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Film / The Prowler (1951)

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The Prowler is a 1951 American Film Noir thriller film directed by Joseph Losey that stars Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes. The film was produced by Sam Spiegel (as S.P. Eagle) and was written by Dalton Trumbo. Because Trumbo was blacklisted at the time, the screenplay was credited to his friend, screenwriter Hugo Butler, as a front. John Huston was an uncredited co-producer, and Robert Aldrich was assistant director.

After being frightened by a peeping Tom at her mansion in the suburbs, the beautiful Susan Gilvray calls the police for help. When a policeman, Webb Garwood, arrives, he becomes infatuated with Susan, and the two engage in an affair. Susan soon ends their relationship, choosing to remain with her husband, John. However, Webb's obsession with her continues to grow, until he begins plotting to kill John and cash in on his life insurance policy.

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No connection to the 1981 slasher film.

Tropes:

  • Casting Couch: Strongly implied when Susan tells Webb that she discovered who she really was when she was trying to break into show business, and that she wound up despising that person.
  • Creator Cameo: The uncredited voice of radio announcer John Gilvray heard throughout the film is actually that of uncredited screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
  • A Deadly Affair: Webb and Susan are having an affair, but Susan soon ends their relationship, choosing to remain with her husband, John. However, Webb's obsession with her continues to grow, until he begins plotting to kill John and cash in on his life insurance policy.
  • Definite Article Title
  • Ghost Town: Webb and Susan travel to the ghost town of Calico to allow Susan to give birth in secret. It is here that the denouement of the film takes place.
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  • Glory Days: Webb was a star high school basketball player who got a college scholarship but lost it after a violent argument with his coach. He has been stewing in a sea of bitter resentment ever since.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Webb pulls a bobby pin out of Susan's hair and uses it to pick the lock on John's desk to help himself to a packet of cigarettes.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Susan is pretty much convinced that Webb murdered her husband, but is in denial about it. However, when Webb slips and mentions the exact amount of John's life insurance policy, she can can no longer lie to herself and has to acknowledge that Webb's act was premeditated.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Shortly after the wedding, Susan informs Webb that she is four months pregnant. Since her husband was infertile, she knows that Webb is the baby's father. The date of the baby's conception would prove that they lied in their testimonies to hide their previous relationship; it also would suggest that Webb's killing of Susan's husband was intentional. Webb and Susan flee to Calico, a Ghost Town, for the baby to be born without anyone back home knowing.
  • The Peeping Tom: The film opens with a peeping tom peering through the bathroom window as Susan prepares to take a bath. This event kicks off the entire plot, and Webb later uses the existence of this prowler to murder John and make it look like an accidental shooting.
  • Sleeping Single: John and Susan have two single beds in their bedroom. However, is as much to do with the state of their marriage as it is The Hays Code.
  • Trivial Title: The actual prowler only appears in the opening scene of the film. Webb later uses the prowler's existence to justify his shooting of John, but in no way is the prowler ever the main focus.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Webb uses his position as a police officer to shoot Susan's husband and then pass it off as a case of mistaken identity while investigating a call about a prowler at Susan's home: shooting himself with John's gun to fully sell the charade.
  • Villain Protagonist: Webb Garland is a police officer who has an affair with a married woman and then murders her husband.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Webb shoots himself in the arm with John's gun to make it look like John wounded him to justify his shooting.

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