peeping in on her in the shower, she naturally calls the cops to investigate. One of them, Webb (Van Heflin), takes a special interest in her. He's a bitter sort of fellow, a one-time college football champ dreaming of owning a motel court. This being a film noir, he of course has an affair with the married woman, not put off at all by her husband's convenient late-night radio gig. Nor is Webb scared off by the life insurance policy Susan's hubby happens to have.

Even in terms of the fiend-populated movies of film noir, Heflin plays one memorably unscrupulous, non-magnificent bastard. But don't feel too sorry for Susan, unassuming as she is to the true extant of her lover's monetary fixation; she quite willingly falls for his charms, partially won over by the chance to escape from her dull and constricting home life.

Though not taking place in the usual Noir habitat, replacing the dark cities and glitzy nightclubs with windy deserts and sleepy suburbs, sleaze still permeates The Prowler.The movie turns the typically melodramatic tropes (adultery, grand passion, etc) on it's head to satirize the American Dream, with a central relationship built on murder and lies, and an upcoming birth leading to a family's collapse. 

Not the most uplifting movie to come out of Hollywood, but certainly one you're not going to forget. 

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