The Prowler from 1951 is a classic film noir from director Joseph Losey. This was one of Losey’s last Hollywood productions before fleeing to Britain due to being accused of Communist activity. I touched on this a bit more in my review of Time Without Pity here:
Dalton Trumbo was one of the writers on this film as well. Trumbo had his own problems with The Special Committee on Un-American Activities. This is the subject of a new film starring Bryan Cranston, a film I look forward to seeing as soon as I can.
The Prowler stars Van Heflin as a beat cop and Evelyn Keyes as a bored housewife. The movie starts with a prowler spooking Keyes’ Susan. Heflin’s Webb and his partner answer the call to investigate. Both Susan and Webb are from Indiana and have a common history, but neither seems to know the other. This is the start of, us as the audience, not trusting one or both of our characters. I have to say both actors play their roles well, we cannot get a read on either of these characters at first. Is Susan using Webb to get away from her husband? Does she know who Webb is and has always been in love with him, going all the way back to growing up in Indiana? Is she a calculating femme fatale? Webb is a cop that wishes he had Susan and her husband’s money and lifestyle. He hates being a cop and wants to get out of the job to make his mark somehow. Is he using Susan for her money? How far will he go to get it?
This film will take you on a roller coaster ride of good luck to bad timing to our character’s just digging a deeper hole all the way to the end.
James Ellroy loves this film and introduced it at screening like this”In 1951, Joseph Losey and Dalton Trumbo struck a masterpiece of sexual creepiness, institutional corruption and suffocating, ugly passion. You will need antidepressants, booze, drugs and bleak anonymous sex after you see this movie and—believe me—you are in the perfect city to find that! The great Dalton Trumbo wrote it, the great Joseph Losey directed it, Evelyn Keyes and Van Heflin in The Prowler.” I seen this on TCM and in the opening credits Ellroy was thanked for his help in getting this film restored.
This is a very good noir that every film noir fan should see. Enjoy the ride all the way to the bitter end.
Favorite Tidbit: Even though Dalton Trumbo was already on the Blacklist at this point, he wrote the story under the pseudonym, Hugo Butler. He is also the voice on the radio (Susan’s Husband) through out the film.