Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Prowler


I don’t know of any other movie that was quite so deep into the infamous and horrible Hollywood Blacklist as this one. I don’t think it was deliberate. But it was written by Dalton Trumbo and Hugo Butler, both blacklistees, under the “front” names of two German writers: Robert Thoeren and Hans Wilhelm. (It is Trumbo’s voice that is hosting the late-night radio program we hear!) Joseph Losey, the director, was not blacklisted at the time, but soon would be. He left America for Europe soon afterward, and never came back. It was our loss. A couple other interesting things: The producer, listed as S.A. Eagle, was actually Sam Spiegel, and John Huston was another, uncredited. The female lead, Evelyn Keyes, was married to Huston at the time and this picture was to be a star vehicle for her. (Keyes was born in Port Arthur, Texas, about five miles down the road from my hometown! She and Janis Joplin are probably the only good things ever to come out of Port Arthur.)

It’s a fairly sordid, noir tale of a cop (Van Heflin) who responds to a call about a prowler, takes a fancy to the woman of the house and decides to have her for his own. It’s not completely clear to me at first if he is actually in love with her, or just with her fine, expensive house and her husband’s bank account. He soon removes all doubt, though. You know he’s going to kill the husband. What surprised me is that he makes no attempt to get away clean. He disguises it as a tragically mistaken police shooting, and is found to be blameless. Fairly quickly after that (suspiciously quickly, as far as the press and the public are concerned) they marry. But they have a problem. They swore on the stand that they had never met each other, and certainly had not been having an affair. But now she is four months pregnant, and hubby was unable to father a child. The baby would be proof that they lied, and thus the shooting probably wasn’t kosher …

The woman is not very smart, and the cop is not nearly so smart as he thinks he is. You know it won’t end well, and it doesn’t. Well, actually, I guess it does, since no one would be wanting this scumbag to get away with it.