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. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Laurence Olivier Blinks...a lot

He sure does.

You only have to check out his "now is the winter" etc monologue from Richard III (1955) to know what I'm talking about:

Them's some serious blinking.

I've previously noticed those fluttering eyelashes in The Entertainer (1960), Term of Trial (1962), Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), The Beggar's Opera (1953), and The Devil's Disciple (1959).

And it's one of those quirks that, once you notice it, you can never unsee, and once you do, are always on the lookout for. Herbert Marshall's another actor who shares the same distracting habit.

But Larry O is the only performer I can think of with such a visual tick that reoccurs over multiple films; rhythmically batting his eyes as if a bit of dust flew in, and he had to wait until the camera stopped rolling before he could rub it out. 

Sounds like a reasonable explanation. Or maybe Olivier felt that rapid blinking was a good way to convey visual a character's calculating nature.

Or it's just a inconsequential thingamajig I only noticed because The Devil's Disciple was so diabolically dull, and something had to take my notice.