Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The Prowler comes to DVD
It's always gratifying when a real-deal masterpiece claws its way out of the dustbin of history. After fifty or so years of being a cult favorite of noir geeks, Joseph Losey's brilliant 1951 THE PROWLER is finally out on DVD.
Here's why you should see this film posthaste:
1. It's the best example of what historian Eddie Muller calls "bad cop noir." Van Heflin plays a cop who responds to a panicked call by housewife Evelyn Keyes. She's just seen a prowler. Heflin looks around and doesn't find anything, but then he looks Keyes up and down and decides she needs a boyfriend. The moral of the film: the cops might be worse than the crooks.
2. It's l'homme fatale at its finest. Here the man is the problem, an inversion of the more typical femme fatale storyline.
3. It doesn't go where you think it's going to go. The last half hour of this film will blow your mind. It's shocking that such a movie made it to the screen in 1951.
4. It features terrific performances by two of the most underrated noir performers. Van Heflin did hanging-by-the-last-thread desperation better than just about anyone (see his companion performance in ACT OF VIOLENCE). Often cast as the morally conflicted everyman, here he shows that he could also play scumbags as well as anyone. Opposite him is the divine Evelyn Keyes. The star of such must-see films like HELL'S HALF-ACRE, THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK, and 99 RIVER STREET, Keyes was one of the best actresses of the 1950s. This might be her most complicated performance because her lonely housewife is equal parts need, lust, and sadness. Through much of the film we know more than she does, yet Keyes never loses our sympathy.
5. It is one of the three impressive noirs Losey made in 1951 (along with his brilliant remake of M, and THE BIG NIGHT). They were to be his last films in the US before Losey had to flee the blacklist and headed to England to begin his impressive collaborations with playwright Harold Pinter and actor Dirk Bogarde.
Restored in part by the Film Noir Foundation THE PROWLER is available now on DVD. For those of us who've been watching scratchy bootleg copies for years now, this is amazing news. For those who haven't seen this film, a revelation awaits.