Film

'The Prowler' Reveals the Horror of Getting What You Want

Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes (IMDB)

He carries the seeds of his own desperate, grasping, clammy doom...


The Prowler

Director: Joseph Losey
Cast: Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes
Distributor: VCI
Year: 1951
USDVD release date: 2011-02-01

Looking over our PopMatters articles of films directed by Joseph Losey, we seek to correct our unfortunate oversight of The Prowler, even if only in a hasty and perfunctory manner for the record. Restored by the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA Film & TV Archive to almost shockingly crisp state, this Los Angeles noir proved a major rediscovery when issued on DVD in 2011.

Van Heflin gives a great performance as a moral vacuum in a police uniform, griping about his "lousy breaks". With sinister efficiency he spies upon, stalks, and manipulates lonely trophy wife (Evelyn Keyes) until he gets everything he wants. But what of the hell he carries inside? He carries the seeds of his own desperate, grasping, clammy doom as forthrightly as any of the narrators of Jim Thompson's contemporaneous pulp novels, some of which also feature corrupt lawmen. The less you know before going into this gripping story, the better.

John Maxwell, Katharine Warren, Emerson Treacy and Madge Blake are in the picture as contrastingly happy couples of middle age, though all except Warren's character are blind to the anti-hero's faults.

Joseph Losey, the most architectural of directors, frames everyone in windows, doorways, and elongated corridors down which Arthur Miller's camera glides and pivots lovingly. In an extra, Bertrand Tavernier compares Losey's psychic use of landscape -- especially the final wasteland, which foreshadows Losey's 1970 film Figures in a Landscape -- to Antonioni, and by gum it's true. Antonioni was already making films, yet we can easily imagine him being drawn to this picture and having its shards stick in his cranium.

While Losey applies his landscape to tension and thrills, Antonioni makes feints in these directions while really exploring lassitude and ennui. Someone might study, if they haven't already, the increasing Antonioni-ism of Losey projects like Boom (1968) and The Assassination of Trotsky. Say, it would help if those came out on disc so we could all share. But we digress.

Returning to The Prowler, Dalton Trumbo wrote a script credited to "beard" Hugo Butler. As victims of the blacklist, Trumbo and Losey both felt mistrust of the official forces of authority, an attitude that lends force to this depiction of corruption in power. John Huston (Keyes' husband at the time) and Sam Spiegel produced. Robert Aldrich was assistant director. It can be amazing how many talented people were involved in what were considered minor films.

The DVD extras are useful: commentary by "czar of noir" Eddie Muller, a making-of with James Ellroy and Trumbo's son, the aforementioned appreciation by Tavernier, a feature on the restoration, and the original trailer, which advertises it as a strange love story. You can say that again.

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Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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