The Prowler (1951)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Film Noir, Psychological Thriller  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The Prowler is a gripping, taut thriller in the film noir vein that packs a big punch while also delivering a social message about wealth, greed and ambition. Holding a dark mirror up to the American dream, Prowler presents a picture of a "pure" American male, a man who drinks good wholesome milk and wears the uniform of law and order but who inside is obsessed with "making it" in the world. For this man, "making it" is on a modest scale -- owning a hotel near Las Vegas. But his determination to obtain this goal compels him to murder, indicting the forces of American society that place such importance on measuring a man by his material means. All this is done in the context of a tightly constructed, beautifully laid out thriller that has echoes of Double Indemnity but still has its own distinct flavor and character. Working from a chilling screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, Hugo Butler and Hans Wilhelm, director Joseph Losey does a masterful job of piling on tension and atmosphere, working with cinematographer Arthur C. Miller to create a film that constantly draws the viewer in. Best of all, however, are the star performances of Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes. Neither is playing an especially sympathetic character, but they make them totally engrossing and compelling. It's first rate acting from both, and deserving of more acclaim.