The Night, the Prowler (1978) Poster

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White/Buckley/Sharman: a strange success
ptb-813 July 2006
This very strange and dreamlike film set in a well heeled suburb of Sydney was completely misunderstood and ignored in its first release. Almost a preview of Muriel's disenchanted and socially disenfranchised character in MURIEL'S WEDDING so successfully seen in the 90s film as played by Toni Collette, PROWLER has Kerry Walker almost as some sort of distant Muriel relative upsetting her family status quo with fantasies and playacting an adventurous role that leads her into other worldly behaviour. Written by Patrick White and Directed by Rocky Horror's Jim Sharman and Produced by Tony Buckley of BLISS, this film is a peculiar duck that will divide every audience unless they have a way of getting to like the lead character in the first reel. There has been plenty of films about alienated suburban girls seeking nocturnal and dangerous secret lives (HARD CANDY just released is the new cruel century's most recent example) but PROWLER is a quiet secret and a mood piece patient and film literate viewers will enjoy. Whoever has already seen SWEETIE (as someone else on this site recommends) is quite right leading you to PROWLER's mindset and style. One of Jim Sharman's first films was SHIRLEY THOMPSON VS THE ALIENS, a title mixing suburbia and weirdness immediately.... an so to PROWLER
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One of the best Australian films to come out of Australia in the 1970s.
showpony1 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The Night, The Prowler is one of the best Australian films to come out of Australia in the 1970s. Set in Centennial Park (where the film's writer Patrick White lived at the time) The Night, The Prowler concerns a young girl, Felicity Bannister (Kerry Walker), and her journey from sexual repression to liberation. Early in the film, a prowler breaks into Felicity's room. Felicity claims to have been raped, though it remains ambiguous as to what really happened.

The experience opens Felicity's eyes to her rebellious side, and she too begins prowling the streets and park at night, garbed in a black leather jacket. The bizarre contents of the night include stoned party goers, homeless bums and other like-minded night prowlers. Felicity's behaviour stuns her bourgeoise parents (Ruth Cracknell and John Frawley) mostly because they fear they will be embarrassed within their affluent social set.

Walker and Cracknell turn in career-defining performances and director Jim Sharman (who had previously made The Rocky Horror Picture Show) cleverly balances a camp sensibility with social critique. In my opinion, the bizarre atmosphere evoked in The Night, The Prowler was way ahead of its time and remained unmatched in Australian film until Jane Campion's Sweetie (1989).

Why don't films like this ever get a DVD release?
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one of Australia's best 10
radicalmedia8 May 2005
The dialog in this film is incredibly speakable -- in response to Mephisto -- and I think what you are unhappy with is it's camp melodramatic style -- which on a critical level is achieved with sophistication and panache.

Kerry Walker is a stand out as the mannish blossom -- ripening with rebellion and uncertainty -- the perfect counter to her mother played by Ruth Cracknell. Ruth's performance is genius -- the timing for black humour I have only seen seconded by Kathleen TUrner in Serial Mom.

This film is beautifully shot. The camera moves with deft purpose -- never feeling television or obvious -- but a secure mix of voyeurism and arch photographic signposting (appropriate to the camp postmodern genre) Australia (along with Spain, USA and Brazil, NEW ZEALAND-- thanks to ALmodovar, Waters and Jackson) is home of the CAMP aesthetic -- and culturally we've been balking at this over the last few years. But what's really going for us -- is something that uniquely expresses our nation's ironic plight of being a little America.

WALK THE TALK, LOVE SERENADE, SWEETIE are also worthy notables.
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A lost Wow from Oz!
Atomic_Brain30 November 2019
The Night The Prowler Is one of the coolest Australian films nobody has ever seen (if the IMDb review count can be used as a sample). Made by the same team, as a pet project, after the smash hit The Rocky Horror Picture Show, TNTP is everything that derivative, user-friendly feel-good bore was not. This film, although highly comedic in spots, is dark, grim, even tragic in turns, and there is little wonder critics hated it and audiences stayed away in droves. (I don't even recall a U.S. release for the film; if there was one, it was insignificant). Our heroine, Felicity, is a wildly neurotic "Plain Jane" who seeks escape from her stifling middle-class Sydney existence, and she goes to extraordinary lengths to achieve this emancipation. Felicity's parents are portrayed as well-meaning but clueless buffoons, who haven't a clue how the modern generation, symbolized most profoundly by their troubled daughter, feels, and their pathetic attempts to understand her are both humorous and poignant. Felicity finally gains enough self-respect (with the add of recreational drugs) to become some sort of midnight anti-hero, garbed in ridiculous "Teddy Boy" leather and terrorizing her neighborhood with senseless acts of vandalism. Amongst many humorous late-night escapes is one wherein the truly ominous New Felicity scares three Spanish dudes into scurrying away, tails between legs, and she also manages to terrify a gang of low thugs with her powerful, righteous female anger. Yet Felicity meets her match in the finale, encountering a lost soul who humbles her into accepting life's existential sorrow as the price of growing up. This last scene is so harrowing, so unremittingly grim, it surely would have prompted any remaining audience members to scurry for the exits. In short, the kind of climax I live for... This remarkable film was certainly the precursor for a sub genre which might be titled "Mythic Escapees from a Dysfunctional Family", an exalted category which includes such classics as Sonny Boy (1989) and Bad Boy Bubby (1993). But The Night The Prowler may have preceded them all (the John Waters film Female Trouble (1974) assayed the same basic plot line, but in an audience-safe, campy burlesque). If you want to see the real deal, see The Night The Prowler.
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Literal-minded to the point of stupidity.
Mephisto-2418 March 2003
To quote my film tutor, this would have gone on the top of his list of the ten worst Australian films ever made if only he could have think of nine others bad enough to accompany it. It's a ploddingly literal-minded of a symbolism-heavy literary piece by Patrick White, with actors of widely varying levels of talent struggling gamely to deliver unspeakable lines. The result should have been left in the trash can next to the embryo in the last scene.
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