The Night, the Prowler (1978)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Jim Sharman
Writers Patrick White
Starring Ruth Cracknell, John Frawley, Kerry Walker
Genre Psychological
Tagline A Haunting Tale of Obsession and Possession


Felicity Bannister is a product of late 1960s Australian middle class suburbia. She is expected to find a decent bloke to marry, keep her virginity till the wedding night, and in the meantime have an acceptable job. One night her parents, the overbearing Doris and the distant Humphrey, wake to Felicity screaming. Seems a prowler broke into her bedroom and had his wicked way with her. The police are immediately called, along with the family Doctor to confirm her violation. Felicity describes her attacker to two Police Detectives but refuses to be examined by the Doctor.

Up to this stage Doris has been blissfully unaware of how much Felicity resents her bourgeois up bring. This changes when Felicity breaks off her engagement to a promising Diplomat, jettisons her suburban apparel job for a funky "pre-loved" clothing store, and starts taking walks at night wearing leathers. The times they are a changing, and Felicity has a few Roos loose in the top paddock.

Director Jim Sharman is perhaps best known for cult love child The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but has a few other offbeat dark genre works to his credit. While no doubt not labelling himself a horror Director, Sharman nevertheless has three movies which fit snugly into the camp and should get over himself in regards to being put in boxes. Anyway The Night, the Prowler while not being one of Sharman's better flicks is still worth checking out for the critique it aims directly at the middle class of 1960s Australia. Naturally the movie never rises to any great horror heights due to the involvement of serious writer Patrick White, who no doubt would have believed himself above the penny dreadful reputation of the horror genre. Yo Pat we're reviewing one of your works Bro, no need to return from beyond the grave, R.I.P Bro!

Prowler really launches itself into some pretty surreal territory that will have most horror fans reaching for the off button on their remotes as soon as they figure there's going to be very little in the way of action, boobs, or indeed the supernatural. The movie is pretty much a case study of a young rather frumpy woman who wants to break the bonds of middle class expectation and finds solace in the down and outs of Sydney and the alternative scene. Felicity doesn't want to live her mother's life, not stated, and may have been molested at an early age by her father, hinted at but not explicitly stated. While the movie never reaches any great heights of human statement it does highlight the moribund state of society and its transition from older respectability to youth rebellion as the 1970s loomed. I got to admit a lot of the subtext flew over my head, maybe due to a bad cold I've got at the moment, and a more literary audience would probably find a greater appreciation of the movie than a pure horror one.

Guess I'm not giving anything away by stating that Felicity wasn't actually molested by her late night visitor, in fact she turned the tables on him and the bloke was lucky to get out of her bedroom to be honest. The Prowler in the title refers to Felicity herself who dresses in leather, wanders the streets, breaks into middle class houses with damage on her mind, and even invades the odd dude's bedroom as her behaviour becomes more bizarre. You get the feeling Felicity is rebelling against her parents and class but has no real idea of what form that rebellion should take. In other words, an over indulgent middle class white chick who wants to take a walk on the wild side while maintaining her comfortable living arrangements at Mom's place.

One of the devices used in the movie is Felicity and Doris continually looking at themselves in any available mirror. While this could be viewed as narcissistic it probably has more to do with either the window being a door to the soul or the women wondering how they came to be in the position they find themselves in. Doris, played exceedingly well by Ruth Cracknell, tends to view herself while on the phone to her best mate and mentor Madge Hopkirk, while Felicity is found gazing into the reflective surface in a sort of puzzled state. I'll leave it to the Critics to pontificate on that aspect of the movie, I'm simply saying if you catch Prowler then get ready for a lot of scenes of chicks staring at their reflections.

The movie is almost French in it's desire not to have very much happening on screen

Guess I don't have to say that this movie isn't brimming with T&A, there is none besides a Felicity cleavage shot, and has zero in the way of gore. Felicity might wander the streets at night wearing leathers and carrying a knife but she is not called upon to use her blade, even a gang of rough nuts flees from the horror of a derange suburbanite in leathers. So if after some of the staples of the genre then you are in the wrong place, this is all about one woman's personal journey to nowhere in particular as it turns out.

That would be the harshest criticism of the movie I guess, it begins with a promising premise but doesn't really advance our understanding of the human condition or go anywhere interesting to be honest. Prowler is a movie desperately seeking a final block to have any meaning or to make anything approaching a statement.

I grabbed a copy of The Night, the Prowler from Umbrella Entertainment for around $10 AUD. One of those movies I had on my must see and review list so am pleased to have knocked it over. Can't say I'll be a regular watcher of this epic of middle class neurosis but am pleased I got a view. If you like dated psychological playgrounds that don't have an exit then prowl into your local DVD rental place and grab a copy one night.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  I assume there must be a point to this movie, I missed it.