Prowler, The (1951)

The Prowler (1951), directed by Joseph Losey.

Van Heflin, last seen in 3:10 to Yuma (1957), is a pushy, resentful and manipulative patrolman. After investigating a peeping tom report he becomes involved with a lonely married woman. Maybe her husband could have an accident? Can he get away with it and keep the woman as well as her money? We know such plans always end in tears.

We never completely figure him out. How bad is he? Is he (can he be?) in love, or is he driven by the dark pleasure of taking another man's wife, of crossing over from the wrong side of the tracks and invading the rich part of town? Lonely Evelyn Keyes is made for him; she's like a prisoner in her own house, waiting for rescue. It has a couple of action scenes, but the rest of the time is repressed melodramatic passion and class conflict.

It's unusual to have a policeman as stalker and seducer, and for the central character to be so unlikeable. Also rare for the evidence that can put him away for murder: an unborn child.

John Huston was an uncredited coproducer. He was married to Keyes but they were shutting down the marriage (amicably) at that time.

Eddie Muller's commentary track has quite a bit about working around the blacklist and production code. Writer James Ellroy calls this "perv-noir" and says it's his favorite film. The DVD extras celebrate the film and describe the restoration effort by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.