Shot in 17 days for less than $700,000, Losey’s film opens outside the bathroom window of Susan Gilvray as she prepares for a shower. She locks eyes with the camera and screams: Someone is watching her! To her rescue come veteran officer Bud Crocker and sneering, pompous rookie Webb Garwood to investigate. The latter stands in for the supposed Peeping Tom in a short reenactment but soon enough takes on the role quite literally. Bored, childless and left alone by her nighttime-DJ husband, Susan can only stave off Garwood’s unyielding advances for so long before his nostalgic talks and pie-in-the-sky dreams have her wriggling around his finger.
The film hits its maddeningly paranoid peak when Garwood stages the murder of Susan’s husband to look like an on-duty shooting. Though Susan initially suspects Garwood’s dark intentions, she is eventually wrangled by his passionate insistence that he is simply dedicated to his job; soon enough, they get married and buy a motel outside Las Vegas with the husband’s life insurance. A model of psychological deceit, Heflin’s Garwood seemingly has foreknowledge of every screw that must be tightened in order for him to get his way. Once his dreams are realized, however, chaos begins to set in, and the hand that held things in place begins to get sweaty palms, leading to a pair of eruptive concluding set-pieces in the Nevada desert. —Filmcritic.com
Joseph Walton Losey (January 14, 1909, La Crosse, Wisconsin – June 22, 1984, London) was an American theater and film director. After studying in Germany with Bertolt Brecht, Losey returned to the United States, eventually making his way to Hollywood.
While in Hollywood, Losey co-directed the original U.S. production of Galileo, by Brecht, with Brecht himself as the other co-director. Charles Laughton, who had worked with Brecht on the translation / adaptation, performed the lead role. In the context of that production, Losey also made a half hour film based on Galileo’s life.
During the McCarthy Era, Losey was investigated for his supposed ties with the Communist Party and was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses. His career in shambles, he moved to London, where he continued working as a director.
Even in the UK, he experienced problems: his first British film, The Sleeping Tiger, a 1954 film noir crime thriller, bore the pseudonym Victor Hanbury… read more
When you consider it came out in 1951, The Prowler is a pretty messed up movie. Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes are great together with grime and unruliness at every turn. One of the greatest (unknown) noirs ever.
The threshold of discourse between the political and the cinematic is blurred here, with the worker criminal acting the entrepreneur and the failed bourgeois actress mobilizing domesticity. Strangely outré, near irreconcilable noir: hazards the allegorical in the last act, the adulterous couple retreating into the symbolic and actual ruins of the civil to deliver their child in a ghost town, a reward of ambivalence.
"If there is one aspect of Susan Sontag's multifaceted life that has resisted enshrinement, it is her film career." In the Los Angeles Times
"Revived for a week at Film Forum in an excellent restored print, The Prowler (1951) may be the creepiest of classic noirs," writes J Hoberman
A post-War masterpiece from soon-to-be blacklisted director, Joseph Losey.