The oft overlooked 1951 film noir The Prowler stars the usually sympathetic good guy Van Heflin as the twisted bad guy. Heflin is a beat cop responding to a call – a woman has reported a prowler outside her house. By the time Heflin and his partner arrive, the prowler is long gone, but Heflin is lusting after the comely woman (Evelyn Keyes), who is home alone every night because her husband works as an all-night DJ. Under the ruse of making sure that the prowler has vamoosed, Heflin returns and overcoming her reticence, seduces her. As befits a film noir, once he finds out about the husband’s insurance policy, sleeping with the guy’s wife just isn’t enough anymore.
It’s a strong screenplay, penned by the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (who also provides the voice of the DJ). Heflin sheds his usual decency to cast a predatory eye at another man’s wife and stuff. This isn’t the Double Indemnity film noir sap who does the bidding of the femme fatale; it’s all his idea, and she just triggers his rapaciousness. Keyes plays a woman who wants to pretend she’s on the level, but kinda knows what’s going on.
And of course, the cop has figured out how to get away with the scheme…except for one thing.
The Prowler has been restored by the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive. It’s an underrated noir thriller available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.